The Daily Illini

Millennials remain positive though living costs increase

By Clare Budin, Senior Reporter

With college debt, wage and wealth inequality still on the rise, it may be easy for students to fall into the mindset that their future economic prospects are bleaker than ever.

Now 10 years out from the global economic crisis in 2008 and the subsequent recession, the financial environment for millennials — those born between 1982 and 2004 according to The Atlantic — is filled with more road bumps and barriers than previous generations.

According to the Pew Research Center, fewer millennials today are able to afford the rising price of homes and find a fulfilling job to pay off their debts from school.

However, despite these daunting statistics, the perspectives of students and faculty alike were surprisingly optimistic toward future University graduates and students.

George Deltas, professor in LAS, said in an email the influx of pessimistic news stories and articles about millennials’ financial futures put on display suggests too-high expectations for employment right out of college more than anything else.

“I believe the jobs that most young workers get may not meet their expectations, but this does not make them worse than the jobs people their age obtained 25-30 years ago,” Deltas said. “More often than not, a recent graduate will prefer the job they are offered now than to the one that was offered to a 50-year-old 25-30 years ago.”

Deltas said one reason for this “expectation gap” comes from rising wealth inequality, where it may take longer for graduates to see larger financial rewards in their career.

“People at the top of the pay scale make disproportionately more than people at the bottom of the pay scale,” Deltas said. “Because young people do not enter at the top of the pay scale, it appears to them that they get worse jobs, but those that advance in their careers will find that their situation improves quite fast, exactly because those at the top of the pay scale earn so much more.”

Natasha Najam, freshman in LAS, said despite certain disadvantages her age group may have with expenses, there are also inherent advantages with a more globalized market available through the internet and inexpensive travel.

“We have more accessibility to a worldwide market,” Najam said. “Our parents had to pay more for travel, delivery and there wasn’t internet. Things have become more globalized and readily available for us.”

Najam also said the trend toward ethical spending shows that millennials have learned to be more conscious and often more responsible spenders than previous generations.

“For example, kids our age are much more willing to go to thrift shops, not just because of the expense, but because we know that recycling and reusing clothes is much better for the environment,” Najam said. “Overall, I think we’re more conscious about what we spend our money on as well as who we give it to.”

Sophie Abdella, freshman in LAS, said a great way for students to start saving for their long-term finances is to invest as soon as possible.

“Definitely invest. Kids our age don’t do that enough,” Abdella said. “An advantage of the internet age is the amount of apps you can find and use to easily invest.”

Najam’s advice for students to save comes from adjusting small purchases that can easily snowball into larger financial headaches over time.

“Save your money. Don’t go out every night,” Najam said. “Those small purchases add up. Those little $4 meal expenses are really deceptive and eventually add up to one big expense that could have been used for something else.”

Najam said the message she would send to students her age is that anxiety over the future is common for everyone, but patience and perseverance are the keys to eliminating these fears and building on what you’ve learned for a prosperous future.  

“Everyone has some anxiety about going into the workplace and how much you’re going to get paid, if you’ll have enough,” Najam said. “But if you continually better yourself, at some point, you’ll probably make as much as your parents, or more.”

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