Are Millennials Really the Poorest Generation of the Last Century?

Posted On October 31, 2013 By Peter In

Economists are saying that, at the current rate, Millennials will become the “poorest” generation in the last 80 years.  Annie Lowry of the NY Times recently wrote that, “The average net worth of someone 29 to 37 has fallen 21 percent since 1983; the average net worth of someone 56 to 64 has more than doubled.” The unemployment rate for college graduates is as high as 17%. And with college tuition at an all-time high (often over$125,000 for a bachelors), many of them may not be able to afford a home until their mid-40’s.  Millennials seem to be the first generation since the great depression that may never be able to afford the same house as their parents did – or amass the same amount of wealth within their lifetime.

Part of this is systemic:  It’s not a surprise that Millennials are a bit cynical.  Once they awaken to their post-college job prospects, they feel scammed by colleges and universities.  Even more, they watch the federal government go $60 billion in the hole each month with little accountability. (That’s $60,000,000,000 a month).  It’s not a surprise why they distrust institutions more than any other generation.

But is this grim landscape the end of the world for Millennials?  Probably not.  Happiness researchers (aka., people who study the statistical predictors of life-satisfaction) have found that less than 10% of happiness is related to circumstances (things like income)[1].  Also, because many Millennials know they have a mountain of debt to conqueror, they’re much more likely to be vigilant about credit-cards and other forms of useless debt.  At some point, they’re going to call out the systemic greed and foolishness that other generations nod at.  In many ways, this just might be the generation that awakens to good stewardship.

So, it begs the question:  How do we get ahead?  Or, how might Millennials defy the odds?  Well, here are a few tips:

(1).  Get Vocational and Financial Mentors:  Don’t just blow a wad of cash on college.  Study the job market.  Know where your passions and gifts actually intersect with the job market before brainlessly going for a degree.  Volunteer or intern in the field you’re interested in.  Let a specialized person assess your talent before going into deep college debt. Ask yourself:  What are your dreams?  Who is living out your dream?  And what are you doing to earn the right to be around these people?

(2). Live with Margin:  Don’t waste your money on things that depreciate (like cars; and other material possessions). Lades: Your butt will look just as big in designer jeans.  And Guys: that nice car will NOT get you the hot date you’re looking for – and if it does, she’s probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer : )  In the end, financial margin is a way of purchasing peace. Besides, a lot of dream jobs require you to earn-your-stripes by being on the low part of the economic ladder. Financial margin enables you to survive those lean years.

(3).  Sow money and time into the things God loves. The Bible is replete with jaw dropping promises for those who put God first financially  (Prov. 3:9-10; Prov. 11:25; Mt. 6:33). No matter how grim things look, 1 Samuel 2:1-10 teaches that God is the great equalizer. “He sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash-heap.”  Hence, we’d be wise to obey a God who offers such clear options.

Even as a young college student, I was faithful to tithe (give 10% to my local church).  It didn’t add up to much; but, God doesn’t look at the amount. In addition, I sponsored a Compassion Child, several missionaries, and gave faithfully to my churches’ building fund.  At the time, I had plenty of things to spend it on.  But I was convinced that God would respond with disproportionate blessings; and sure enough, he did.  My life has been filled with an amazing number of divine opportunities that I didn’t deserve.  And Why?  Because God’s word promises a disproportionate blessing on people who love on his church – people who love what he loves (see Heb. 6:10; Acts 10:4).   As you’d imagine, I’ve escalated my generosity way beyond tithing. But no matter where you start, you can’t go wrong when you’re generous towards God.

So, if you’re young, don’t get discouraged by how things look on the outside.  God has a plan for our financial blessing.  “I was young.  And now I am old. Yet, I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psm 37:24-26).  Let’s live the righteous life.  And we will transcend trends, stereotypes, and dismal stats for all the days of our lives.

[1] See Sonja Lyubomirsky ‘s book “The How of Happiness” for the research.

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