"It's not that we don't care...
We just know that the fight ain't fair."
"Waiting on the World to Change" as performed by John Mayer
Recently someone shared a comedy skit with me, one that poked fun at both millennials and baby boomers. Stereotypes abounded. The millennials were portrayed as self-involved, resentful, interruptive and angry. Boomers were cast as selfish, entitled and dismissive of the economic plight facing younger citizens.
Comedy often reflects deep divisions in our culture. Many of the conflicts between these two age groups are rooted in economics. Millennials are saddled with massive student loan debt due to the skyrocketing costs of college tuition and a largely unaffordable starter housing market. Many came of age during the Great Recession and believe the boomer generation has usurped an unfair share of government benefits and society’s wealth.
Boomer business owners who hire millennials joke that they could be good employees, but can't tear their eyes off their iPhones long enough to concentrate. Older employers think that millennials respond to any customer request with "No worries," and can't understand why it should be worrisome to do your job.
Ten thousand boomers reach age 65 daily, and thus a majority of our social service dollars are directed at our generation. For the first time this year, though, millennials will outnumber baby boomers, and with a population of just under 80 million, they now represent the largest living adult generation.
So where are these millions of millennials headed? Geographically, these states are reflecting a positive net migration of millennials: Washington, Texas, Colorado, Virginia, Georgia, Oregon, North Carolina, Nevada, Florida and Arizona. Interestingly, four of these states, Washington, Texas, Nevada and Florida, levy no state income tax. Another common theme for many of these locales is more affordable housing, except perhaps the Seattle area in Washington.
We need our younger citizens to have skin in the game and to buy houses, cars, TV’s, clothes, tricycles and diapers to fuel our economy. Despite the narrative that millennials are nothing but gig-economy drifters, most actually want to own a home. But times have changed. The average college student graduates owing $30,000 in loans. That’s largely because college is significantly more expensive than it was when we were in school, even after adjusting for inflation. Ditto for housing.
We need to offer more educational opportunities that do not include prohibitively expensive four-year degrees, including trade schools, two-year schools and specific skill certifications. We also need to allow for construction of new and affordable homes in many urban areas, houses that are currently not being built because landlords of existing structures are successfully campaigning against it. This is crippling local economies and preventing true economic growth.
It's a big task. But hey, no worries.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC®, AIF®, author of the syndicated economic column “Arbor Outlook,” is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850.608.6121 – www.arborwealth.net), a fiduciary, “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Destin, FL. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.