Five Reasons Millennials Are Struggling to Get Ahead

It’s Not the Avocado Toast

Hating on the millennial generation has become a favorite pastime of many social commentators. We are vain. We are delicate little snowflakes. We want to save the world but are too busy taking selfies. We would rather stuff ourselves with insanely expensive avocado toast than actually save for retirement.

Now, I’m a pretty big fan of avocados (pretty much required if you live in California), but the financial woes of my generation are a little more complicated than an uncontrollable urge to splurge on foodie fare. We millennials do face some pretty big challenges when it comes to achieving financial success (or even financial solvency). Some of it has to do with dropping into the workforce right in the middle of a big recession. Other factors have to do with long-term social changes. Let’s look at some real reasons millennials are struggling.

College Debt

Most of us would agree that it is virtually impossible to get a decent job without at least a bachelor’s degree on the resume, but as college turns into a career necessity, prices continue to skyrocket. Over the last 30 years, the cost of a college degree has increased 1,120%!

It’s no wonder that the average 2016 college grad leaves school with $37,172 in debt. That amount of debt can make it pretty difficult to start saving for retirement or save for a down payment on a home. Speaking of which…

Priced Out of the Market

Owning a home is supposed to be the American dream. A home also represents most homeowners’ greatest asset. However, the median home price in the United States has risen to $188,900, meaning a millennial has to save up $37,780 to afford a 20% down payment. That’s not even the half of it (literally)! In many of the hottest job markets across the country, home prices have risen so high that they virtually price most young homeowners out of the market entirely. In San Diego, where I live, the median home price is $515,000!

When you wonder why a third of millennials live with their parents, consider that even as home prices continue to rise quickly, the job market has remained flat as a pancake.

Flat Job Market

The oldest millennials entered the job market right as the United States lurched into the Great Recession. In an article for, Alyssa Davis, a research assistant at EPI, noted that “when college students graduate into a weak labor market, it can impact earning and job opportunities for 10 to 15 years…”

Even though the recession is long gone, millennials are earning far less than their older counterparts, and not all of it can be explained away by youth and inexperience. The average millennials are estimated to be earning 20% less than their boomer counterparts at the same age!

It’s kind of hard to get ahead lugging around a huge amount of college debt and earning an uninspiring salary. One thing that could really help millennials is living in two-salary households, but even here millennials are lacking.

Staying Single

Millennials are staying single longer and marrying less. As of 2016, the median age of first marriage was 29 for men and 27 for women, up seven years for both genders since the 1950s. While staying single lets millennials have more fun, it can also delay the financial benefits of enjoying a two-income household. This includes things like affording a home, discounts on shared insurance, and enjoying the savings of shared costs.

A New Sandwich Generation

As if all that weren’t enough, the oldest millennials are also facing the prospect of taking care of their own children and parents at the same time. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were among the first groups to start having children later in life. Millennials have followed that trend. (The average age of a first pregnancy is now 26.3 years.) As millennials wait longer to have children and as their own parents grow older, they are on the verge of becoming the ultimate sandwich generation. Even as the youngest millennials are still finishing up college, almost 20% of millennials report that they are financially supporting a parent.

All this goes to show that millennials are facing steep challenges when it comes to establishing financial stability and saving for emergencies and their retirement. So, maybe cool it on the snide avocado toast comments!

Millennials, are you looking for a way to grab control of your finances? One great (and FREE) way is to start a MoneyClub in your area with a few of your friends or co-workers. You don’t have to be a money guru to start the group; you just need to be motivated to improve your financial habits.

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