‘Lost Generation’ Faces New Obstacles

Many young adults face poor job prospects, high student debt levels.

March 8, 2012

Generation Y (those born between 1981 and 2000) faces a multitude of obstacles baby boomers never faced, earning them what Business Week calls “lost generation” status.

According to Demos, these obstacles include:

• Poor job prospects. The jobless rate among 18- to 24-year-olds (17.3%) is roughly double the nation’s average.

The unemployment picture is especially grim for young African-American and Latino men without college degrees.

High levels of student debt. The average public school tuition is almost three times higher today than in 1980.

Two-thirds of students graduate with student loan debt, averaging $24,842. And student default rates have increased 31% over the past two years.

High cost of living. About 41.3% of consumers ages 25 to 34 who don’t live with their parents spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

• A lack of insurance. In the past decade, the number of employees ages 18 to 24 who were covered by employer-sponsored insurance plans declined 12.8%.

The rate of decline was 8.5% for those ages 25 to 34.

• Poor financial security. Most young adults call their personal financial situations “fair” or “poor.” Only one of 16 rates their financial situation “excellent.”

Credit unions can reach young adults by emphasizing their strengths. When choosing a primary financial institution, Gen Yers most value financial stability, safety and soundness, reasonable charges and fees, and trust in the institution to do what’s best for them, according to CUNA’s 2011-2012 Survey of Potential Members.

“They want to know they won’t get charged for accessing their money and they want the security of knowing their money is in a good place,” says Tia Anderson, Gen Y engagement specialist at $1.1 billion asset Public Service Credit Union in Denver. “Gen Yers want to do banking on their terms.”

Younger consumers also value convenience, she adds, which increasingly involves access to mobile banking, e-statements, and 24/7 access to accounts.

“They want to be able to get answers immediately,” Anderson says, “and get on with their lives.”