The recession and a weak economy has given millennials a tough row to hoe as they enter the workplace and adulthood. Things like owning a home, that used to be a near given once one reached a certain age, seem out of reach for these folks, leaving many wondering what the future of this generation will look like.
In a piece for The New York Times, Annie Lowrey, herself a millennial, someone born in the late 70s to 90s, asks the question: “Do Millennials Stand a Chance in the Real World?”
Lowrey tells KIRO Radio’s Luke Burbank Show that a bunch of things have converged on millennials to create an economic situation that is difficult to thrive in. Many millennials, she points out, have greater student loan debt, some that were able to make it into the housing market now are likely underwater in their mortgages, and many of those that might consider buying a home, may not be able to qualify.
They’ve also played witness to the great recession and lessons they’ve learned in observing the consequences of that are sticking with them.
“You’re in a pretty tough economy and your parents are in a pretty tough economy, and you see that,” says Lowrey. “I think that this is something that people that I know feel really viscerally and are really struggling with.”
While millennial stereotypes peg them as narcissistic, ear bud and flip flop wearing folks, Lowrey says they also seem to have serious concerns about their future economic prospects.
“I think it’s kind of funny that on the one hand millennials get, I think, a deserved reputation for being a little narcissistic and materialistic, but I think on the other hand they’re really, really deeply economically concerned,” says Lowrey. “This is just a generation that researchers think is very economically tense, they’re very nervous and anxious about their future and with some good reason.”
Her article says millennials are behind where their parents were financially at their age, and some question whether they’ll be able to make up the difference.
“The average net worth of someone 29 to 37 has fallen 21 percent since 1983; the average net worth of someone 56 to 64 has more than doubled. Thirty or 40 years from now, young millennials might face shakier retirements than their parents,” Lowrey reports. “For the first time in modern memory, a whole generation might not prove wealthier than the one that preceded it.”
The economic environment they’ve been growing in is shaping millennials behavior as well. Lowrey says millennials are buying fewer houses, and cars, and have less credit debt. But there is a question of just how they might impact the economy with these choices that are different than the generations that preceded them.
“If the millennials are saying, look we’re just not going to buy cars because we think we can use public transport, we don’t see the appeal of having three cars in the driveway. I think that’s really going to change the market,” says Lowrey. “I think this is going to be one really interesting thing to watch play out over the next 10 years as these people get more time in the workplace and really start shaping the economy, more so than just being the recipient of a really bad economy.”
She says it’s clear not every millennial has had the success they might have expected, walking into a job and being treated as a “kind of special snowflake,” but just how their tendencies like job hopping and car and mortgage payment avoidance will play out is still to be seen.