It may seem millenials are struggling, but that may not be the case. There has been much conversation regarding millennials and their financial status. Oftentimes, this particular generation is portrayed as economically unstable, forced to navigate a difficult job market while paying off expensive student loans.
This stereotype may be working against millennials — while there is no doubt that millennials do face these financial challenges, it is important to recognize that there are some millennials that do not easily fit into this mold.
Could it be that millennials are not as broke as they are often portrayed?
Millennials Making Money in America
According to the US. Census Bureau, per SmartAsset, the average salary for a millennial is $71,566 a year. Though lower than the baby boomers, the average salary is increasing.
“Although many media stories have tended to associate millennials almost exclusively with [economic instability], increases in income since 2014 have been steep,” Jean Twege, of The Atlantic, wrote.
The 2008 recession was a time when many millennials were entering the job market. Many faced uncertainty regarding their career — and many were able to overcome adversity. A great number of millennials were successfully able to bounce back after the recession. Now, the millennial cohort is making more (on average) than their baby boomer predecessors.
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Behind the Myth of the Broke Millennial
“Since the mid 2010s, millennials have been making a remarkable comeback,” Twege suggested. “The surprise was this: Millennials, as a group, are not broke — they are, in fact, thriving economically.”
A generation is often defined early on in its lifespan. Society makes judgements on a generation’s mentality and survability based on the climate of the time period. It was frequently thought that millennials would one day enter a difficult economy and struggle to get their feet off the ground. This myth has been perpetuated since the 1990s, when most millennials were still children.
Many millennials may tell you that they believe that they were not given the same opportunities as their parents. They may feel that their generation is severely disadvantaged financially.
Millennials and The American Dream
A fair few millennials are finding jobs, making money, and affording homes.
If millennials are making livable incomes, then why does this generation feel a sense of betrayal and contempt towards their boomer parents? The issue may be that the ideals of the American Dream have changed.
The American Dream is continuously defined and redefined as we navigate difficult periods in American history. Many millennials define the American Dream as the opportunity to do better than — or at least as well as — their parents. They want to own a home and enjoy a good salary.
“The belief that Millennials have been excluded from the implicit promises that America makes to its people — a house for most, middle-class security, a better life than your parents had — remains predominant in society,” Twege wrote.
It’s a tough world out there. College costs are only increasing. In our current economy, many people believe a single income household is not sustainable.
The American Dream feels unattainable to many millennials. However, the statistics appear to contradict the broadest applicability of this belief. For a great number of millennials, the future is not entirely without hope.
Social Media Adoption and Millennials
“Before social media, and before the proliferation of lifestyle and reality TV, the only rich individuals most people encountered were from the particularly well-off families in their town,” Twege observed. “Now the rich (or at least those who appear to be rich) fill our feeds and our screens, providing a skewed view of how other Americans live.”
Social media has led to disillusionment, discontent and a desire to keep up with those around us. Websites like Facebook, Instagram or even LinkedIn cause many millennials to feel pressured to be as successful as their peers seem to be.
“Incomes and wealth are not just objective numbers — there is a large element of perception involved in whether someone thinks they are doing well,” Twege indicated.
It may be that millennials only feel broke because they think everyone around them is rich. Maybe the millennial influencer who appears wealthy is struggling to pay rent, while the salaried office worker feels they can never compare with their meager income. Social media use can skew perception — and, perhaps most importantly, may skew millennials’ ideas of their own success.
Millennials Not Giving Up
It is crucial to fight against the sentiment that all millennials are broke, inherently. In the broad sense, millennials’ incomes are increasing steadily and will likely continue to do so.
On paper, this generation, quickly approaching middle age, does not look wholly lost — many American millennials look as if they have found their footing. Many millennials are employed and highly educated, but factors such as changing ideals of the American Dream and the desire to keep up with peers on social media may have led to a popular perception that millennials are broke.
Only time will tell if the millennial cohort is able to rise above negative perceptions of their financial reality.
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