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Every generation has growing pains. Today’s Millennials (aged 18 to 33) are forging a much different path to adulthood than previous generations. While they are more highly educated as a group they are also more burdened by debt according to Millennials in Adulthood published by Pew Research in March 2014.
Millennials are highly educated. In fact, they are the most educated group of young adults in American history with one-third of older Millennials (aged 26 to 33) holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. In another study, Pew found that the benefits of attaining higher education included higher wages and more job satisfaction. By comparison, those Millennials having only a high-school diploma have been saddled with low-paying jobs and high unemployment much more than the previous two generations (Gen X and Boomers).
Although well educated, Millennials are the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt and higher unemployment than either of their two immediate predecessor generations had when they were the same age. Two-thirds of recent grads with a four-year degree have an average student loan debt of $27,000. By comparison, when Boomers graduated only half of them had any school debt and those who did owed an average of $15,000.
Millennials began entering adulthood during difficult economic times. One of the reasons for their financial troubles is the Great Recession (2007 to 2009) which began when many were just entering the workforce. Another factor is the effect of “globalization and rapid technological change” on the overall workforce. Pew notes that approximately seven-in-ten Americans across generations say that today’s young adults face more economic difficulties than previous generations did when they were first starting out.
Still, Millennials remain optimistic about their financial future. The majority say they either currently have enough money to live the way they want (32 percent) or they expect to in the future (53 percent). This is despite the fact that half of Millennials (51 percent) say they don’t believe that there will be any money left in Social Security when they retire. Pew notes that some of this optimism may be due to the “timeless confidence of youth.”
To read the Millennials in Adulthood visit Pew Research.