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.
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.
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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.
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!