Millennials are having a moment—it seems like everyone wants a piece of their action. Marketers want to chase their mercurial dollars. Brands vie for their loyalty and endorsement. Employers want their creativity and tech savvy. But nobody wants their debt and the associated stress.
Take Alexandra Naughton, 30, who lives in the Bay Area of California and is an executive assistant to a neuroscientist. She worked nearly full time when she was in school and lived at home with her parents in Philadelphia afterward and took a job at an insurance company to pay down most of her student loan, but now that she’s on her own, she has a nagging $1,000 balance from her loans, plus a $2,000 credit card debt that she’s struggling to pay down. Her goals, while simple—to have a living room and to travel—feel out of reach, she says.
Half Naughton’s paycheck goes to rent, and the other half for living expenses. She hasn’t even learned to drive because she won’t be able to afford a car and insurance. Nothing is left over for savings. “Not being able to save money means I have little hope of ever buying a house,” she says. “I’m stressed out because I’m 30 years old and live paycheck to paycheck. I’m one catastrophe away from being homeless, and my situation is not unique. I’m stressed because I compare my status to my parents, who didn’t go to college but were homeowners and car owners by age 30. … I’m stressed because I work hard and make a decent salary but I can’t live comfortably. I can’t even call myself middle class.”
Naughton falls in with the rest of her Millennial generation in that she’s more educated than her parents. And most Millennials today are also saddled with student loans and have fewer opportunities for highly paid employment . In its fourth quarter report last year, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York remarked that outstanding student loan balances are at $1.2 trillion, and that 11.6% of aggregate student loan debt was 90+ days delinquent or in default in 2015.