Old men and old women often envy the young, but these days it’s not all beer and skittles for the average young person.

Indeed, many Millennials, young people who became adults around the turn of the century, are often plagued by joblessness or low incomes along with big debts.

Millennials are often trying to manage student loans, loans that many said they misunderstood and they have continued to face hard times over the past five years, even as many others have done better. And that has dramatically changed how Millennials live, according to several recent studies.

Put That On Hold

A little over half of Millennials with current or past student loans have delayed major life events. These include marrying, buying a car or starting retirement saving, which can be very dangerous because it can take decades to accumulate sufficient retirement saving.

Those are some of the findings by the Pew Institute, the U.S. Department of Labor and Bankrate.com Money Pulse. They surveyed American Millennials.

They found that many of these young people are much less likely to function as independent adults.

Do You Still Have the Spare Room?

American Millennials are less likely to live independently of their families and establish households than they were during the recession. A recent Pew report said, 42.2 million Millennials, or 67 percent, lived independently, compared to 42.7 million, or 71 percent, before the recession in 2007.

Since 2010, the percentage of Millennials moving back in with their parents has increased from 24 to 26 percent, Pew said.

And that has changed how Millennials live, according to a recent Bankrate.com report.

The Younger, the More Vulnerable

Forty three percent of older Millennials delayed life milestones due to education debt, Bankrate said. Generally, the younger the person—for instance someone in the 18 to 29 year group—the worse the problem.

And student debt can make other problems worse. Those struggling with student loans, Pew said, were more likely to have other debt—such as credit card and auto loans. And high debt levels usually stops a young person from obtaining his or her first mortgage.

And it is also impossible to obtain a first house if one doesn’t have a full-time job. About a quarter of those holding a bachelor’s degree under the age of 25 are underemployed, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

What Went Wrong?

Most Millennials said that “they didn’t receive enough information or advice about the financial risks of taking on education debt,” according to Bankrate.

Anthony Ogorek, an advisor in Williamsville, New York, says young people without financial education are easily misled.

“These kids are under the mistaken impression that the college financial aid officer is working in their best interests. In fact, he is working for the best interests of the college,” Ogorek says.

He complains colleges inflate prices because of the availability of federal student loans. Ogorek says he would limit the amount of loans that a young person can receive based on career prospects.

Still, Greg McBride, a senior analyst with Bankrate, notes the average education debt is about $30,000. He says the problem isn’t as bad as it seems.

“Student loan is about $1 trillion and so is car loan debt. No one is crying about car loan debt,” he adds. He says delaying a first home is not bad while a person cleans up college debt.

The Road to Financial Independence

“The key thing is finishing college,” according to McBride. “A college degree will generally provide you with $1 million more in income over the course of a lifetime compared to a high school graduate.”

Well, yes, as a general principle, a college education can be a good thing. However, these pages have recorded that technical education can often be as good as a four-year degree, if not better, in achieving lifetime goals. (Please see link below)


But, in the meantime, young adults must begin their retirement savings as soon as possible.

Even just small amounts can mean a lot if contributed monthly over a long period. Let’s just say $100 a month into a retirement plan beginning at age 25. Maybe you put in $50 and your employer kicks in $50. Earning just nine percent a year, over forty years, you have $471,000 at age 65.

Yes., that’s not a fortune, but it is also not chump change. By the way, if you could save an average of $200 a month over the same period and at the same rate of return, you have about double, or some $942,000.

And do that and you will be much better off than friends of mine in their 50s. Some of them have nothing (nada!) in retirement savings and now are figuring on working for God knows how long. Don’t put off retirement saving just because it seems as though you have limitless years to get started.

How Did I Get Gray Hair?

Believe me, time flies by faster than you think. I’m in my 60s now and it only seemed as though last week that I was in my 20s, was 30 pounds lighter and didn’t have a gray hair.

Thank God that years ago my wife and I signed on for automatic savings vehicles and that we have had some employers who matched our retirement savings as well as tax benefits that have helped fund our contributions to plans.

Delaying life events, McBride adds, isn’t necessarily horrible. That is except for one thing: retirement saving.

Just Do It and Now

“You should begin saving for retirement,” he says, “as early as possible.”

Those are words of wisdom that would be seconded by every financial adviser I have ever known in over a quarter century of business reporting.

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Gregory Bresiger
Gregory Bresiger

Gregory Bresiger is an independent financial journalist from Queens, New York. His articles have appeared in publications such as Financial Planner Magazine and The New York Post.