Why you should care
As the fortunes of our newest-minted adults go unrealized, so goes the rest of the national economy.
Perspective: The economic struggles of America’s young professionals could use some.
It’s not so much that the whippersnappers need some schooling. More like the rest of us oughta learn what it’s like to be 23 and struggling to carve out a financial life in a way previous generations haven’t had to navigate.
$35,000 equals the average annual earnings of today’s millennials, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Baby boomers just starting out in their first professional jobs in the 1960s took home $34,883 (adjusted for inflation). Millennials entering the workforce make about the same as baby boomers entering the workforce did in the ’60s – but the cost of living has gone way up.
No wonder so many of them are still living in the old parental homestead.
Just look at the price of a new home. In 1968, the average home cost around $26,000 (yep, just five figures). Today’s average home price, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, hit $334,200 in March. What does it mean with the various inflation rates adjusted? In 1968, a home cost about 3.5 times the average American’s annual salary. In 2014, it’s 10 times as much. Only, the average American salary hasn’t changed so much.
It’s about establishing your own home and family — or, the lack of wherewithal to do so — and the impact that has on the overall economy.
And existing home sales — a big economic indicator — sunk more than rose in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. Just one more ripple effect. This isn’t just because of the millennials; it’s changing mortgage rates, harder-to-get loans, longer-term older unemployment — there’s a lot of variables. But for sure, there is a lack of young people diving into the glories of lawn-mowing and Pinterest-inspired interior designing. A stagnating housing market means less cash in the economy, from fewer housing-related jobs to fewer young people building equity.
And that doesn’t even begin to touch the average $29,400 in college debt owed by the 7 out of 10 students who took out loans to pay for school, as of 2012. Just four years before, the average 2008 grad had $24,000 in debt. It just keeps growing, every year. Unlike the salaries.
This isn’t just a generational sob story. Ultimately, millennials not leaving home also causes major economic headaches. It’s also not about having clandestine basement parties well into adulthood (oh, Garden State). It’s about establishing your own home and family — or, the lack of wherewithal to do so — and the impact that has on the overall economy.
There are lots of assumptions we make as a nation about recoveries and such, based how we expect each generation to act: that a certain number will go to school, get a job, then buy a house, in an expected order. But the millennials aren’t acting the way others have (grow up, get a job, move out, buy a house). The shape of their lives is a little different.
In other words: Yes, young 20-somethings still living in their childhood bedrooms is a problem for their parents, and their own independence — but it’s also an issue for the larger economy. And America is running out of spare bedrooms.