Millennials make less than boomers did at their ageArticle added by Marlene Y. Satter on January 18, 2017
Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter

Joined: April 29, 2015

Millennials are better educated than boomers were, but worse off than boomers were at their age.

Pity the poor millennials. Drowning in student debt, working at jobs with low pay and struggling to save for retirement—when they think about retirement, that is.

And there’s a good reason for that: millennials are making 20 percent less than boomers did at their age—and that’s despite the fact that they’re also better educated than boomers were when they were younger.

CNBC reported that, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles, millennials’ median household income is just $40,581.

In addition, they’ve only managed to amass half the net worth of boomers, have lower rates of home ownership and have way more student debt than boomers carried at that stage in their lives.

Related: 5 retirement savings myths about Gen X and millennials

The Fed data compared figures for 25-to-34-year-olds in 2013, the most recent year available, to the same age group in 1989 after adjusting for inflation, and what it found was far from pretty.

Related: 60 percent of parents say they'll go into debt for kids' college

White millennials are on a downward slide, with their median income falling more than 21 percent to $47,688. The news is even worse for black and Latino millennials; although they haven’t fallen as far—black millennials’ median income has fallen 1.4 percent to $27,892, while Latino millennials earn nearly 29 percent more than boomers at their age did, at $30,436—they’re still earning way less than their white contemporaries.

And the value of those very expensive, debt-laden sheepskins? Not what you might think.

Although education does help increase incomes, the sad news is that the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning a little more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989.

And home ownership? In 1989 it was 46 percent, but that’s fallen to 43 percent. The only bright spot in this news is that millennials with a college degree are higher on the home ownership scale than boomers were at their age.

The report cited research last year by economists led by Raj Chetty of Stanford University, which found that people born in 1950 had a 79-percent chance of out-earning their parents. But that’s been on a steady decline, and those born in 1980 have only a 50-percent chance of making more than their parents did.

And that’s despite the fact that millennials are better educated than boomers were; in 1990, the proportion of 25-to-29-year-olds with a college degree as 23.2 percent, while the Brookings Institution found that by 2015 that had risen to 35.6 percent.

All of this is bad news, of course, but not just for the millennials caught in this bind. Not only do they not have enough spare cash to set aside for their own retirement, but their lackluster earnings could hurt boomers who are either retired or just about to do so.

Boomers’ finances could be in jeopardy since millennials’ payroll taxes are helping to finance Social Security and Medicare benefits, and since they’re the people that boomers are hoping to sell their homes to. At this rate, they could all be up the creek without a paddle before long.

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