MN AMA – Hard Times, High Hopes: Young Adulthood in the Recession Era

mobIt was a pleasure to attend this insightful presentation by legendary Iconoclulture

Millenials are filling the crunch of the economic crisis and they have to adjust their expectations. However, there is a silver lining in these dark clouds or reality – young people are rethinking what matters.


1987 – 1995
72.1 million
$1.5 trillion of buying power

Formative financial events for the Millenials:
1980 – Dawn of self esteem movement (everybody gets a trophy)
1990 – Recession is not felt (too young)
1995 – Launch of Amazon (idea of accessibility)
1997 – TiVo (idea of control)
1999 – launch of Napster (free music – free access)
2000 – First Millenials graduates college – 65%  in debt
2001 – Mild recession, quick rebound
2004 – MasterCard target twins (Hallow Kitty debit card)
2006 – all 10 largest colleges cobrand credit cards targeted to students
2008 – Financial meltdown

Generational mindset

  • extraordinary by default
  • praised and raised for success
  • “what I want when I want it”
  • I’m “me, but part of “we”
  • The good life is a right, not a privilege

Generation feels good about themselves, more narcissistic tendencies than other generations. However, it is not “I deserve it,” but rather “we deserve it.”

The reality

$20,000 – average debt for college graduates
$2,500 – average credit card debt ( 2008 )
57% pay minimum on their credit cards
77% moving in with mom and dad

Specific generational pain points in a recession:

  • prosperstudent loans
  • credit card debt (average salary for young grads is less than a generation ago, but prices are higher)
  •  jobs disappearing  (more laid-off professionals are willing to take jobs that used to be entry-level)

Changes in behavior

  • using less credit cardswesabe
  • trading off (moving with mom and dad; choosing community college, etc.)
  • adjusting expectations (no “job hopping”  when dissatisfied with a job…)


81% are hopeful about the future
57% are excited
81% cited relationships with friends and family is important (rather than career success)

As a result…

  • Thrifty is good!  “Almost a pride in clipping coupons.” Online comparative shopping.
  • Flash mobs – large groups of people offering to shop in a certain establishment if price is reduced or business practices changed to more ethical/green
  • Peer-to-peer landing
  • Social money-management resources
  • Recognition that we need to educate young people about finances
  • Reexamination of priorities by the young people (friends…gardening… making own clothes…)
  • Interest in “practical” careers
  • Gross National Happiness: a new world order