Millennials and those trying to define them are often at odds with each other. According to one definition, Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996. However, others say all people born after 1980 are Millennials. Events in recent history shaped them, including rapid adoption of new technology. These changes to society affected their financial goals and realities. Millennials also bear a large part of student loan debt: two-thirds have $10,000 or more, and one-third has over $30,000. Many believed they were getting a college degree to fill the skilled worker gap. However, after the Great Recession, they learned the workforce was difficult to navigate. Forty percent of today’s unemployed are Millennials.
They may also not be aware of how history has affected them. Pew Research Center reports that events like 9/11, the wars in the Middle East, the Great Recession, and the Obama election shaped Millennials significantly. Furthermore, 9/11 counted as very important to all current generations. What makes a generation’s “Top 10” varies from what decade they experienced their youth. Older generations reported WWII, JFK’s assassination, and the Vietnam War as important events in their lives. Millennials’ Top 10 list is very different; school shootings and terrorist attacks topped their list. The report revealed almost all events on each generations’ lists included violent occurrences.
Another trend that unites all current generations is the tech revolution. Millennials especially had to adjust to new innovations like social media and constant connectivity. Critics of Millennials describe them as lazy, narcissistic, and image-focused. Others argue Millennials are more open-minded to equal rights and social issues. The housing crash has also affected Millennials’ ability to buy houses and build home equity. For example, Marketwatch researchers discovered $10,000 more in student loan debt reduces homeownership by 5 percent. Additional problems facing Millennials are the unknown consequences of 24/7 technology use. Some fear their brain maturity and communication skills could be negatively affected.
With high debt, low wages, reduced homeownership, and less likelihood of marriage, do Millennials have anything to look forward to? According to financial guru Dave Ramsey, yes, they do! Ramsey talks about the biggest benefit that Millennials have over their parents and older generations: time. Time to do what exactly? Build wealth for retirement. He emphasizes that retirement doesn’t have to be living within one’s means, white knuckling until assisted living. Instead, savings goals for retirement could include a dream vacation or living abroad. Others may be interested in saving up to give back to charities, or paying for the college educations of younger relatives. While it may seem difficult to look 40–50 years into the future, Millennials can start planning for a better life today.
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