American Millennials Think They Will Be Rich
The data suggest otherwise
More than half of American Millennials, the generation of people born between 1981 and 1996, believe that they will one day be millionaires; one in five think they will get there by the age of 40. These are the findings from a survey conducted in 2018 by TD Ameritrade, a financial-services company.
But a working paper by the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, offers a sobering antidote to this youthful optimism. It finds that Millennials are less wealthy than people of a similar age were in any year from 1989 to 2007. The economic crisis of 2008-09 hit Millennials particularly hard. Median household wealth in 2016 for 20- to 35-year-olds was about 25 percent lower than it was for the similar-aged cohort in 2007.
American Millennials are comparatively poor because many of them came of age during the financial crisis, when demand for labor was low and borrowing money became harder. The recovery has been slow, which has further reduced Millennials’ long-term earning potential. A paper by the Federal Reserve, published last year, found that millennial household incomes were 11 percent lower than they were for people in Generation X (those born between the mid-1960s and 1981) at a comparable age; they were 14 percent lower than for Baby Boomers at the same point in their lives. A growing number of young people have taken on debt to finance their studies. And because real wages have not kept up with inflation, the cost of living has risen.
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