Millennials: How are you doing?

I’m a millenial. I’m 27, as is my husband. Combined we make about $85,000 a year (Cdn), own a house, and have no debt other than our mortgage. We have no student debt (I have a MA and BA Hon, he has a BBA) and own two vehicles outright. We carry no credit-card debt. We live in a fairly depressed area, though.

I am literally the only person I know among my circle of friends, acquaintances, workmates, and my husband’s friends/workmates who can say all of those things.

I’m 30, so on the older end for millenians. I have around $20k in loan debt still. I rent, but that’s more of a function of the real estate in Northern Virginia being very expensive.

Other than that I’m doing fine. I make upper 5 figures, stock away ~15% into my 401k, and take overseas vacations every year. I own my car and have no credit card debt. I have pretty good job security and I don’t worry about money very often unless you count trying to figure out a part time gig that’ll get me some residual income so I can retire earlier.

I’m a Millenial and count me I’m struggling pretty good.

I haven’t been able to find full-time employment since graduating college in 2008, so I eventually went to grad school. I then graduated from that and STILL haven’t found anything that isn’t low-paying and contract.

I basically have zero “job self-esteem” because of it, and I’m trying to make something better of my situation but nothing seems to be happening and it’s making me really quite depressed.

From what I can gather all of my friends are doing perfectly fine for themselves as is the rest of this thread, so it’s probably just me being, apparently, not worth hiring.

I’m 26 years old and married with one child. My husband and I struggle but we aren’t homeless or starving.

I graduated from college in 2011 with a degree in chemical engineering. It would have worked well but I made some bad choices and ended up with about $100k in student loan debt. My husband had less but he had defaulted on his loans when we was unemployed for over a year. Now, we make just south for $90k a year gross but having to pay a bit more than $1700 a month on our student loans really hurts and limits our options severely.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that we are poor but I do not see any kind of American Dream coming true for us.

My wife and I are on the older cusp of the millennials depending on who you ask. She served in the military and didn’t go to college. I have a BS in a field that actually has jobs tied to it. We make around 160,000 a year and have no college debt. We own a house, it was a repo. Luckily I’m pretty handy and we are slowly fixing it up. One thing I’m proud of is that we have around a quarter of a million in retirement savings, and we are not house poor.

No, you are not the only one. I hang out at Reddit and there are a lot of Millennials there in your shoes.

I think the internet is only going to showcase the extremes, though. If you’re fresh out of college, making six figures, you’re not going to hesitate tooting your own horn. And then we read articles like the one in the OP, talking only about the sad struggle. The middle has a tendency to be excluded.

I mean, you see it here as well, with Gen Xer’s and Boomers. We all know the Dopers who have good paying jobs because they aren’t afraid to talk about what they do for a living. But I’m guessing most Dopers are not making six figures. And some are struggling financially, but damned if they are going to talk about it online.

Not everybody here is doing well. It’s not an easy question to answer and I’ve been mulling over what to write for a while now.

I am a college student, age 30. I haven’t followed the usual millennial’s path – I left a well-paying factory labour job last year (in one of the few industries it’s still not profitable to outsource) to pursue an engineering degree. I say well-paying, but that’s relative. The average factory worker’s pay in 1980 was still higher, in absolute dollars, than my “high” wage. Accounting for inflation, my purchasing power was half of theirs.

I am one of the lucky ones. Before I left my job, I already owned a house. I don’t have a car. I have to eat some very creative meals. I grow my own vegetables, I know people who grow their own beef. I have an extensive network of family and friends and we can all lean on each other in need. I have a hardworking and talented wife; we can support ourselves (barely) on her factory-worker salary alone. But I still have three years of college to go. If she loses her job, we’d be ruined.

I’ve watched the preceding generations slowly dismantle the society that supported them. They’ve destroyed the education system, the health-care system, the unions and the safety nets: they’ve destroyed the middle class, all in the name of greed. It’s ironic. The wealthy are strangling themselves. Nobody gets rich if everybody’s too poor to participate in the economy.

Everybody I know is stuck working retail, or on contract, and non-union. No job security, no benefits. Our society has stratified into two classes – those who have benefits and those who don’t. It’s a running joke among my friends. “I don’t really want to keep dating him, but he has a benefit plan.” I know so many people who forego the prescription drugs they need, the dental care they need, because they can barely keep a roof over their head and beans and rice on the table. We’re keeping people sick, and in doing so, keeping them poor. It’s impossible to get a better job (or often, any job) when your smile’s missing teeth and you’re constantly sick.

I’m glad to see some Dopers in my age range are doing well. I see some others are sticking their heads in the sand and pretending all is well, unable to recognize the incredible drop in wealth and purchasing power that their labour now brings, not realizing that they’re one incompetent manager or greedy executive away from the dole. Which they wouldn’t get anyway; that system’s been ripped apart.

My niece is 24. Two years out of college, she’s married. She and her husband are both engineers. She has them on a strict 5 year plan to pay off all debt (his student loans and their mortgage) before she has a baby. They’re one year in and happy living the frugal lifestyle espouced by Mr. Money Mustache and You Need A Budget Now. She’s well-thought of at her job, has been told if she’s there for another year she can pretty much write her own ticket. She makes more money now that I’ve ever made. I’d say she has her act in gear.


I guess I’m the youngest Millenial to take up this thread so far.

I’m 23 (b. 1991), graduated high school in 2009, and currently attending a podunk CSU in California. After high school, I basically did nothing for two years until I enrolled in community college in 2010; this wasn’t by choice, mind you, but rather due to a lack of $$$ to attend UCLA.

The good news for me is that by the time I get done with my undergrad, I’ll owe absolutely nothing by way of student loans. My degree isn’t a STEM one, however, so what I’ll end up doing with it is a bit less clear, even as I generally know which direction I want to go.

I’m doing comparably well when I look at my old high school friends that I still have (marginal) ties with. One of them graduated from college a few years ago with a degree that is arguably more tailored to a specific career path, yet he still has no job and no money to show for it. Another buddy has been dicking around in community college for six years; he’s about to move to Wyoming for some reason.

Even though I hate my current job, I at least have money and am not knee-deep in a student loan-induced debt hole. All of this is due to a combination of going to CC first, choosing a CSU over a UC, and taking advantage of the requisite grants and scholarships that have (mostly) covered my expenses.

However, I’m kind of at the point where I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do in two-three years. A big part of me thinks that I should go to grad school, get a PhD, and try to become a university professor; the adjunctification of academia makes me nervous about that option, though.

I’ve also never had a girlfriend, which, as I get older, is really starting to fuck with my head.

My daughter is a Millenial - college graduate who’s been teaching for 7 years now. She had no debt upon graduation except for a credit card. She rents a house with some friends and she’s almost paid off her car. She’s talked about going back to school, but she hasn’t yet. She’s a hard worker, but she seems to be mired in inertia - she’d like to do something other than teach, but she’s not motivated enough to do something about it.

My niece and her fiance are millenials also - both teachers and about to get married. My niece teaches at a private school, and part of her compensation is a house on campus - all she has to pay is internet access. She and her fiance both have cars and they’re in a good position to save some money. We shall see.

My nephew is an engineer who still lives at home. He doesn’t like his job but he’s too lazy to look for another. In fact, I think he got the job he has because the boss is a friend of his mother. My husband, also an engineer, tried to direct him to some jobs more like he claimed he wanted, but he pretty much blew them off. I think the boy’s a little bit spoiled.

A non-relative millenial I know is a high school dropout with a GED who’s never held anything but minimum wage, menial jobs. He didn’t get a driver’s license till he was in his 20s. Last I spoke to him was in November - he wasn’t working, so his girlfriend was pretty much supporting him and he seemed to be fine with that. Over the years I’ve known this guy, he always seemed to come up with excuses for why he couldn’t go in the military, why he couldn’t get in the police academy, why he couldn’t go to college and study criminal justice, which he claimed was his dream. His last job was part time, minimum wage, but he “hurt his knee” and couldn’t work. Frankly, I think he’s just lazy, but I don’t claim he’s representative of all millenials. Obviously not, based on my very limited sample.

My niece just started pharmacy school last year. Pharmacists start out at around $100k. Thats after 6 years. So I anticipate that by the time she’s 25 she will be making $100k a year in a great career, possibly married, have some college debt (shes had alot of scholarships) and generally off to a great life.

It all depends on who they are and what they went in to.

I’m 29, still have about $50k in student loan debt, but make enough money as a software engineer to handle that bill along with my mortgage. I was the first in my family to graduate college, and have been working since I was 22.

Economic mobility still exists.

I have 4 friends who are millenials. Like 23-27. Only one of the 4 went to college. The two men have factory jobs. The one un-diplomad women works a very low-wage job at a print shop and the women who went to college (for forensics) works at Target. I don’t know what her student loan situation is. I do know she lived with her parents while she went to school but then her parents got hit by the recession and dad lost his job and the house shortly after she graduated.

I think the factory jobs are pretty good for the guys. They are married to the women, so they all co-habitate. They don’t live in any sort of luxury - one couple rents a trailer, the other rents a very old house.

They don’t plan on having kids any time soon. Just dogs.

I’m 31, married to a 25 year old woman with 1 child. We’re a single income family at the moment although my wife recently started taking classes at the local community college.

We used to earn in the low/mid six figures, but after my last employer imploded I deliberately took a substantial pay/stress/responsibility cut for my current job and now should be earning about $120,000 depending on some variable freelance work I do. We live in a moderately low cost of living area so it still goes quite far. I’ve managed to accumulate a net worth of about a half million dollars and overall I’m sticking to a plan I made in college, basically to work really hard while I’m young and unattached and gradually work less and less. I know it’s not the most novel plan, but I think it has a certain attractive simplicity to it.

I’m not quite sure how to take all the dismal articles about Millennials. The easy approach would be to conclude I’m just that much more awesome, but in general it feels more like journalists are doing their best to set the bar lower than it is in reality. Most of the statistics I’ve read about things like average starting salaries and student loan debt confirm the latter approach, painting a much rosier picture for us Millennials than journalists do anecdotally.

That’s the thing about statistics. Take two different stats (median and average salary) and they can tell you totally different things, but be equally true. If you’re pulling in $120,000, then the average between you and your wife is $60,000. But one of you is making zero. Averages don’t really tell you how well most people are doing.

I was born in 1982, which puts me right at the beginning of the millennial zone. I’m doing pretty well (as is my wife), but I sense I am in a minority. Most of my peers are stuck in dead-end jobs they hate but are unable to leave because they can’t find anything else.

My fiance, oft wears hats, and I are doing pretty well, all things considered. However, once my postdoc ends, I’m not sure what’s going to happen.

The academic job market was never good, but became just awful after the recession. When I went to grad school, the expectation was that the job market would have recovered by the time I’d get out. This is not exactly what happened. Now, when professors retire, those positions tend to be discontinued or replaced by low-paying positions with little or no job security. Plus, everyone on the job market now is competing with all the people who couldn’t land permanent positions over the last 5-10 years. As a result, there are far more extremely talented people than jobs. For instance, nobody graduating from my graduate program this year has landed any kind of job. At all.

My lack of geographic stability, and uncertainty over whether I’ll actually have an income and what that income would be, has put off major life decisions like home and kids. I hope everything will go smoothly at the end of my postdoc, but I really don’t know.

Yup, Millennial. I’m doing alright, but not great. I don’t worry constantly about money, just a little. Combined my husband and I make around 50k. Before that I squeaked us by on 30k in an area that is expensive to live in. It took him 3 years to land a job after college but thankfully he has one now and is very happy at it. We owe just a tiny amount (under 5k) in student loan debt thanks to generous parents and general opportunities (if I went to a specific college my tuition was free, so that’s where I went). We manage to sock some away every month and started a Roth IRA recently. Recently I finally drove my car into the ground so we did have to put our savings into buying a new (used) car and it’s stressful to be on the short side of an emergency fund because of it - and see how much more insurance costs on a car that isn’t an old clunker with only basic coverage.

Generally I see two extremes in action - either millennials who have to spend years living with their parents, working at retail or food jobs despite having decent degrees, or millennials who shot out of the gate. As far as I can tell family connections are what got the successful millennials the farthest - they got that “in” at a good place to work (for their career) right away and their parents paid for them while they interned for free. The degrees don’t seem to make much difference.

Mostly we (as in all of my friends and I) don’t complain though, even the ones with degrees still working at manufacturing plants or movie theaters. What we do get pissed about is the implication that we’re lazy or that we have a myriad of opportunities that we’re not taking advantage of. We’re just trying our best to get by and some of us are better at it than others and some have bigger safety nets than others, just like everyone else in the world. Mostly the problem is not full unemployment but underemployment. Making multiple part-time jobs mesh together and still being close on the bills. Not having benefits because they’re all part-time. No job security. So on and so forth. So we’re all getting by, but it’s not comfortable and plenty of us don’t see any particular light at the end of the tunnel.

Household income vs individual income can be confusing and is a difficult problem to get around, but between my wife and I, both our median and mean incomes are $60,000. It tells a pretty accurate story of how well we’re doing.

More importantly, the median and mean starting salary for new college graduates are both well over $40,000. To me that undercuts the argument that ‘most’ Millennials who can get jobs at all are working part time at Starbucks.

If we know the median annual earnings for bachelor’s degree holders 25-34 is $48,500, it actually tells us a lot about how most people are doing. We know half of them are earning less than that, and we know half of them are earning more. We could know a lot more about the distribution, but I wouldn’t say that number isn’t telling us a decent idea of how well people are doing.

Anecdotally, when I tell people numbers like $48,500, or how few people actually borrow over $100,000 or how low the actual average student debt amount is, they’re usually very surprised. I know I was extremely surprised.

You could assume they don’t understand what the word median means, but I usually assume they do know but had different expectations based on whatever informed their expectations - media or anecdotal experiences with young people.

I’m either an old millennial or a young generation xer. I culturally align with millennials so I ID with them.

I’ve been in the working world eight years. I make a little more than people considered to be starting salaries in the 90s (about 45k). I could try for a higher paying job but I have an easy job with a stress free commute, and more money wouldn’t make me happy. Most jobs now are permatemp or contract. Benefits keep getting cut and raises aren’t common.

I can afford a condo, but don’t want one. I have no debt and save a decent percent each month. However I have no kids or expensive medical problems.

Basically the economy is a game of musical chairs and now there are fewer chairs and the ones left aren’t as good. So I’m doing OK, but I’m doing worse than previous generations. Sad part is I’m lucky to be here, it took years of unemployment, underemployment and benefit free work to get here.