- Millennials came of age during the Great Recession, which created a domino effect of financial woes for the generation.
- The financial crisis is a key player in the Great American Affordability Crisis, in which millennials struggle to afford staples like housing.
- From creating a generation gap to causing millennials to delay life milestones, here’s how the recession has defined the generation.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The Great Recession affected many Americans, regardless of age, but it hit millennials particularly hard.
It’s one of the key events that shaped the generation, Jason Dorsey, a consultant, researcher of millennials, and president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, previously told Business Insider. During this time, millennials were coming of age, meaning they were kickstarting adulthood amidst the financial crisis and its post-recovery period.
The recession ultimately created a domino effect that put millennials financially behind and on a slow path to wealth accumulation. Here’s how it affected the generation.
The Great Recession created a millennial generation gap.
The Great Recession has divided millennials into two distinct groups – those who took the greatest hit from the recession and dealt with a tough job market, and those who experienced the recovery period, entering a better job market. In a nutshell, the oldest millennials went through the eye of the storm, while the youngest millennials caught the tailwind, Dorsey said.
Dorsey called the Great Recession an “extremely formidable and difficult event” for the oldest millennials. Older millennials are still recovering from the recession, while younger millennials have more time to plan financially, he said.
It put older millennials at risk of becoming a “lost generation” in terms of wealth accumulation.
Because they’re the slowest cohort to recover from the Great Recession, millennials born in the 1980s are at the greatest risk of becoming a “lost generation” for wealth accumulation, according to a 2018 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. As of 2016, people born in this decade had wealth levels 34% below where they would most likely have been if the financial crisis hadn’t occurred, the report found.
“The Great Recession led to a very tough job market, wage stagnation for those that had jobs, student-loan debt that was increasingly hard to pay, and rising costs of living around the country,” Dorsey said.
By watching the recession unfold, younger millennials became risk-averse.
Since younger millennials didn’t experience the financial crisis directly, they were able to observe it – and learn what to do and what not to do, financially speaking.
According to Dorsey, they got the benefit of learning from older millennials without having to go through some of the economic pain the older cohort experienced – and from which that cohort is still recovering. This has made younger millennials more aware of the risks of a bad economy and more practical when it comes to money, from saving for emergencies to contributing to a retirement account, Dorsey said.
In 2014, the investment-banking company UBS found that millennials were the most financially conservative generation since the Great Depression. And 93% of millennials are wary of investing, Rebecca Lake of SmartAsset reported, citing a 2015 Capital One study.
Because the financial crisis put millennials behind, they’re delaying major life milestones.
Regardless of age, millennials are working hard to catch up financially. Northwestern Mutual’s Planning & Progress Study 2018 found that millennials are more likely than other generations to say they’re “highly disciplined” or “disciplined” financial planners.
But it’s taking time to play catch-up. As a result, millennials are delaying major life milestones. Millennials are renting longer and buying later – millennial homeownership was at a record low in 2017, Business Insider’s Akin Oyedele reported. It doesn’t help that those buying their first home will pay 39% more than their parents did nearly 40 years ago, according to Student Loan Hero.
Millennials are also waiting to prioritise financial success before getting married, causing them to marry later in life than previous generations did. And the US birthrate is at its lowest in 32 years, Bill Chappell for NPR reported, citing a new report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The recession has contributed to the rise in crippling student-loan debt.
The crisis “created a perfect storm of high unemployment, stagnant wages, and the declining value of American homes [which] meant that families had fewer resources to use to pay for college,” she wrote.
Millennials in the graduating class of 2018 have an average student-loan debt of $US29,800. The weight of this debt is further hindering millennials’ ability to save and also contributing to their delay in life milestones. In fact, more than half of indebted millennial respondents in an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey said attending college wasn’t worth the student loans.