Saturday, July 24, 2010

Increasing Evidence that Generation Y Will Not Have the Living Standard of Their Parents*

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I put a asterisk in the title because I am only speaking of Generation Y who works in the private sector; if you work in the public sector (which I encourage every Generation Y to strive for) you will enjoy all the fruits America can offer.  And more.

I was skimming a story in BusinessWeek on retirement investing / 401ks (which I've written are a massive failure) for Generation Y, and some of the statistics in this piece are just scary.  We already know then inflation adjusted wages for those in the private sector are slightly down versus the 70s/80s for the average worker but for Generation Y?  It looks like a waterfall, almost a 20% drop!  [Dec 8, 2007: Do the Bottom 80% of Americans Stand a Chance?]

As for our university system - another unsustainable bubble akin to healthcare - it is saddling these kids with huge debts which will take decades to get out from under, especially considering the dearth of high paying job prospects (outside the public sector), ever rising cost of living and meager wages many of these BA degrees now generate in our "service economy".  I would submit at current pace of tuition increases the return on investment will soon favor those who skip college and just begin work (even at a lower wage) at 18 years old.  You have 4-5 years of extra earnings power (which can be compounded), not much different job prospects than a college grad, and you are not saddled with enormous debt at the age of 23.  [Dec 5, 2008: NYT - College May Become Unaffordable for Most in US]  What good is a degree when many college graduates now are baristas?  In fact we may have already crosses that threshold for many - trying to pay a huge debt off while making $35K in any mid to large sized city seems a near impossible task. [May 9, 2009: The Curse of the Class of 2009 - Lower Wages for Up to a Decade]

Of course we know the unemployment rates cited in this story are government fiction as the way we measure employment now creates much more of a rosy picture than how we used to measure pre early 1990s.  "You can't handle the truth" - government.  So the 15.3% rate is more likely right around 20%. [Jul 29, 2009: Japan's "Herbivore" Men - Young American Men's Future?]


  • DeCherney is typical of America's so-called Generation Y, the twentysomethings who have entered the workforce in the past 10 years. Already saddled with student debts averaging almost $20,000, according to New York-based think tank Demos, Gen Y is in a tougher financial position than previous generations. 
  • The average salary for 25- to 34-year-olds, for instance, fell 19% over the last 30 years, after adjusting for inflation, to $35,100, Demos estimates. 
  • That's if they can get jobs: Unemployment among 19- to 24-year-olds stands at 15.3% vs. the overall rate of 9.5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
  • Gen Y is "the first do-it-yourself retirement generation," says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies in Los Angeles.

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