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Show me the slightly less cool mobile version instead. Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression. By Michael Hobbes Like everyone in my generation, I am finding it increasingly difficult not to be scared about the future and angry about the past. More millennials live with their parents than with roommates.

We are delaying partner-marrying and house-buying and kid-having for longer than any previous generation. And, according to The Olds, our problems are all our fault: We got the wrong degree. We killed cereal and department stores and golf and napkins and lunch. This is what it feels like to be young now. Not only are we screwed, but we have to listen to lectures about our laziness and our participation trophies from the people who screwed us.

Click here for a text-only version of the story But generalizations about millennials, like those about any other arbitrarily defined group of 75 million people, fall apart under the slightest scrutiny. Every stereotype of our generation applies only to the tiniest, richest, whitest sliver of young people. And the circumstances we live in are more dire than most people realize.

Calculations based on average per-student borrowing in and Census, young adults ages Projection for the class of based on a NerdWallet analysis of federal data.

What is different about us as individuals compared to previous generations is minor. What is different about the world around us is profound. Salaries have stagnated and entire sectors have cratered. At the same time, the cost of every prerequisite of a secure existence—education, housing and health care—has inflated into the stratosphere.

From job security to the social safety net, all the structures that insulate us from ruin are eroding. And the opportunities leading to a middle-class life—the ones that boomers lucked into—are being lifted out of our reach. Earlier this year she had to borrow money to file for bankruptcy. I heard the same walls-closing-in anxiety from millennials around the country and across the income scale, from cashiers in Detroit to nurses in Seattle.

But what we are living through now, and what the recession merely accelerated, is a historic convergence of economic maladies, many of them decades in the making. Decision by decision, the economy has turned into a young people-screwing machine. Understanding structural disadvantage is pretty complicated. Chapter 1 hat Scott remembers are the group interviews. Eight, 10 people in suits, a circle of folding chairs, a chirpy HR rep with a clipboard.

At some of the interviews he was by far the least qualified person in the room. The other applicants described their corporate jobs and listed off graduate degrees. Some looked like they were in their 50s. He still lives at home, chipping in a few hundred bucks every month to help his mom pay the rent. In theory, Scott could apply for banking jobs again. But his degree is almost eight years old and he has no relevant experience. And pay off his student loans in 20 years.

There are millions of Scotts in the modern economy. In , more than 50 percent of college graduates had a job offer lined up. For the class of , fewer than 20 percent of them did.

According to a study, every 1 percent uptick in the unemployment rate the year you graduate college means a 6 to 8 percent drop in your starting salary—a disadvantage that can linger for decades.

The same study found that workers who graduated during the recession were still making less than their counterparts who graduated 10 years later. Kahn, Labour Economics, By now, those unlucky millennials who graduated at the wrong time have cascaded downward through the economy. A university diploma has practically become a prerequisite for even the lowest-paying positions, just another piece of paper to flash in front of the hiring manager at Quiznos.

Since , the economy has added In , young workers with a high school diploma had roughly triple the unemployment rate and three and a half times the poverty rate of college grads. Once you start tracing these trends backward, the recession starts to look less like a temporary setback and more like a culmination.

Over the last 40 years, as politicians and parents and perky magazine listicles have been telling us to study hard and build our personal brands, the entire economy has transformed beneath us. For decades, most of the job growth in America has been in low-wage, low-skilled, temporary and short-term jobs. The United States simply produces fewer and fewer of the kinds of jobs our parents had. The Federal Reserve cracked down on inflation. Companies started paying executives in stock options.

Pension funds invested in riskier assets. The cumulative result was money pouring into the stock market like jet fuel. Between and , the average time that investors held stocks before flipping them went from eight years to around four months. The pressure to deliver immediate returns became relentless. The new paradigm took over corporate America.

Private equity firms and commercial banks took corporations off the market, laid off or outsourced workers, then sold the businesses back to investors. In the s alone, a quarter of the companies in the Fortune were restructured. Companies were no longer single entities with responsibilities to their workers, retirees or communities.

Businesses applied the same chop-shop logic to their own operations. Executives came to see themselves as first and foremost in the shareholder-pleasing game. Higher staff salaries became luxuries to be slashed. Unions, the great negotiators of wages and benefits and the guarantors of severance pay, became enemy combatants. And eventually, employees themselves became liabilities. Boomer Millennial Hours of minimum wage work needed to pay for four years of public college Source: National Center for Education Statistics.

Calculations based on tuition for four-year public universities from and Thirty years ago, she says, you could walk into any hotel in America and everyone in the building, from the cleaners to the security guards to the bartenders, was a direct hire, each worker on the same pay scale and enjoying the same benefits as everyone else. Since the downturn, the industry that has added the most jobs is not tech or retail or nursing.

Where previous generations were able to amass years of solid experience and income in the old economy, many of us will spend our entire working lives intermittently employed in the new one. Trade groups have responded to the dwindling number of secure jobs by digging a moat around the few that are left. The harder it is to become a plumber, the fewer plumbers there will be and the more each of them can charge.

Nearly a third of American workers now need some kind of state license to do their jobs, compared to less than 5 percent in It was supposed to be training, but she says she worked the same hours and did the same tasks as paid staffers. All of these trends—the cost of education, the rise of contracting, the barriers to skilled occupations—add up to an economy that has deliberately shifted the risk of economic recession and industry disruption away from companies and onto individuals.

For our parents, a job was a guarantee of a secure adulthood. For us, it is a gamble. Chapter 2 Becoming poor is not an event. It is a process. Like a plane crash, poverty is rarely caused by one thing going wrong. Usually, it is a series of misfortunes—a job loss, then a car accident, then an eviction—that interact and compound. I heard the most acute description of how this happens from Anirudh Krishna, a Duke University professor who has, over the last 15 years, interviewed more than 1, people who fell into poverty and escaped it.

He started in India and Kenya, but eventually, his grad students talked him into doing the same thing in North Carolina. The mechanism, he discovered, was the same. We often think of poverty in America as a pool, a fixed portion of the population that remains destitute for years. In fact, Krishna says, poverty is more like a lake, with streams flowing steadily in and out all the time.

Between and , the probability that a working-age American would unexpectedly lose at least half her family income more than doubled. And the danger is particularly severe for young people. In the s, when the boomers were our age, young workers had a 24 percent chance of falling below the poverty line.

By the s, that had risen to 37 percent. And the numbers only seem to be getting worse. From to , the poverty rate among young workers with only a high school diploma more than tripled, to 22 percent. Gabriel is 19 years old and lives in a small town in Oregon. He plays the piano and, until recently, was saving up to study music at an arts college.

Last summer he was working at a health supplement company. Then his sister got into a car accident, T-boned turning into their driveway. Boomer Millennial Average annual stock market returns on k plans Source: Percentages based on average returns from for boomers and projected returns from onward for millennials.


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Total 3 comments.
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