Earning

Yes, We Are Doing Worse Than Our Parents—But We Can Change That

Tim Stobierski

It’s no secret that millennials have borne the brunt of a lot of criticism over the years: We’ve been called lazy, entitled and obsessed with participation trophies. (Those are just the PG adjectives.)

But whatever our supposed personality flaws, there’s no denying that we’ve had some very real economic struggles, including record student debt and sky-high expenses . Oh, and most of us graduated into the worst job market in recent history, which contributed to high unemployment and underemployment rates . Sure, the Great Recession was unkind to all workers—but for us, it was a downright catastrophe.

And we’re still paying the price.

How bad is it, really?

A recent Young Invincibles report found that millennials today have half the net worth of 1989’s 25 to 34 year olds ($29,000 vs. $61,000). What’s more, those of us with a college degree and student loans earn roughly the same as workers without a degree in 1989.

It gets worse: Just 50 percent of 30 year olds today earn more than 30 year olds in generations past, compared to 92 percent of 30 year olds who out-earned their parents in 1940. So it’s no wonder a whopping 32 percent of us are still living at home or that 67 percent have less than $1,000 in savings.

Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom

The good news is that we have the ability to change our bleak prospects—and things are starting to improve. For starters, we have the advantage of new technology that makes saving and investing automatic and easy .

Technology has also led to the rise of the gig economy. Whether it’s through apps like Uber, or freelance websites like Upwork and Fiverr , it’s never been easier to supplement your income: Almost 40 percent of millennials report that they have a side gig—a much higher percentage than older workers.

And we have an even more powerful advantage on our side.

That’s time. Even the oldest millennials have decades before reaching the traditional retirement age, which means their investments can still grow exponentially. Starting to invest early—and continuing to invest regularly over time —is the best way to build wealth in the long term, whether the goal is a comfortable retirement or a medium-term target like having enough to buy a home.

As a generation, we seem to be taking this truth to heart: While we’re still not saving as much for the future as Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, we have been significantly upping our contributions in recent years .

We’ve also started saving more for the near-term: In 2015, a Bank of America survey found that 44 percent of millennials are now saving for emergencies. Yes, that indicates plenty of room for growth—but at least we’re moving in the right direction.

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