Millennials, at 75M Strong, You CAN Change the U.S. Economy: Here’s Your Wake-Up Call

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According to most experts, a Millennial is someone born between 1980 and 2000. This means anyone roughly between the ages of 16-36 is a Millennial. I fall right smack in the middle of that range. This means my peers, whether older or younger, tend to be Millennials as well.

Being a Millennial, growing up as a Millennial, and having 10 years of Millennials born before me and after me, I have a unique perspective on the life of a Millennial. What I see is we have a generation that carries so much power, but as a whole, we have no idea. According to monthly estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Millennials are now the largest generation in the United States, with 75.4 million people and an expected 81 million by 2036.

With these numbers, the influence we as a generation have is massive. As Baby Boomers retire, pass away, and downsize, we will need to step up to the wheel as the drivers on the U.S. economy. I write this article because I believe that hypothetical car is at a fork in the road. Now that we sit in front of this fork, we get to decide what our future looks like.

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A Lack of Financial Education — And the Problems That Causes

Although there will be many decisions to be made, I believe most will come back to money. When I say money, I am not referring directly to what the Federal Government is doing with our money or the macro viewpoints of capitalism. Rather, I’m talking about money on an individual level. After all, the U.S. economy is ultimately built on each and every person — and that person’s value contributed to society. This means even the macro economic issues we face (and pay so close attention to) can be filtered down to a person-by-person level.

Think of any major issue that has faced our society, and it can be traced back to money. This has led to people saying things like, “Money is the root of all evil.” Actually, I mostly agree with that — with one major twist. It’s not money itself; it’s the lack of financial education that’s the root of all evil.

millennial-real-estate

In 2008, we were all shook by the predatory lending of some banks that led to the mortgage default rates sky rocketing, bringing down the mortgage-backed securities and ultimately sending the economy into the great recession. We point at the bankers with blame, and what is the solution? We add some extra paperwork to loans that have disclosures such as, “You are responsible for paying your loan back.” And we make the font a little bigger where it shows your interest rate. I am not saying that there was not corruption. What I am saying is if we as a society had greater financial education and literacy, we wouldn’t have let it happen.

Another major issue we see over history is social equality. Social equality is fighting for equal opportunity. Equal opportunities for what? For good paying jobs, for good schools for children, for safe homes, for the best life possible for families. All of these can and are achieved through financial education. The reason for the poverty gap is financial education or lack thereof.

Related: Don’t Believe the Hype: Why Real Estate Investors Shouldn’t Underestimate Millennials

Making a Decision to Take Control

So, is it as simple as educating each and every person about money so we can have a highly informed society collaborating to bring the economy to unchartered prosperity with less volatility? Yes, it is that easy to say, but no, it is not that easy to do. For this exact reason, I write to my generation of Millennials.

At 75 million strong, we sit at the fork in the road right now. Not in a few years, not when our parents pass away, but now. At this fork, we have to decide whether we will each take responsibility for our own financial education. Or will we grab the wheel blindly and hope for the best, hope our government will teach us or take care of us?

If we take the hard road, step up the plate to truly learn and share financial education, then we will be the first generation as a whole to pass down this knowledge to our children. If we as a whole choose personal responsibility for our financial education, we will begin to see what we the people hold important. We make up our government; it will not change unless we change. If we as the largest generation in America can be the first to take on the role of teaching ourselves and each other finance, maybe one day we will see it taught and reinforced in our school systems.

I say we are coming to a fork in the road, but really, it’s more like a “T” in the road. Currently, as a whole, we are financially ignorant. We can stay on the blind road, or we have to take a hard turn to reach unchartered economic prosperity.

81% of Millennials Have Long-Term Debt

PWC, an international accounting firm, committed $190 million to helping students develop critical financial skills and providing educators with the resources and training to teach those skills. In a recent survey from PWC.com, they highlight some of the alarming stats Millennials face in regard to financial education.

Have Inadequate Financial Knowledge

When tested on financial concepts, only 24% demonstrated basic financial knowledge.

Aren’t Happy With Their Current Financial Situation

When ranking satisfaction on a scale of 1-10, 34% were very unsatisfied.

Worry About Student Loans

When asked about their ability to repay their student loan debt, more than 54% of Millennials expressed concern.

housing_data_millenials_walkability_density

Debt Crosses Economic and Educational Lines

Among college-educated Millennials, a staggering 81% have at least one long-term debt.

Are Financially Fragile

Nearly 30% of Millennials are overdrawing their checking accounts.

Are Heavy Users of Alternative Financial Services (AFS)

In the past five years, 42% of Millennials used an AFS product, such as payday loans, pawn shops, auto title loans, tax refund advances, and rent-to-own products.

Related: 10 Seemingly Harmless Habits That Sabotage Ambitious Millennials

These stats only reinforce that if we do not grab the wheel, take responsibility, and begin to see the importance of financial education, we can and will suffocate the U.S. economy with our ignorance. This is not small feat. With 75 million+ people, it will take unity, perseverance, and time. Luckily, as the young adult generation, we have time to make it happen. What we don’t have time for is the decision on whether we will or will not make it happen. We sit at the fork in the road now. We need to choose which road to take today, and we will travel on that road for the rest of our lives.

As I am writing this article for BiggerPockets, a financial education platform, I believe it will reach many people who already are or are seeking to be financially educated. What many of you financially educated people reading this may not realize is your peers look to you, look to your success, and wonder how you did it. Because of this, I ask you to share this article on social media where your peers can see it. In this beautiful world of technology, we are able to spread information like wildfire. If we can begin to inform our generation of the importance of financial education, they can begin to seek it out.

If you’re a Millennial, do you agree with this assessment? What do you think is the key to improving the U.S. economy and our citizens’ daily lives?

Let me know what you think with a comment!

About Author

Jered Sturm

Jered Sturm is co-founder and director of sales and marketing at SNS Capital Group. Jered began in the real estate industry in 2006, working for a successful real estate investment company as a handyman. From 2009-2012, Jered co-founded the construction company Sturm Properties. Using his background in contracting and construction, he began investing in “Value Add” real estate. Now, after co-founding SNS Capital Group, Jered has conducted over 10 million dollars in real estate transactions. He currently co-owns and operates a portfolio worth over 3.7 million dollars in investment real estate.

34 Comments

  1. The title of this article should have been, “Snowflakes, The Entitled Generation, Have No Hope of Changing the U.S. Economy.” Really, take it from a Baby Boomer who slept in his car to get through college, scratched and clawed his way to passive income, and is living the life he has always dreamed of, these Snowflakes will never make it. They are members of the entitlement generation, unwilling to endure the sacrifices of their parents. They need to collectively develop an entitlement free zone before having any hope of success.

  2. David Roberts

    Im 37 (genx?). Every generation says the next one is lazy, and they are.

    Theres alot of very intelligent, very highly educated people, that don’t know financial basics. My sister is a fricken OBGYN, dumb as dip with money.

    How many life decisions are made before you are 25 years old? College debt has been accrued, maybe a house purchase,maybe 1-2 kids…by then you are way behind the eightball. Do you think this is an accident? Do you really think the sytem isn’t structured to keep people from paying attention?

    Even if people paid attention, people have egos. They get butthurt when you challenge their normal way of thinking. Good luck changing that.

    Now you drew my cynical side out…thanks lol

  3. Ethan Atkinson

    Tell all your friends and family who are under 30. Most of this is true. Most of this generation needs to hear this from every direction for there to be any change. But they all want choice and freedom and entitlement. You can’t ever have all 3 without sacrificing somewhere so that you can get to where you want. Unless you are given wealth through inheritance you have to work and get some education. Lots of financial education. Then you have to take lots of action. Good article. Someone has to say it.

  4. Darryl Lee

    Great Article! I fall right into the middle of the millennial generation myself at 26 years old. I’ve taken it upon myself to educate not only myself but those around me about personal finance and wealth creation. Keep the content coming because it’s much appreciated.

  5. Joe Splitrock

    How quickly the Baby Boomers forget that when they were young, they were hippies and burnouts. Losers who were disrespected by the Greatest Generation (never a fan of that title because it assumes too much).

    I am part of Generation X, once labeled the slacker generation. We had a major recession that made it hard to get jobs when we got out of college. We were labeled slackers not because we didn’t want jobs, but because we couldn’t find jobs.

    Then in our 20’s we built websites and gave birth to the internet and cell phones. The changing economy and technology opened new doors and we were the first ones through them. Now in our 40’s, Generation X has shown to be a generation of entrepreneurs. We were the first generation to not keep the same job for 40 years. Not our choice – we found a new way only out of necessity.

    I see parallels between Millennials and Generation X. A recession making it hard to find jobs. A changing economy. Millennials create social media and apps, where we once built websites. Probably every generation goes through the same cycle as they age.

    The exciting thing for Millennials is your story is only in the first chapter. Someday Generation Z (or whatever they label them) will take your place as a hippie, slacker or entitled brat.

    Final parting words to millennials is don’t worry how your life turns out. In the end, there is a giant participation trophy waiting for all of you. (sorry couldn’t resist a little jab)

  6. Nicholas Duncan

    Great points Jered! Being somewhat on the younger side of the millenial generation (22), I see my peers taking out car loans, spending hundreds on vacations, and being 100% okay with having a $30+ weekly alcohol budget (if you could call it that). All of this is still while in college, working a part-time, short-term job making near minimum wage. Couple this with student loans and we’re starting out severely in the hole!

    The fact that we’re never taught anything about personal finances is a huge issue (I’ve actually started my own blog to try to help people fill in the gaps) that I see people continuing to struggle with after, and during, college.

    We’re the YOLO generation, financially and otherwise. I think it shows more often than it should.

    Nailed it Jered!

  7. Jerry W.

    Jered,
    Excellent article. it will hopefully be thought provoking to some. I think millennials will do things my generation never dreamed of, but they have lost some the common sense that comes from working with your hands and falling off your bike without a helmet or skinning your knees up doing something stupid. We can all learn, but many never learn to truly think. That is what separates us from the animals. It is unfortunate that my education into higher finance did not occur until my kids had moved out of the house. Don’t get me wrong we showed financial conservatism, but that is different from truly understanding.

    • Jered Sturm

      Jerry, I absolutely agree. Fearing failure, rejection, being wrong, is an anchor that has held back so many, millennials and all other generations. Some times we just have to make the jump and many times we will fall. The great thing about falling as a millennial is we still have tons of time to bounce back stronger.
      Thanks for commenting and congratulations on finding your own financial education and success.

  8. Randy Evanchyk

    As a baby boomer and frequent reader of BiggerPockets, I find this article fascinating on many levels. The Millennial generation is the first in U.S. history to enter adulthood in worse economic shape than their parents; and, it appears, this generation is steeped in self-destructive thought processes that will prevent, or at lease hinder, their ability to change this oppressive statistic. To be clear, the Millennials reading this blog probably don’t fall in this category; it is, after all, a financial forum aimed at improving ones’ knowledge of investing relative to real estate – and, it’s completely voluntary, so actively reading this blog is proof that you are “making a decision to take control” of your financial future. In general, however, Millennials need to take charge of their inner dialogue and eliminate self-destructive habits that prevent positive growth. As they say, “your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”

    The changes I’m referring to are summarized in the habits of financially successful people:

    Be actively involved with your money and understand what your assets are doing. Track your spending and work with budgets. Practice the art of delayed gratification.

    Live a frugal lifestyle. Will Rogers once said, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like,” or, as Gandhi put it, “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” This is your life to live, so your choices require only your approval.

    No excuses. Look for positives and learn from failures.

    Create your own luck. Financially successful people don’t wait for things to happen to them, they create their own opportunities.

    Set goals! To be financially successful, you have to know where you are going. The old saying that “wealth is measured in time, not money,” is true. Set well-defined goals to reach those short-term, medium and long-range goals.

    Ask questions! Knowing what you don’t know is an important first step to success in any endeavor.

    I agree with the statement in this article that the Millennial generation carries so much [potential] power, but realizing that power will require a collective paradigm shift that changes habits, outlook and motives in a more positive and constructive direction.

  9. Christy Greene

    One of the most misquoted adages, “Money is the root of all evil.” It is actually, “The LOVE OF money is the root of evil.”
    I am a gen X raised by parents who were older and lived through the depression during World War 2.
    My dad grew up in a small farming village in Northern Japan where the town was so small he had to go away to another town to attend Junior High. NO ONE in my family up until him went to college.
    He ended being a Fulbright scholar earning a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from Stanford University.
    My family started with nothing and ended up being upper middle class as a FIRST GENERATION IMMIGRANT family.
    I am a female, and a minority from a first generation immigrant family. We. Had. NOTHING.
    I don’t believe in things being handed to me, I don’t believe in Affirmative Action, I don’t believe in entitlements.
    My family grew up in a one income family and with that, my dad paid off two homes in less than 15 years, bought ALL of our cars in cash and NO DEBT for our college education. He never made a 6 figure income.
    I don’t know what happened but we are raising a generation of Wussy pants. NOT EVERYONE but a lot of them.
    My dad taught me the delaying of gratification. Not forever but just enough to outlast 90% of the population.
    We need to go back to the basics.
    Work hard AND SMART, No, you don’t deserve anything. You need to earn everything . Just sayin….

    • Randy Evanchyk

      I don’t believe in things being handed to me.” “I don’t believe in entitlements.” “Delayed Gratification.” “Buying cars with cash.” Listen, lady, stop speaking a foreign language on the BiggerPockets blog; this is, after all, America.

      Your words are very inspirational! In fact, it sounds like you received the same education as this baby boomer. Apparently we have something in common, great parents! The American dream allows for each citizen to have an “equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” It saddens me to think that the entitlement generation will never know the pride, satisfaction, security and peace of mind that comes from achieving the American dream.

      • Christy Greene

        When I see Millennials raising their kids with discipline, teaching them manners , and not letting them round around public places like wild animals. I am hopeful.
        I am glad @RANDY EVANCHYK speaks the same language is I do. Kindred spirits and good parenting. : )

  10. DL Martin

    Jered, this is a classic “us vs. them” scenario.

    I like it that millennials (generally speaking) have plenty of money for an Iphone 6s ($949 plus $129 for 2 years of AppleCare protection), monthly cell phone plans which must include “1 Gazillion GB of data” and that daily Starbucks Latte because it is, after all, an “affordable luxury.” : )

    I also like it that, generally speaking, millennials opt to spend their political clout pushing for “free college education” and “free health care” and every single “equal outcome” guarantee that can conceivably be thought of.

    That millennial mindset pretty much assures me that my 13 year old, highly motivated, financially literate daughter will have very little competition in ten years when you have decided to dump Forest Park and she is torturing Coleman with due diligence items while you and Andy pull your hair out in GA trying to get her to “just shut up and close.” : )

    In all seriousness, I believe that the “younger generation” is just not interested in possessing things. Further, I believe that they see “nice” things as potential inhibitors of what they are really interested in, which I believe are “experiences” and “free time.”

    People my age (I’m 51) saw firsthand, things like the closing of the General Motors Norwood plant in 1987. I was attending college at U of Cincinnati. That was a Final Assembly plant, meaning that for sixty years (60 years!), bright shiny Bel Airs, Impalas, Caprices, Novas, Camaros and Firebirds, had been rolling out of that place. Those brand new shiny cars were parked by the thousands, in parking lots, adjacent to the Norwood Lateral Freeway, for generations of Cincinnatians to view as they traversed back and forth between I71 and I75. Gone. Practically overnight. Along with dozens and dozens of smaller supply chain businesses that supported that plant. I was in the Army during the early 1980’s and had a front seat for the escalation of The Cold War and then saw the collapse of communism, and finally the 1987 President Reagan “Mr. Gorbochev, tear down this wall” speech.

    So during the 1980’s we were faced with the economic reality of the collapse of US manufacturing and “good paying union jobs” but for some reason, there was also a financial positivism that seemed to permeate the country. It was, after all, also in 1987 that Gordon Gecko uttered, “Greed is Good.” : )

    I believe that millennials will NOT turn the corner and live happier, fuller, more stable lives than their parents.

    Millennials have no reason for optimism. The mood that permeates the country now is one of base survival, resentment and hostility.

    And why is that? Because my generation has proven to the be worst stewards of public tax dollars and the worst parents of any generation in the history of this country.

    As we collectively shout from the highest rooftop, “college education!!! college education!!!” while the vast majority of public school “high school graduates” in Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Memphis and Baltimore can’t even legibly and coherently complete an entry level job application…

    Stewardship, parenting and personal accountability.

    DL

    • Jered Sturm

      Dave, Wow man you are passionate!! Always enjoy hearing your thoughts.

      I cant say I agree with all your comments but I do appreciate you taking the time to share.

      I hope nothing ever comes down to “us vs. them” Im striving for unity in the pursuit of financial literacy, and a inner desire from everyone to seek it out.

  11. Maryana Koval

    Thank you Jered for the great article! I’m a millennial myself(20) and reading something like this is very encouraging.
    I was quite surprised to see so much negative feelings towards millennials in the comments. I know a lot of people my age willing to work very hard to be financially independent. It is true that millennials have different perspective on jobs specifically work life balance but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong it’s just different. I don’t see anything wrong with millenials working less hours for example, as long as, the work gets done.

    • Randy Evanchyk

      I read your comments with great interest, Maryana. You see, I too, after college (’88), thought one could achieve the mythical balance between work and family. I now realize, having the benefit of 30 years of experience, that the concept of work-life balance doesn’t exist.

      Building a business or career is one of the most challenging things one can do. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to have an all-in mentality. Sacrificing time with your family for the sake of the business is the price entrepreneurs and career-minded people pay for success. I’ve always felt that if you are doing what you love in life, then it never feels like you have a job. Also, I’ve managed to pick a spouse that buys into this vision, so working together, in an odd way, harmonizes our work and life, which is the closest one can get to the unattainable goal of a work-life balance. There are two people that said it much better than I ever could.

      The first is Jack Welch, who said, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life Choices, and you make them, and they have consequences”; the second is Alain de Botton, who said, “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” I would say they are right on both counts.

      Millennials have, in my opinion, a well-deserved reputation, which gives you – with the right mindset – a significant advantage over your peers. Activity is not productivity, so take steps to learn from successful people who have led a successful life. Challenging yourself to break away from the toxic mindset of your generation will pay huge dividends in your life. Trust me, the 55-year-old Maryana will greatly appreciate your efforts.

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