Millennials set back by bad times, but persevere

By By Dave Helling

The Kansas City Star (MCT)

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 8 2013 9:00 a.m. MDT

“There were a couple of times I was going to give up, for sure,” he said. “I got tired of bouncing around. But you can’t. You’ve got to keep on trying.”

Repeated job turnover is a challenge for white-collar and professional workers, who must continue to learn new skills as the job market evolves.

But it can be even more difficult for blue-collar workers in a new technology and information economy.

“These are people bouncing from one temporary job to the next; dropping out of college because they can’t figure out financial aid forms or fulfill their major requirements; relying on credit cards for medical emergencies,” Harvard research fellow Jennifer Silva wrote in The New York Times in June.

The Great Recession also depressed millennial income. From 2000 to 2011, the Economic Policy Institute found, wages actually fell for entry-level workers.

Housing prices collapsed in the Great Recession — but so did access to credit, a particular challenge for millennials with smaller incomes and sketchier credit histories.

“When my dad was my age, he could go out and get a loan to start his own business,” Williams said. “I have friends that want to do the same thing … and no bank will finance it.”

That phenomenon will affect the economy for decades. When 20-somethings can’t borrow for businesses or homes, 40-somethings can’t move up. Then boomers depending on home equity for retirement can’t sell, and the entire housing market freezes.

As a result, millennials have changed their outlook on buying homes. They have little interest in their parents’ McMansions.

“Unlike their baby boomer parents, 77 percent of millennials surveyed would prefer an ‘essential’ home compared to a grand stereotypical luxury home,” Better Homes and Gardens said this spring.

Some millennials say the Great Recession has soured them on home-buying completely. Better to rent, so that moving to a new job or city is easy.

“I haven’t seen anybody who says, ‘I have to own a house,’ ” Best said. “I know someone who owned a home and sold it just to have the liquidity, just to be able to go to Spain or whatever.”

But by far the biggest impact of the Great Recession has been felt in childhood bedrooms re-opened for millennials.

Last year, 36 percent of people ages 18 to 31 were living in their parents’ home. That’s the highest percentage since the early 1960s.

Some millennials are moving home because of poor job prospects, or enrollment in college. But the biggest reason, by far, is they’re putting off marriage. And they’re living with Mom and Dad until they tie the knot.

Last year, 3 out of 4 Americans between 18 and 28 were unmarried (and roughly half of them lived at home). Boomers in their 20s married at twice that rate.

Those rules have been changing for some time. But the Great Recession, with its impact on jobs, student loans and income, greatly accelerated the phenomenon.

“There aren’t any rules anymore about when you have to get married or when you start having kids,” Best said.

Despite the personal challenges of the Great Recession, though, most millennials maintain a faith in government as an important part of their lives. They liked the ability to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans well into their 20s, for example, because of the Affordable Care Act.

But that faith will be tested as their careers grow. Starting in January, healthy millennials will be required to carry health insurance, even though they may not need it. Their premiums are necessary to cut costs for older, sicker Americans.

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