July 12 2016
Patrice L. Onwuka
Martha Stewart is unimpressed with the Millennial Generation. We’re overgrown kids in her eyes, suffering from a failure to launch. But, does she have a point? New Census data suggests that Martha is not wrong.
Seventy-four-year-old Martha Stewart is old enough to be a mother –even a grandmother- of a millennial, but she’s traded retirement status for work as the chief creative officer in a new company, Sequential Brands Group, for a 35-year-old CEO.
The oldest in this generation remember Stewart’s ubiquity, fall from grace, imprisonment, and return to the mainstream. The youngest Millennials may only remember post-jail Martha rubbing elbows with unlikely people such as the video of her baking brownies with former rapper Snoop Dogg. However, this is a generation quite familiar with and respectful of Stewart.
In an interview for Luxury Listings she had harsh words for Millennials though:
“I think every business is trying to target millennials. But who are millennials? Now we are finding out that they are living with their parents. They don’t have the initiative to go out and find a little apartment and grow a tomato plant on the terrace,” she says. “I understand the plight of younger people …. The economic circumstances out there are very grim. But you have to work for it. You have to strive for it. You have to go after it…
“I got married at 19 and I immediately got an apartment and I fixed it up. I was very proud of everything I did. I got the furniture at auctions for pennies. Beautiful furniture...”
Millennials entered the workforce during a recession and found themselves falling behind in the job market. Despite the national unemployment rate hovering at 4.9 percent, youth unemployment by some measures is over double that (12.5 percent) when counting those who are both out of work and those who are working part-time, but want fulltime work. (In full disclosure, I work for Generation Opportunity).
As a result, millennials have failed to hit generational milestones and new Census data demonstrates that. In 1975, 90 percent of 30-year-olds lived on their own, but that has fallen to 70 percent in 2015. The percentage of 30-year-old homeowners dropped from 56 percent to 33 percent, married (or even formerly married) 30-year-olds fell from 89 percent to 57 percent, and those living with a child fell from 76 percent to 47 percent. This supports other data that find similar trends among young people.
Not only does the economy play a role, but as MarketWatch explains, so does education and the costs of college:
One reason many millennials are delaying many of these “adult” milestones is because of the burden of their student loan payments. More than half (56%) of millennials versus just 43% of adults overall with past or current student loans say they have delayed a major life event because of these loans, a survey released last year by personal finance website Bankrate.com found.
Millennials are also more likely to be in school in their 30s: 8% were enrolled in school at age 30 in 2015 versus 1% of 30-year-olds in 1975, according to the Census Bureau, which may also delay some of these milestones.
Martha is right. Some Millennials won’t leave home and some suffer a lack initiative - choosing to postpone adulthood. However, there are legitimate issues at play. Rent is not affordable if you are only able to find a part-time job. Even with a full time job, high rents leave little to save for a down payment in many metropolitan areas. Most Millennials want to own their own homes as the National Association of Realtors found last year. They just don’t think they can afford it. Marriage is not a priority for a generation that wants to establish careers first and get to place with a better income. More income then makes it easier to afford to raise kids. Add to these priorities an average student loan debt of $35,000 for recent college graduates with loans, and the picture of their financial status comes more clearly into view.
Martha Stewart’s nudge out of the nest is warranted in some cases, but over simplifies the challenges this generation faces.