Millennials didn’t kill the economy — but it’s certainly killing them

A quick recap of Millennials’ early struggles

  • After adjusting for inflation, the average price tag for a public four-year college education for Millennials ($19,189) exceeded two-and-a-half times the price tag of a four-year college education when the oldest of the Baby Boomer generation began their college experience in 1964 ($7,256). This increase is even higher for private four-year institutions where Millennials average $39,529 in dues vs. Boomers’ average of $14,618 (AARP).
  • Many of these Millennials graduated into the peak of the Recession (the greatest economic dive since the Great Depression), making it difficult to find well-paying jobs, if they could find a job at all. Millennials saw the highest unemployment rate during the Recession as it rose from 10.8 percent in November 2007 to 19.5 percent in April 2010 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Between the years 2005 and 2013, Millennials lost approximately 13% of their earnings due to the Recession. Comparatively, Gen X suffered a 9% loss and Boomers 7% (Washington Post).
  • Facing the Recession while saddled with high student loan debt, rising costs of living and stagnant wages led to significant financial challenges that triggered long-term setbacks for Millennials. Research shows Millennials compared to other generations are “less well off” than their predecessors were at their age with lower earnings, less wealth, and fewer assets (Federal Reserve). This has led to delayed milestones, such as buying a house or a car, getting married, and having children (Bankrate).
  • Additionally, the scarcity of employers benefits and socialized programs Boomers benefit from leave younger generations like Millennials with little-to-no safety net. Social security will provide “less than relative pre-retirement savings”, their 401k retirements are meager compared to their predecessors due to early financial challenges, and half of the private sector fails to offer retirement plans. (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College). Additionally, many Millennials can’t afford health insurance and/or don’t have access to employee coverage (HealthInsurance.org).
  • Millennials adopted “gigs” to provide or supplement their income, but it didn’t offer a solid bridge across the financial gap. The so-called “gig economy” became a popular option for Millennials during the recession when income was scarce. From 2003 to 2015, the percentage of Millennials receiving an individual income from “gig work” rose from 57% to 72%. Reportedly, the majority of this increase occurred during the Recession (2007-2008) when nearly 14% of Millennials were unemployed. However, the income contracted from these gigs lagged behind that of full-time employees (The Wall Street Journal).

Fast-forward to 2020–2021: Millennials face their second once-in-a-lifetime recession

What will the future look like for Millennials — and can they bounce back?

Simply put: it’s a crisis.

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