Although there has been a bit of debate on the strict definition (and the answer may vary depending on who you ask), the US Census Bureau defines the millennial demographic as individuals born between 1982 and 2000. Millennials, despite often being misunderstood, are generally a thought-driven and forward-thinking demographic.
They’re doing things differently, but that may be just what we need in today’s turbulent society. The methods of the past don’t seem to be working anymore in terms of growing businesses, making sustainable choices, and prolonging the life and health of our bodies and our planet.
No matter what position you hold in the great debate of the millennial demographic, it’s undeniable that they are drastically different from previous generations. Statistically speaking, millennials make up a quarter of the population (over 83 million people) and are now the largest living generation. This large of a generation is bound to draw some attention.
Despite the ongoing debate and inaccurate accusations of being a lazy or coddled generation, millennials may, in fact, be the most successful demographic of our time. Here’s why:
They’re largely college-educated
While it’s easy to see that a college education isn’t everything (just ask Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, or Ellen DeGeneres), it’s just as easy to see that it can be incredibly valuable. With 34 percent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, millennials are currently the most educated generation in our history, which may have come at least partially out of necessity. In the past, you could get a sufficient job just out of high school or with minimal training or education, but millennials were the first to encounter a workforce that wanted more.
Since the recession of 2007, there has been a significant rise in employment for individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree, a slight rise for individuals with at least some college education, and a decline in employment for individuals that have a high school degree or less. Millennials were tossed into a world that was entirely different for previous generations.
The majority of this demographic quickly adapted to the new ways of the world, and they’re now reaping the financial rewards for it. From the rapid evolvement and inclusion of technology to the change in organizational structure, the new workforce requires a different set of skills. Things like time management, communication, data analysis, and decision-making are taught in courses and developed in the field, as opposed to jobs of the past that allowed for a more hands-on, learn-as-you-go approach.
They’re more diverse and inclusive than previous generations
The millennial demographic is 44 percent minority, making them the most diverse adult generation in U.S. history. This demographic is acting as a bridge, closing the gap in social and economic settings and paving the way for successful and racially diverse future generations.
Millennials are directly positioned between an older generation that is predominantly white and a younger generation that is currently the most racially diverse of all demographics. Baby boomers and beyond were born at a point in history where immigration was at an all-time low. Additionally, most who did immigrate were white Europeans. Older generations experienced very little diversity, and it had a heavy impact on the cultural and societal norms of the time.
This changed in the 80s and 90s, as immigration to America increased in spades, and less diverse generations aged. This
new generation recognized the importance of diversity and inclusivity in creating a society that could be healthy and beneficial for all. With their preference for education, equality, influence, business prowess, and sustainable living, millennials are creating a better future for upcoming generations.
Future generations will benefit, as consumers, workers, and leaders, from the growth and acceptance of a racially diverse country that millennials have been advocating for over the years. Despite the overwhelming amount of political volatility we’re experiencing, we are still living in the most accepting, tolerant, and diverse America that history has ever seen, even if we have to look a little harder for it.
They’re anticipating retirement challenges and costs rather than ignoring them
If you’re not already squirreling away all of your extra income and chasing side hustles on the weekends, you may not be aware of the popular millennial-driven movement called FIRE. FIRE stands for “financial independence, retire early” and it boasts the benefits of extreme frugality, investing real estate hacking, and entrepreneurship in the pursuit of an early exit from the traditional workforce.
A recent survey conducted by T. Rowe Price revealed that 43 percent of millennials now expect to retire before the traditional age of 65. Millennials are following the advice of trustworthy financial advisors and personalities by strategically paying off debt, delaying marriage and homeownership, investing, earning passive income, and saving for retirement.
While it was uncommon in the past for individuals to even save 10 percent of their income, many millennials are aiming for 30-50 percent. They’re delaying gratifying life experiences like weddings and homes for the benefit of a healthier financial future. This may mean living at home longer or implementing creative tactics like purchasing a duplex so that half can be rented out to pay the mortgage. These alternative lifestyles are the source of significant amounts of criticism, but clearly, they’re working.
For previous generations, it was common to get a job right out of high school and work into your 60s, 70s, or even 80s. Some individuals had pension plans that no longer exist, but they were left to rely on Social Security otherwise. Only 36 percent of generation X individuals actively save for retirement, while 55 percent of baby boomers have some retirement savings. Of that 55 percent, 28 percent have accumulated less than $100,000.
The importance of sufficient retirement savings has only recently come into light, as the millennial generation approaches a retirement age that may not include Social Security funds to fall back on. As an alternative, millennial’s have made it a requirement that job offers include retirement savings or other incentives, made use of individual retirement accounts, and created additional revenue streams to get there faster and ensure financial security.
An impressive 45 percent of millennial-aged workers report having a 401K account or Individual Retirement Account. Of the three demographics studied, millennials are the youngest (and subsequently considered the farthest from retirement), yet they’re closing in on the lead in retirement savings. Whether the end goal is early retirement, preparation, or offsetting the rising costs of healthcare and general living, millennials seem to understand the importance of savings better than most, and other generations could learn something from that future-driven focus.