Millennials get a bad rap. Baby Boomers and Gen-Zs hate them. Gen-Xers, my generation, couldn’t care less. For the haters, if you can put aside your preconceived notions of the group— whose oldest members are pushing 40 years old—you’d see that this cohort had been dealt a bad hand.
The Millennials were the first generation told they must all go to college. Their overprotective parents believed that this was the best way for their children to succeed in life, and live the “American Dream” of having a well-paying career, nice house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, two kids, a dog and a couple of brand new cars.
Their parents neglected to read the fine print of the college-loan paperwork, which ultimately led to the ruination of many young people. The parents and society also neglected to inform them that not all college majors are equal; some lead to fantastic job opportunities and career growth, others not so much. Millennials are the most educated—some say overeducated—generation in American history
The Boomers' Wall Street antics led to the financial crisis in 2008 to around 2010, cratering the economy, causing massive layoffs, and made it exceedingly difficult for the young college graduates to find jobs. They had to scramble for whatever they could find, many taking roles that barely required a high school education.
The college debt turned into an anchor weighing them down. With this huge burden, it's almost impossible to purchase a home and start a family, especially if your university major didn’t lend itself to a job that pays well enough to afford the debt payments and have money left over to lead a reasonable life.
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Millennials hold less wealth than previous generations did at their age. When Boomers were about the same age as Millennials are now, they owned about 21% of America's wealth, compared to Millennials' 5% share today, according to recent government data.
With inflation running rampant, everything is expensive. Social media messes with your mind. You see some people pretending to live amazing luxurious lives on Instagram. There are also multimillionaires, celebrities, Elon Musk-type billionaires, Bitcoin traders and others who are legitimately wealthy, brag and flaunt it on social media. It makes you feel more inadequate then you already beat yourself up over.
A Reddit post on a subreddit tapped into this zeitgeist. It quickly garnered more than 30 thousand upvotes. Millennials shared their stories of feeling cheated, lied to, misled and dealt a lousy hand in life. They are the first generation in recent history that is worse-off financially than their parents.
Here are some representative posts from the thousands of comments:
- “I'm 33. Married. No kids. I'm a child by the Boomers standards because I'm a Millennial. Millennials aren't children. They're working-class, adult citizens with horribly paying, unsupportive jobs, paying rent or mortgages that the previous generations don't seem to grasp as a possibility.”
- “I also think there is such a huge level of disparity between the world we grew up in, in terms of standard of living and the cost of things vs the conditions now that makes it less satisfying to live and work. I can remember there being good factory jobs in the city I grew up in with strong unions. The towns were very prosperous and there were a lot of businesses catering to the real middle class of people who worked factory jobs but owned their own homes, had their own families and had enough disposable income to go to movies, casinos, bars, etc.”
- “Once those factories closed, the only guidance we received was that the only way to get that kind of lifestyle was to go to college and get a degree. Where I think the big hangup is for Millennials is that getting a degree isn't enough to attain that and it has its own challenges with debt that weren't explained to 18 year-olds signing up for a loan. The good jobs we were expecting weren't there in 2008 and 2009 and we settled for less because we didn't have any other alternative.”
- “My dad worked a job where he could support two kids and my mom, in a 2,500 sq. ft. house and go on vacations three times a year. Mom didn't have to work. I just found out he made less than I do now, and I live in his basement.”
- “I'm Gen-X. My mom is a Boomer, but my dad was quite a bit older than her being born in 1931. Dad died 21 years ago, but my mom still lives in the house they bought in 1972 for $27,000. My mom wants out of the house and it will sell for over $300,000 when and if she ever sells.“
- “My dad dropped out of high school and went to Korea. When he retired he was making the most he ever made on the railroad at $19 an hour. I will acknowledge those guys could work a lot of overtime and he did work a decent amount. My mom didn't work and I didn't know any other kids whose mom worked (in grade school anyways). The school district I attended was regularly ranked No. 1 in the country in the ‘70s and ‘80s. All this on a high school drop-out union railroad salary. Millennials have it worse than me and I'm terrified what my kids will have to deal with.”
- “This makes me feel like why do I bother trying? At this rate, I won’t ever be able to move back out of my parents house (26, moved back in after a breakup) and it really demotivates me. Like the world is gonna burn in 20 years anyways, why the f*uck should I care about a career when it won’t even make my remaining time here any easier?”
- “Insane when you think about it. And sometimes thanks to the internet, it feels like it's really easy to make money when you see all these YouTubers, pro gamers, OnlyFans, Instagram stars and crypto people making millions. Especially since those weren't around back then.”
- “I’m Gen-X. My first job out of college was $50k, well over 25 years ago. My college also cost $800 a semester. I went to a city college in NYC. My rent was $650 and I had a roommate. My daughter is a Millennial and we still help when we can because it’s gotten so much worse, pay has stagnated, but rent and cost of living is exponentially higher.”
- “I don’t blame you for not giving a f*ck, I see how f*cked your generation is. Less pay, more work and for what? I’m glad people are not putting up with the bullsh*t and lies of employers trying to screw everyone over.”
- “I'm 36, married, with a toddler. I make minimum wage as a CNA. My husband makes a couple dollars over minimum with a bachelors, masters and a two-year medical certification. Neither of us would be able to afford our 1 bedroom apartment on our own. We each only work on the days each other is off, because we cannot afford childcare and ‘make too much’ for childcare subsidies. It would cost more than I make per month to put my kid in a daycare so that I can work.”
- “Baby Boomer here. 65 in a few days. My ONLY hope for this country is, actually, the Millennials. Millennials are the only ones that through their tolerance, humanity empathy, and being fed up by an unjust system, can potentially make changes. And I say potentially, because the system, the status quo, is SO titanium-bolted to the ground, that it takes all the energy of any group wanting those changes. The country was founded on the basis of benefiting the rich and powerful, while screwing the rest.”
By 2025, members of Generation Z—those born between 1997 and 2021—will comprise nearly 30% of the global workforce. To add insult to injury to the Millennials, Gen-Z workers are terrifying their Millennial bosses “with a series of woke and entitled demands,” including that their companies cater to their social and political views and demands. They also boss around their bosses, demand all sorts of accommodations and take time for any reason. The younger employees have turned on their “not-much-older supervisors shaking their heads or infuriated before caving in to avoid social media shaming by the web-savvy 'dot-com kids.'”
The conflict between younger and older generations in the workplace is due to negative assumptions. Many Baby Boomers see Millennials as impatient, unprofessional, entitled—everyone wins a trophy— and lazy. Meanwhile, Millennials see Baby Boomers as smug know-it-all, old-school, tech-phobic dinosaurs from a different bygone era.
It's not all doom and gloom for Millennials. There are around 618,000 Millennial millionaires.The majority of Millennial millionaires have a net worth that ranges from $1 million to $2.49 million.
Due to inheritances, trusts and estate planning, on the part of their parents, who are starting to retire in large numbers, there will be a steady flow of Millennials getting very rich soon. Since the Millennial generation is smaller than the Boomers they're inheriting from, the wealth handed down will be highly concentrated.
Here’s the irony: economists predict that when the Baby Boomers retire and later die, trillions of dollars and their expensive homes will be passed onto their Millennial children. A study shows that Millennials may end up having five times as much wealth as they have today and the group is anticipated to inherit over $68 trillion from their Baby Boomer parents by the year 2030. This will represent one of the greatest wealth transfers in modern times.
This unprecedented hand-off of incredible wealth from one generation to another will substantially change the lives and fortunes of many Millennials. This could also contribute to increasing wealth inequality.
Both the average and median (i.e., middle) debt levels were higher for older Gen Zers (in June 2022) than for older millennials (in June 2006). Gen Zers had, on average, $20,900 in student debt, 13% more than millennials. The median value of Gen Zers' loans was $12,800, about 14% higher than millennials' median value.
Only borrowers who hold federal student loans and meet certain income requirement can qualify for forgiveness. In 2020 or 2021, single-earners must have made less than $125,000, and for households, less than $250,000. Note that you only need to meet the income requirements for either 2020 or 2021, not for both years.
Millennials were the largest generation group in the U.S. in 2021, with an estimated population of 72.19 million. Born between 1981 and 1996, Millennials recently surpassed Baby Boomers as the biggest group, and they will continue to be a major part of the population for many years.
Though 2021 college graduates who borrowed to pay for school took out, on average, $208 less in loans compared with the prior year, the average total student debt continues to hover around $30,000, according to U.S. News data.
A typical student loan is structured to take 10 years to pay off. But research has shown it actually takes 21 years, on average. So, when you're just out of college and expecting to be out of debt by the time you're 32, the reality is that Sallie Mae could follow you well into your 40s!
Many people, especially low-income people, rely on student debt to attend college and would not be able to do so without it. Millennials used student debt to become a more educated generation and set them up for the lifetime of benefits a college degree offers.
Under the federal program, eligible borrowers can have their loans discharged after 10 years if they meet eligibility requirements.
Who qualifies for student loan forgiveness? You qualify to have up to $10,000 forgiven if your loan is held by the Department of Education and you make less than $125,000 individually or $250,000 for a family.
Who's gotten PSLF so far? Public Service Loan Forgiveness began in 2007, meaning the first batch of borrowers became eligible for relief in 2017. A total of $10 billion has been erased for 175,000 borrowers so far.
Federal Student Loans by Age
Unsurprisingly, younger people hold the majority of student loan debt. Borrowers between the ages of 25 and 34 carry about $500 billion in federal student loans—the majority of people in this age group owe between $10,000 and $40,000.
Nearly half (47%) of Gen Z already carries some form of debt, including through credit cards and student loans.
Furthermore, 45% is the estimated percentage of millennials with student debts. This is a substantive number given that the millennials have the largest population density in comparison to the other generations.
Millennials owe an average of $38,877 in student loan debt, according to an Experian consumer debt study. 36% of US millennials say student loan debt is keeping them from owning homes, a survey found.