The Age of Debt: A Millennial Crisis

(Photo: Washington Post)

(Photo: Washington Post)

Sydney A. Brobbey

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In this age of rising debt and inflation, it seems as though the negative impacts of such challenges have been placed upon the Millennials of today.

According to the Wall Street Journal, American Millennials are approaching middle age in worse financial shape than every living generation ahead of them. Americans born between the years 1981 and 1991 have failed to match every other generation of young adults born since the Great Depression, despite the rising economic growth.

Millennials now have less wealth and property and lower marriage rates and fewer children. Additionally, they have helped drive U.S births to their lowest levels in 32 years. As a result, there will be fewer workers in the future to support Social Security and other public programs. As stated by Anqi Chen, assistant director of savings research at the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, “We’ll have to rethink a lot of things about taxation and how social programs are funded if fertility is really on a more permanent decline.”

With respect to both birth rates and property ownership, millennial Joy Brown, 32, states, “If I can’t afford a home, I definitely can’t afford kids. Myself and a lot of my peers still feel like we’re playing catch-up in the game of life.”

More and more Millennials seem to be accruing student loan debt as the years pass by, and although they may be able to make more money, they are still lagging in debt behind baby boomers and Gen Xers. The average student-loan balance for Millennials in 2017 was $10,600, more than twice the average owed by Gen Xers in 2004. Combined, the couple Mr. and Mrs. Cochran, a millennial couple, owe $377,000 in student loans. “If we had zero student loans we’d be married. We have to be far more strategic and creative in order to try and fit everything in around our student loans,” Ms.Cochran stated.

The financial constrictions faced by many American Millennials is driving shifts in their political views. A Gallup poll last summer found that Millennials were the only generation that favored socialism over capitalism. Now, many Millennials are leaning towards populist candidates who promise universal healthcare and free college education.

On a positive note, though, Millennials are entering their prime time earning years as baby boomers retire. As a result, this should fuel the demand for their skills and lift their earnings. Looking towards the future, some of these problems may be resolved as a result.