Generation Lost? Millennials come of age

Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:07pm EDT
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By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Annabel Adams has seen a lot in her life: 9-11, the dot-com bust, the housing collapse, the financial crisis, the Great Recession.

That may sound like a lifetime of experience, but she is just 28 years old.

If your birth year is essentially a genetic lottery, which drops you into the economic circumstances of the day, then it's no exaggeration to say that the 70 million millennials - or Generation Y, those born in the 1980s and '90s - appear to have lost that lottery.

"We grew up believing that we would have all the things our parents had: With a college education we'd get a dream job, health insurance, a 401(k), a home," said Adams, a Long Beach, California, resident and public relations manager for a healthy-eating firm. "Now nothing is sure anymore."

As a result, Adams has shelved a lot of those expectations. She lives at home with her mom, does not have a 401(k), and is coping with $20,000 in student loans. While she enjoys carving out a niche as a health writer, the prospect of becoming a homeowner seems distant.

Much has been made of the millennials as an entitled generation, constantly whining about the obligations of adulthood while fiddling with their iPhones. But life has been tough for many of them.

Student debt has now surpassed $1 trillion, with the average college grad who took out loans saddled with more than $25,000 in debt. Americans aged 20 to 24 now face 13.2 percent unemployment, up from 7.7 percent five years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Back in 1984, households headed by Americans 65 and older used to have ten times the wealth of those 35 and under; by 2009, according to Pew Research, that spread had multiplied to 47 times.   Continued...

A student reads on the steps to Memorial Church at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Brian Snyder