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The 10-Year Millennial Economic Slump The Financial Picture

This year the youngest Millennials have officially become adults with the largest generation since the Baby Boomers spanning ages 18 to 36. Most researchers and studies concur the last 10 years had dealt most Millennials an increasingly difficult economic hand.

This is the second factoid in a series of three factoids that breaks the Millennial generation into three distinct segments based on proximity to the Great Recession and date of college graduation or job market entry – prior to the recession, during the recession and post-recession high unemployment period, and post-recession recovery.

The Financial Picture

Income in all generations was negatively impacted by the recession, especially among Millennials and Gen Xers. The overall population of 25 to 34 year-olds has not fared as well as the college graduates nor have they fared as well as the older Gen Xers aged 35 to 44 in terms of salary loss. At $34,067, median income for Millennials has yet to surpass 25 to 34 year-olds in 1974 ($34,601 in real adjusted 2016 dollars). Meanwhile 35 to 44 year-old’s median income was not hit quite as hard in the recession and at $42,012 in 2016 is nearly back to the median income in 2000.

Although incomes are rising, Millennials are overwhelmed by debt. According to the Federal Reserve, the average student loan debt for Class of 2017 graduates was $39,400, up six percent from the previous year.

Americans owe over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt spread out among about 44 million borrowers. That’s about $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt, according to the Federal Reserve.

The real financial picture of Millennials and student debt lies in their net worth defined as assets minus liabilities. The average net worth for a Millennial just out of college at age 23 is negative $33,984. Even with an average starting salary of $52,569, it takes many millennials a long time to crawl out of student loan debt.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey; The College Investor report by NACE, National Association of Colleges and Employers “Salary Survey Report” and
Federal Reserve Student Loan Data, Net worth – assets minus liabilities; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis as published in the College Investor. Data through 2015.

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