Gen Y Struggles for Economic Stability

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Gen Y Struggles for Economic Stability

The members of Generation Y could be forgiven if they started referring to themselves by a new name: “Generation Why Me?” No other recent generation has endured so many challenges during the early years of their lives.

Gen Y — also known as the Millennial Generation — consists of the 70 million Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s. They’ve already survived economic crises, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, environmental calamities such as Hurricane Katrina, and ecological disasters such as the BP oil spill.

As a result, they’ve had to become more resilient and more frugal than any generation since that of their great-grandparents, whose lives were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II.

Nowhere is the impact of the recession felt more acutely than in the lifestyles of today’s young adults. While new technologies have boosted productivity, and while global outsourcing has cut the costs of many products, the combination of these enhancements has been a curse to people who are seeking jobs.

As even the Millennials who have found work have quickly learned, job security in the workplace today is as obsolete as a manual typewriter is in the modern office.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 20 and 24 is now 13.2 percent. That’s nearly double the rate of 7.7 percent as recently as 2007 — and it’s not just that jobs are hard to find.1

Because of soaring tuition costs, the average college graduate who took out student loans is burdened with more than $25,000 in debt. Those who graduate with advance degrees can end up with six figures of loans to repay. The outstanding debt from U.S. student loans totals more than $1 trillion.2

The combination of high levels of debt and low levels of income has put an entire generation at an economic disadvantage compared to earlier generations.

Consider how wide the wealth gap has grown in just one generation: According to the Pew Research Center, in 1984, the average household headed by an American 65 or older had 10 times as much wealth as a household headed by an American 35 or under. But by 2009, that gap had grown to 47 times as much wealth.3

How has this affected the Millennials? One 2010 study, called the Western Union Global Payments Money Mindset Index, found that half of Millennials reported feeling more stress about their financial obligations in the previous six months, and more than one in three said their economic situation had grown worse over that span.4

Other findings from the study were:

  • 35 percent of Millennials have borrowed money from family members or friends...

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