When the economy bounced back, millennial salary prospects didn't.
Have you seen this guy?
<h2>Friends, meet "Old Economy Steve."</h2><p> <strong>On the Internet, Steve has become the judgmental, clueless baby-boomer embodiment of millennials' worst money-related frustrations.</strong></p><p> Who is he, exactly? Well, Old Economy Steve knew how to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He graduated from college without student debt, immediately got a high-paying job, and plans to retire with a pension. He just can't understand why those lazy millennials are living with their parents and still unemployed. (Spoiler: Old Economy Steve is kind of a jerk.)</p><p> <strong>Of course, Old Economy Steve is really just the fictionalized version of millennial financial anxieties.</strong> (And, by the way, it seems like <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/05/meet-the-real-life-old-economy-steve.html"><u>the real "Steve"</u></a> in the photo is actually a down-to-earth guy). I'd like to think most boomers are a little more compassionate toward us young folk than he is, too, but his meme definitely reflects the discomfort that many millennials have with their money situations right now.</p><p> <img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQ5MzAwNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzU5MTE5NX0.GjFMAACzK7NE9yNnG_dSVks5YAgGxnhe501hQwrcRZI/img.jpg?width=980" id="2a199" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f58c52454989ea6f0c8a0a0ff1edbb1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption"> Well, then. Thanks, Google.</p><p> <strong>What do I mean by “millennial money situations?"</strong></p><p> You've heard it all before, so sing along if you know the words: Millennials aren't buying houses, they're not buying cars, they're not saving for retirement, and sometimes they're not even moving out of their parents' basements.</p><h2>Is all of this because millennials are <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2015/04/20/are-millennials-lazy-entitled-narcissists.html">lazy</a>? <a href="http://www.alternet.org/comments/culture/millennials-generation-y">Entitled</a>? <a href="http://time.com/3154186/millennials-selfish-entitled-helicopter-parenting/">Coddled</a>? <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/27/millennials-snake-people_n_7450604.html">Snake people</a>? Poor planners?</h2><p> Not quite. A lot of folks would argue that it's because millennials have no money (check out that point of view in an article from the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/02/opinion/sunday/were-making-life-too-hard-for-millennials.html?_r=2" target="_blank">New York Times</a> earlier this year). <strong>Here are a few truth bombs that might explain what's going on:</strong></p><h2>1. Millennial wages aren't just frozen — they're actually shrinking.</h2><p> Many millennials were either in college or about to graduate when the recession hit hard. Lots of employees across the U.S. were let go — not exactly the best economic climate when you're looking for your first job.</p><p> And while the economy bounced back, their salary prospects did not. As <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/12/millennials-arent-saving-money-because-theyre-not-making-money/383338/?utm_source=SFFB"><u>The Atlantic</u></a> pointed out last year, <strong>average wages for young people have fallen by 10% in many industries since 2007. </strong>Add that to the fact that many millennials live in <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2015/07/23/millennials-living-on-the-edge-of-the-big-city"><u>big cities</u></a> with extremely high rents and high costs of living because that's where the jobs are.</p><p>Just to put it in perspective, <strong>the average male student <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/new_college_grads_losing_ground_on_wages/" target="_blank">graduating from college</a> in 1979 made <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/college-graduates-salary_n_946759.html">an hourly wage</a> of $19.97 (adjusted for inflation). For 2010 graduates, the average hourly wage was $21.77 — down almost a dollar from 2000. </strong>And female graduates make even less than that. You can point that out to them when they ask why you're not planning on buying a house in your 20s.</p><p> So we're not getting paid as much as previous generations of young adults were getting paid, we live in places where it's not really feasible to buy a home, and of course…<br></p><h2>2. Student loans eat up a hefty chunk of whatever income millennials have left.</h2><p> The average student loan debt for the class of 2011 was <a href="https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-college-debt"><u>$26,600</u></a>. Most of those students are living under the shadow of that debt for years, <a href="http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2014/10/07/student-loan-expectations-myth-vs-reality"><u>sometimes even decades</u></a>.</p><p> <img alt="giphy.gif" src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/Z2jhRFT495bD_2VwTGSB5wqMiaQ4x8VXZ2Wx0Zlj8oYdrD8nhoiBCCp_KQ8VEVe0bVwvtFQ67Yt7jGX-ASVlerM47RFpRgp5TdA5tvkwO0V0Q2mDFtobPtf-lZ6Ou67rvT_HkTRF"></p><p class="image-caption"> Say hello to Sallie Mae (she's on the left.) </p><p> Experts posit that millennials are less likely to be homeowners than previous generations mostly because all of their cash is going toward <a href="http://www.upworthy.com/watch-these-two-deliver-real-talk-on-why-the-student-loan-game-is-rigged?c=tpstream"><u>paying off their debt</u></a>. Most are unable to save.</p><p> <strong>But there's one more piece of information that might surprise you about millennials' finances:</strong></p><h2>3. We're finding ways to fix the problem.</h2><p> I'm going to speak for my generation for a second here: Just because we're young, it doesn't mean we're lazy. We haven't given up yet. In fact, a lot of us are finding some really creative solutions to cope with the changing economy.</p><p> Like what? Like tiny houses. These little homes are inexpensive, energy-efficient, and quickly <a href="http://fusion.net/story/236635/millennials-housing-crisis-tiny-homes/"><u>becoming a trend</u></a>. And <a href="http://www.upworthy.com/he-had-an-epiphany-while-living-in-a-dumpster-and-it-could-help-change-the-future-of-housing"><u>in the future</u></a>, we might even see apartment-like buildings made of mobile “smart homes."</p><p> <img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQ5MzAwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTI2NjkyM30.kaGAcjtw4L_wT6GZguIDo6poSQyNphc_lc0mzpsZE3c/img.jpg?width=980" id="66b9d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aecd708cd678f5eb11175ba3cfd3f004" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"></p><p class="image-caption"> Tiny homes! Image from Guillaume Dutilh on <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiny_house_movement#/media/File:Tiny_House_Giant_Journey_in_the_Petrified_Forest_and_an_RV.jpg"><u>Wikimedia Commons</u></a>.</p><p> We're also being smarter about our health care costs, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act. The <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/millennials_report.pdf"><u>uninsured rate for young folks</u></a> is lower now than it's been since before 1997.</p><p> And we're putting pressure on our lawmakers to get real about paralyzing student loans. There's no reason interest rates on student debt should be so high, and some <a href="http://mic.com/articles/56987/is-elizabeth-warren-a-champion-of-the-millennial-generation#.I039wTHzm"><u>elected representatives</u></a> and <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/hillary-clintons-350-billion-plan-to-kill-college-debt-121210"><u>candidates</u></a> are speaking up about it.</p><h2>So, lazy? Entitled? Coddled? Snake people? Poor planners? Not quite.</h2><p> Unable to keep their heads above water? That seems more like it. Admittedly, there's a lot of systemic work still to be done for millennials and their financial security. I'm in the thick of it with all the rest of you.</p><p> But there's also a lot that we're already doing — because just like every other generation, we want control over our futures.</p>
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