I’m Tired of Hearing How Bad Millennials Have It

I’m a millennial myself so I feel like I’m qualified to discuss this subject (and with a financial independence twist of course). I do a horrendous job of not following the news. I always catch myself on the websites of numerous online business news companies seeing what is going on. Many bloggers have written about how horrible following the media is on a day to day basis, and I totally agree, but it doesn’t mean I do a good job of blocking it out. The sad reality is that doom and gloom headlines equal clicks and views.

Lately, and I think this is partially due to it being election season, the hot topic has been Millennials. Every channel you flip to or online news article you read is how bad Millennials have it. They live at home with their parents. They are drowning in debt. They are the first generation in the U.S. worse off than their parents. They can’t afford a home. They can’t find their dream job. They are working at Starbucks. The list goes on and on.

Now are some Millennials having a tough go at it? Of course they are, I’m sure of it. But Millennials as a whole? I don’t think so.

Education
Let’s start with education. I graduated undergrad with about $30k of student loans. Was this more than my parents had? Yes, but that’s because they didn’t go to college! College wasn’t a “given” for our parents. Statistically speaking less than 50% of high school graduates headed off to college in 1975 (due to a variety of reasons such as war), whereas this number is about 65% today. When I was in high school I had a course to college mapped out for my by my teachers and counselor. Take these AP classes. Play a sport. Get involved in an extracurricular activity. I followed their lead and next thing you know, I was off to my school of choice with a partial scholarship.

Investing and Retirement
Our pal Jack Bogle didn’t create the index fund until 1976. If our parents wanted to invest some dough in equities, they had to do it through a broker and pick stocks, or buy expensive mutual funds with load fees and commissions. Now we have extremely cheap (or free) online brokerage accounts. I set up my Vanguard account in minutes and with a click of a button I can invest money whenever I want.

The 401k was created in about 1981 when some random guy noticed a loop-hole in the Internal Revenue Code. Before that it was much harder for workers to shield earnings from income taxes. Now you might be saying “well my parents have a pension!” Pensions are great if you have them but they are also handcuffs tying you to your employer. People notice that our parents spend decades with the same employer, that’s because people are taught to be slaves to their pensions since this will help them through their golden years. When in reality in most cases, you would of been better off socking money away in a 401k and IRA and retiring on your own terms.

Home Buying
30 year mortgage interest rates were above 10% from late 1978 to until almost 1991! Today you can get a 30 year fixed for about 3.75%. Maybe these low interest rates are inflating home values, but could you image taking out a mortgage at 12%?!? Also this community has also blogged about how owning a home is becoming less of the “American Dream.” Us millennials are okay with renting, and would rather spend money on travel and experiences instead. I may be an outlier but if I never own a home, I would be A.O.K. with that.

Employment
Unemployment currently sits below 5% which is below historical averages. The internet allows us to search for jobs all over the country and globe at the click of a button. Our parents relied on the classifieds and maybe a trade magazine when job searching (well they never really did this because they are tied to their pensions), and we can see open jobs in our field in Seattle, Boston, or Richmond instantly and submit our resume with a click. For those who are employed, inflation adjusted gas prices are below the historical average, easing the burden of commuting.

Health and Technology
This doesn’t even need an explanation. We have the internet, our parents didn’t, and the medical breakthroughs that have happened in the past 30 years have us living way longer than our parents and grandparents. Certain diseases which were death sentences 40 years ago, are easily curable today. I’m going to have to agree with our friend Warren Buffett who recently said “The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.” I don’t believe we have it bad at all!

Do you have it worse off than your parents? Is being a millennial the pits?

44 thoughts on “I’m Tired of Hearing How Bad Millennials Have It

  1. InsiderAccountant

    I’m a millennial too and used to get annoyed about us copping it all the time, as it wasn’t always about how hard we have it, but how hopeless and unmotivated we are. Older people at work (including clients) used to even bad mouth millennials in front of me without even realising that I was one!

    I agree with what you’re saying though, we don’t have it bad at all, and I for one think that I’ve had more than my fair share of opportunities in life. So you won’t get any complaints from me!

    Now stop watching the news and go and focus on something more interesting than Trump and Hillary! I’m sick of hearing about your election and I don’t even live in your country, so I can only imagine how tired of it you must be! Perhaps it’d be best if you just stopped watching TV and reading news sites / newspapers for the rest of the year?
    InsiderAccountant recently posted…Play monopoly with your kids and they might even learn a bit about money!My Profile

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  2. Gwen

    Amen, brother. My quality of life is better than my parents in almost every measurable way. My first year out of college I earned more than my stepdad did his last year working. It’s because of them and their pushing that I have this life though. They pushed me to work hard through high school and college and I was rewarded for it. I do have friends that are struggling, but they didn’t work as hard and are now feeling the effects of it.

    I don’t think being a millennial is the pits. Of course, life is what you make it, but we have it so good compared to those who came before us. Without the advancements in technology, I wouldn’t have a job, a side hustle or half as many friends as I do. For all its flaws, I love this world we live in.
    Gwen recently posted…Ding Dong the Duplex Deal is DeadMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Gwen. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s usually the ones who aren’t busting their humps that do the complaining. The future is bright!

      Reply
  3. Harmony @ CreatingMyKaleidoscope

    I’m at the end of the millennial range (age 33), but agree that things are really not bad at all. I’m still amazed at how many opportunities there are to make money off the internet between blogging, freelance work, or even PPC websites. I am deep in debt, but planning on semi-retiring at 40. The only limitation on us millennials is not taking the initiative to build a dream life.
    Harmony @ CreatingMyKaleidoscope recently posted…Monday Medley: Saving And HustlingMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      You hit the nail on the head Harmony. Life is what you make it, and taking some initiative will go a long, long way.

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  4. Brian @ debt discipline

    “Now are some Millennials having a tough go at it? Of course they are, I’m sure of it.” I’m pretty sure you can say that about any group, but the media just like to spin it in a way that make it sound all doom and gloom. We are far more advanced in technology, health etc than we were 30 years ago, all depends on what you do with those advancements.
    Brian @ debt discipline recently posted…Family First?My Profile

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  5. amber tree

    Looks like every generation has a more difficult time than the previous one. Or said otherwise, the previous decade was a better decade to be young and grow up.
    I do believe that each generation has its own challenges to overcome. as mentioned by Brian, there is a lot of advancements. How you adapt to them and use them is a more relevant question to ask.

    I also do believe people get used to what they see t home: second car, a lot of vacation, brand new phones all the time. Do they understand you need to work for these?
    amber tree recently posted…Trying something new: ENGIMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I agree with your point on people getting spoiled with the technological advances which they’ve grown accustomed to. People start to believe these luxuries have always been around which is not the case.

      Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re a Gen X 🙂 Thanks for your nice words! I tend to think that we’re going to keep advancing at a rapid rate with regards to medicine and technology. Those who think growth will be slow since we’ve already picked all the low hanging fruit have people like Elon Musk to deal with who are willing to push the envelope on what people believe is possible. Take care!

      Reply
  6. Kyle

    I’m technically a millennial too I guess, born in 87′. Jim Collins pointed out tuition has gone up 33x from 1970 to 2014 and I looked up yesterday that the University of Wisconsin system has gone up 18 times from 1970 to 2011. Meanwhile inflation has gone up around 6 times in the same time period.

    I didn’t know that fact about index funds, I thought they went much further back. Appreciate the history lesson. While I see pensions a bit different, they’re generally on top of you salary and they’re often pretty nice. so if your work usually gets $100k per year, your pension with time might get $50k per year, a sweet cherry on top. 401k is some tiny percentage matched and the rest comes out of your pretax dollars. But pensions aren’t guaranteed either so control is more in your own hands.

    I did write a detailed post about home owning vs renting. Technically renting can often win in being cheaper over the long term, but as an American dream, idk. I do enjoy being a homeowner but it’s not for everyone. I think it’s something people should generally do the math and more often think of as a luxury rather than an investment.
    Employment, well I work in the automation industry. Unemployment may be low but average pay is too. I’ve watched my father as well as many others take big pay cuts, the economy isn’t the hay day it was but it could be much worse.
    Health and Technology I guess I can’t really argue, we have a lot to learn yet about health but we’re making far larger strides these days than we were. And the ridiculous about of information at our fingertips is amazing. I remember encyclopedia sets lol. On the other hand technology pushes away physical human interaction. We hang out with friends and family less, we often have less real friends than previous generations.
    Do I have it worse than my parents, hell no. I have a degree, I’m in a good field with plenty of jobs available. I make more money today at 29 years old than my parents make today or ever had made at their peak. Do I think people in general have it worse? Economically I’d have to say yes, but that doesn’t mean we should sit and whine, people need to take control of what they can and make the best of the situation.
    Kyle recently posted…Theory of Savers and Spenders: Why Your Financial Advice is IgnoredMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      You are correct, tuition has gone up at a much greater rate than inflation. Personally I believe there will be some sort of innovation in that area to bring the cost done (or the bubble will pop or people will just stop going to college). I somewhat disagree with you with regards to pensions. It’s not a cherry on top. It’s part of your total overall compensation and should be evaluated that way. You bring up great points. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  7. Claudia @ Two Cup House

    I’d like to know if the writers of these stories about millennials are millennials themselves or if they cobble together a series of outlandish responses to HARO queries. We have many more advantages today than ever before, which I know I am grateful for. 🙂 Great post!
    Claudia @ Two Cup House recently posted…Big News at the Small HouseMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Fear and negative statements = clicks. It’s the way of the media world I guess. Glad you enjoyed!

      Reply
  8. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I think the difficult thing with millennials is the fact that news stories are forced to generalize. Yes, some will have it better and some will have it worse. For the college grad who is $100k in debt from college and couldn’t land a job in their field it doesn’t really matter that interest rates on mortgages are low. On the flip side there are plenty of millennials doing better than their parents. I don’t think it’s right to use a sample size of one (namely myself) to judge whether or not millennials have it better or worse than another generation.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I do agree that the media is generalizing, but they are generalizing about perhaps 20% of Millennials and treating that subsection as the whole group. Instead maybe they should be educating people that taking out $100k for a degree which it isn’t easy finding a job, isn’t the best course of action in life. But I agree, just because my friends, family, and neighbors are doing okay, doesn’t mean there aren’t others in another geography struggling.

      Reply
  9. Mr. SSC

    Even though I’m most likely Gen X, I still say I have it better than my parents. I agree with most commenters that a lot of those stories are more “click bait” rather than real news. I have a hard time not clicking around some news sites during downtimes at work too, lol. While there may be some worse off, most generations are better off than their parents in all the comparisons you mentioned. My dad worked at Bellsouth for over 30 years and when he passed, I found out that his pension/buyout he’d been living off of was only around $90k. Good grief, that is not much of a “pension” and that was for almost 35 years of work…
    Overall, I think from past times onward there have been people that suck at “adulating”, and people that rock at it, but I’d rather read a horror story about some idiot that blew $100k and feels entitled to more to finish their college education, rather than read about Joe Blow who lives comfortably, saves a lot, and has a fat nest egg growing. That’s what I bounce around the PF blogosphere for, lol.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…Guest Post – FI for Noobs!My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I feel like all “news” is click-bait with online news 🙁 You’re right, no one wants to feel financially inadequate reading about the 28 year old who maxes out all their tax advantaged accounts and has a growing nest egg. They want to read about the kid who majored in communications and has $100k in debt, working at Starbucks so that they can feel good about themselves. Yikes! Haha. 🙂

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  10. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply

    I think I’m just past being a millennial and I agree with a lot that you said. I do think there are some legitimate gripes like the unsustainable increase in college costs and housing costs (especially in big cities). While employment rate is low, salaries haven’t really increased as much, though that might only be true for certain jobs. So I guess it’s more important nowadays to obtain a skill…just a college degree won’t do. A lot of that responsibility falls on the millennial. As for me, I am better off than my parents, but that is much easier as I’m a child of immigrants. I agree with you regarding pension. I do have a pension but I don’t think its disappearance should be a big reason why people can’t save for retirement. As long as the company offers a good plan and hopefully matching 401k, people have to take responsibility to save for themselves rather than just rely on their employer to do it for them. And yea it is a bit of a handcuff…albeit a golden handcuff

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I couldn’t agree with you more about a skill being more important than just getting a college degree. With regards to compensation only, I’m sure learning to be a plumber or electrician pays more than just getting a degree in communications or sociology. AND you don’t have to pay $100k to be a plumber or electrician. Thanks for stopping by Andrew.

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  11. The Bearded Dragon

    This is so, so true. I’m a millennial (barely at ’85) and we have a lot of things way better than any generation before us. The issue is that many millennials don’t know how to make decisions, but they are being given decisions to make that have huge consequences on the rest of their lives (like going $100k in debt for a humanities degree). All of the world’s information is at your fingertips, but only YOU can make yourself look it up. You can lead a horse to water and all that. Anyway, I completely agree with you! Nice write-up.
    The Bearded Dragon recently posted…The Hoard: March 2016My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Thanks TBD. I do feel bad since people at 17 are making these life altering choices, so I guess that puts the onus on us as to make sure our families and friends are educating 🙂

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  12. Josh

    Not much else I can add that others have already said. I think there is a difference between young & older millenials. My main focus is the cost of a college degree. My bachelor’s degree from an in-state college cost me $60,000 (tuition + on-campus room.board) in 2008. In 2016, it would cost me $100,000.
    I graduated with a total student loan amount of $50,000. In 8 years, the cost has gone up $40,000. That’s $40,000 I used to buy a nice car & put money towards our current house.

    *Other than that, I feel Americans will have to compete with low-wage nations for jobs. Because of the internet, my wife & I are able to make money from home. But depending on how you make it, virtual assistant for instance, it can be tough to compete with people from India or wherever that charge lower wages because the dollar stretches further in these countries.
    Josh recently posted…A Student Loan ManifestoMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I understand that college prices are rising but I also feel that everyone shouldn’t go to college. If college gets way too expensive I’d advise my kids to go into the trades where they can still earn six-figures (at least in Northeast) or help them start an entrepreneurial endeavor.

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  13. Elle @ New Graduate Finance

    I agree.

    I also believe that accepting certain things and just moving on is crucial to achieving success.

    It is really easy to complain about how difficult things are. But this complaining takes time and energy away from time and energy that could be spent actually making one’s circumstances better.

    I believe that the sooner we can accept the cards we were dealt and start proactively building our lives, the more success we can achieve.
    Elle @ New Graduate Finance recently posted…The Best Day of the Week Is PaydayMy Profile

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  14. Broke Millennial

    Agreed and frankly, I don’t understand all the complaining on both sides. Don’t like the moniker fool you, I’ve never actually been broke. In fact, I made my college decision with the purpose of graduating debt free because my parents taught me the value of a dollar at a young age. I see a lot of the millennial issues just be easy news conversation in a 24/7 news cycle. The tired story of us being entitled is starting to shift as we (shockingly) grow up. Perhaps there was some credibility in it 5 – 10 years ago, but the generation is evolving as we age. Are we hitting cliche milestones at the same point our parents did? No. But we have more and different options! It isn’t taboo to live with your partner like it was for our parents — so we can delay marriage. Many of us have student loan debt — so we aren’t buy homes as soon. More women are (and can be) career focused — so we aren’t having kids as early. These are signs of the end of days like some news stations want us to believe! It’s just a generational shift. I’m sure Gen Z will do things completely differently than we did.
    Broke Millennial recently posted…The Money Pit of Overextending YourselfMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      That’s awesome that you had great mentors in your parents which allowed you to graduate debt free. I’ve personally never been broke either but that’s because I made sure my college degree would get me a job where I could pay back my student loans. Therefore I limited my search to accounting, finance, and engineering degrees when applying to schools. And you are right about the options today. So many people make a living from home on the internet! That was unthinkable 20 years ago.

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  15. Frank Facts

    These are actually some excellent points. My sense is that Millennial discontent actually has a lot to do with inequality. A generation ago, financial circumstances were more equal. Today’s inequality problem, coupled with social media, creates an environment where Millennials are much more likely to compare themselves to others. They see rich people without student loans on Facebook, and get in a snit about it. So, I think much of the problem is a perceptions issues, rather than one that’s rooted in hard data.

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      I agree – media distorts things. 30 years ago people watched the news maybe a little bit in the morning or at dinner and read the newspaper. Now people get alerts every time a celebrity goes to Starbucks. Perception is a much bigger issue today for sure.

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  16. Tawcan

    I’m a Millennial myself (just barely qualify) and I think you have made many good points. I think Millennials are doing pretty well in comparison to the other generations. Perhaps more it’s being made because of all the media and social media exposures. “Bad” things seem to get heard very quickly nowadays. We as Millennials have so many things on our hands for us to take advantage of, it’s really up to the individual to decide whether to do that or not. Blaming you non-success on being a millennial is simply trying to be “poor me” and finding excuses for yourself.
    Tawcan recently posted…The Financial Freedom FormulaMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Facebook and the like aren’t helping that. That’s why I got rid of my Facebook because I read how unhappy they actually make people. Always see people bragging about how great their lives are when really that is just a snapshot of one thing. It can be depressing to some people and they think that their life sucks compared to others due to this perceived success which can be portrayed on the internet.

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  17. Money Grower UK

    As a millennial, I second this. We have so much going for us that previous generations didn’t have. Just look at investing, for you to take part in the wealth building effects of the stock market you had to pay expensive commission fees and most of the time you didn’t know what you were invested in. These days, you can pick up shares on the cheap and with information readily and freely available, you know exactly what you have staked your future on.
    Money Grower UK recently posted…My 2015/16 ISA Portfolio Returns – Beating The Market!My Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      You bring up great points MG! I couldn’t imagine trying to invest with broker who is trying to rob me!

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  18. Dividendsdownunder

    I think the world is a more competitive place than it was for my parents.

    However the amount of tools and resources that are out there to teach and help people achieve FI (discount brokers, online savings, huge amount of finance websites) can make a huge difference.

    The key for every generation is adapting. If you do not adapt, you will not do well. Things will always be different compared to the last generation, that’s the world works. Complaining about it isn’t really going to change much, you are going through the same thing as the rest of your generation. What can you do to succeed?

    Tristan
    Dividendsdownunder recently posted…Private Health Insurance: Rebate, Tax & Lifetime Health Cover LoadingMy Profile

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    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Hi Tristan, I definitely agree that being willing to adapt to change is huge to being successful as times change and we get older.

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  19. NZ Muse

    Where I live, house prices have risen so much (and incomes haven’t increased proportionally) that even with low interest rates, housing is much, much less affordable than even 10 years ago.

    The one thing I am thankful for is new career paths – my job didn’t exist when my parents started out and the digital landscape keeps changing.

    Reply
    1. Fervent Finance Post author

      Some locations’ high COL make it almost impossible to buy on your own as a millennial. San Fran and Manhattan come to mind in the US. Are there certain areas in your country you would be willing to move to, so that you could afford it?

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