The Quiet Desperation of Millennials

Even though Lambert and I dislike the use of marketer-created generational cohorts like Gen Y and Gen X, because age groups do not have political agency and the range of experiences within a group will be greater than across groups, a survey of 1200 Millennials by Ernst & Young and Economic Innovation Group shows how precarious their economic condition is. Admittedly, that is a long-standing feature of young adult life that is seldom discussed in polite, as in posturing-as-successful company. I recall two successful professionals in their 40s recounting how they lived paycheck to paycheck, on pasta, in their early-post college years, fearful that a personal emergency would leave them destitute (neither had relatives in the wings to bail them out; one was from a desperately poor family whose escape depended in part from someone making sure she got elocution lessons so as to eradicate her class markers; the other was estranged from his family by virtue of having come out). But for most college educated young adults in the post-World-War-II era, prior to the crisis, lean years in their 20s were a transition period, not a permanent status.

By contrast, this study shows that quiet desperation is a state of life for most Millennials. While the shock of the financial crisis did enormous damage to many people in all age groups, as anyone who lost their home to foreclosure will attest, Millennials faced a job market that left even normally-always employable new college grads out of work or employed at well below their potential as baristas, temps, or in low-level retail jobs. This has a huge impact on their lifetime earnings, not only by depressing income in their early years, but even when they find better-paid work, even then putting them on a lower income track than those that landed higher-quality roles straight out of school.

Read this short but important survey in full; it gives a grim picture. I’ve highlighted a few findings below (emphasis original).

Coming of age during a historic economic downturn has severely impacted Millennial life

  • 30 percent of respondents live with their parents, which rises to 40 percent for single respondents.
  • Nearly one­-third believe their local community is still in a recession.

Stress levels run high for Millennials

  • 78 percent of Millennials are worried about having good-­paying job opportunities.
  • 74 percent are worried they won’t be able to pay their healthcare bills if they get sick.
  • 79 percent are worried they will not have enough money to live on when they retire.
  • Only 6 percent of Millennials feel they are making a lot more than required to cover basic needs. For Millennial women, the figure is only 3 percent.
  • 63 percent would have difficulty covering an unexpected $500 expense.
  • 44 percent would dedicate $5,000 in lottery winnings to paying off bills and loans, signaling a struggle to launch, save, and invest.


One of the things I found sad is the degree to which Millennials have bought into societal hype about entrepreneurship. Historically, the most common trait of an entrepreneur was that he’d been fired twice.

The idolization of entreprenuership has bolstered the bogus idea that it’s a reasonable employment option for many people. I’ve heard far too many adults who’ve spent their lives on a paycheck argue that people who’ve lost their jobs should go out and create their own work.

As someone who has been in business for myself for 27 years, I can tell you that anyone who has a decent gig and can manage corporate politics should seriously question the idea of going out on their own. Independence comes at a very high price. Having a company take care of the large amount of grunt work in running a business, as well as considerably buffering your downside risk (like draining your savings and retirement accounts to keep a listing business going, as I’ve seen way too many people do), is worth a lot. As a colleague put it, “The difference between being self employed and unemployed is fine indeed.”

The myth that lot of people can sally forth and start a venture that will provide them a decent living serves as a convenient excuse for the failure to create enough jobs. Very few people have the temperament and mix of skills and experience (and luck) to make a go on their own. 90% of all new businesses fail within three years. And it’s also hard to make partnerships work.

Yet Millennials romanticize entreprenuers as successes when the data consistently shows that most fail:

Few Millennials may be starting businesses of their own, but the generation deeply admires entrepreneurs

  • Millennials overwhelmingly (78 percent) consider entrepreneurs successful
  • 62 percent of Millennials have considered starting their own business.
  • 55 percent believe their generation is more entrepreneurial than past ones, even if the data say otherwise.

The biggest obstacle keeping Millennials from starting their own business is money

  • 42 percent of Millennials lament that they don’t have the financial means to start a business.
  • Across demographics, white men are least concerned with finance, with only 40 percent citing it as the biggest obstacle compared to 53 percent for black women and 59 percent for Hispanic women.

While it may seem rational for Millennials, faced with a crappy job market and short job tenures, to try to pull themselves by their bootstraps, they much less likely to succeed than others who launch new ventures.

The most common characteristic of successful entrepreneurs, per extensive research by Professor Amar Bhide in his classic book, The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses, is that via their experience working for others, they’d identified a niche that was underserved and started a business to fill the gap. Young people with no or little business experience are unlikely to have the opportunity, on someone else’s nickel, to get a sense of how an industry works and identify opportunities. Nor will they have had much opportunity to learn other skills, like negotiating, qualifying suppliers, vetting and hiring professional services providers, and managing subordinates.

Nevertheless, despite the considerable distress of many Millennials, many are still hopeful about the longer term. While people have a remarkable capacity to endure, one has to wonder how long Millennials will remain acquiescent if most of them continue to languish economically while the top 10% and higher income strata continue to accumulate more income and wealth at the expense of the rest of us.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    A thing I’ve noticed about the much commented upon hipster phenomenon is that when I go in as a customer to my local craft beer or cupcake or fixie bike shop or artisan coffee or ye olde style barber emporium I’m often faced across the counter by remarkably well spoken and clearly well educated young people. Its a clear contrast to boom times in the past, where staff were usually ‘whoever you could get’. I think its clear that a substantial cohort of Millenials have decided that if they are to have a good income in the future, you have to go into business – regular, well paid middle class and professional jobs will only be available for a small minority.

    Of course, most businesses fail – you need a lot of luck, probably a lot of capital, and a good mix of specific skills. The better off middle classes can afford to give/lend their offspring a good chunk of cash to give their new business a leg up. Those who hope to work up from behind the barista counter have a huge mountain to climb. Some will succeed – most will not.

    1. paul

      I think the artisanal schtick is just about self perception management. An old fashioned cafe up the road had an artisanal makeover, but the new lad seems to be doing exactly the same, shovelling out burger and chips to local school kids.
      Good luck to him but sunday supplement celebrity must seem far away.
      I wonder if they appreciate how much the hipster look owes to the practicalities of another entrepreneurial group, the ones selling drugs on a wintery urban american street corner

      1. John

        The whole entrepreneurship craze is starting to look like the lottery.

        One in a million make it and the rest live on the hope of striking it big.

        Of course, any money that can be wrestled out of the elite class in
        the way of funding (tech and health startups mostly) is a good thing.

        1. Daryl

          The realities of running a business are also not so rosy even if it does become a viable business. I have to spend time networking and writing copy when I would rather be writing code.

          A lot of times, clients simply will not pay me on time. Corporate gigs often suck, but they don’t fail to make payroll (or if they do, it’s time to find another one). If an unexpected $500 bill was enough to ruin me, I’d have been ruined many times over.

        2. Cresty

          That’s a little bit pesmisssistic. Now, the people who control the capital have the power. If you want to avoid being trampled on, you try and build your little capital into something bigger.

          This is the break, where I agree with you, fantasizing about making something good just so you can sell it to the people who have infinite free money, that’s just bizarre. And people will look back on it with real confusion.

    2. jrs

      Yes the whole entrepreneurship isn’t a good idea doesn’t mean much if the choices are really bad. Ok, maybe don’t go into business if the worst thing about your job is that it’s boring (yea it’s work, it sucks for pretty much everyone).

      But the choices might be harsher: unemployed and can’t find work or work enough to pay the bills (then what do you think happens: people burn up their savings and retirement funds. DUH! Since that happens ANYWAY in LONG TERM unemployment, well of course people might try to start businesses). The business might fail in 3 years but suppose one goes back to school full time for a new field for 3 years (if will often take that). There is no guarantee THAT will pay off either. And one may end up deeply in debt. If businesses fail faster than you can get new training at least it’s fast feedback on what doesn’t work.

      1. jrs

        Although retraining might be more likely to work for millennials than any older group who found themselves in those dire straits.

    3. Fancypants

      You sure as shit need luck… but its not about luck. I employ a boomer and a millenial. They’re both the same. There’s no “think outside the box”, there’s no self-motivation, nor do I see any ambition to improve themselves (and therefore their pay).

      I am a millenial. I worked for a small company all through my early and mid twenties. I saw a gap that could be filled, and I worked tirelessly to get there. That’s the piece many in my generation remember. The hard work. The 25 hour workday to get the website back up and running. The nightly “naps” because you can’t sleep through the night thinking about new opportunities or ways to improve current ones.

      If my millenial employee doesn’t get at least 9 hours of sleep all he does is bitch about not getting sleep… but dreams of partying on his yacht after he strikes it big.

  2. Kulantan

    While it may seem rational for Millennials, faced with a crappy job market and short job tenures, to try to pull themselves by their bootstraps, they are much less likely to succeed than others who launch new ventures.

    As a Millennial whose long term plan includes starting my own business, I’m not sure that its irrational to aim to opt out of the crapified jobs market. While I may not succeed, the alternatives are acquiescence to living at the whim of the owner and manager classes (the 1% and 10%) or suicide (which I worry is going to be high in my cohort given the amount of serious depression I see amongst my peers).

    1. JacobiteInTraining

      I understand the desire to start a business/become an entrepreneur, in order to break into the monetary rat race and climb the income ladder – but I wish that (at least a subset) of Millennials would consider the off-the-grid & back-to-the-land options as viable.

      We’ll never return to the Jeffersonian ideal of ‘citizen farmers’ any time soon, but there is GREAT personal satisfaction involved in buying a cheap piece of land, putting up an inexpensive tiny house, grabbing some used batteries & a few solar panels, establishing a rain water collection system, building a DIY composting toilet, and becoming self-sufficient in some of the basic resources it takes to be ones own person.

      Then, with practice, comes the food: small vegetable gardens, orchards of apples & pears from cuttings, some chickens and ducks for eggs/meat, maybe a pig or two…and eventually even a couple miniature cows for milk/butter/cheese/meat. It takes work, and practice, and dedication, but soon even a small farm of a few acres can produce enough to support an individual, or a couple.

      Most importantly, this mindset gives you the confidence of being *independent* (or at least, far more independant then you would be ‘hoping’ you don’t get fired next week, or the week after) and it *also* begins the process of dealing yourself completely OUT of the rigged con game the elites want everyone to play.

      Don’t be a debt slave, be the master of your own destiny.

      Most counterarguments I see to this thought involve the inflated values of real estate, but if one travels far enough outside of any major urban area, pretty much anywhere in the country, it IS possible to buy suitable pasture/forest land to start this concept off.

      On the other hand, the explosion of DIY & tinyhouse articles/posts/activity probably means Millennials and others actually ARE starting to do this more. Good news, in my opinion.

      1. Kulantan

        That is actually my “business plan”. However, I also hope to have a small but commercially viable orchard to provide some income. That way I won’t even have to rat race to pay rates.

        1. JacobiteInTraining

          Awesome – good on you! :)

          I’m not a Millennial (me be almost 50) but I’ve come pretty close to self-sufficiency with this method, and I am happier now then I have *ever* been. (and I had plenty of time in my 20’s & early 30’s to sample and ‘enjoy’ the crap that passed for ‘life’ in the upper-middle-class debt slaves world, heehee.)

          Of course – I did have the luck of being born into a time and place that let me harvest some of the flithy lucre of the dot com era for seed money, and I also was born on a 100-year-old family farm/orchard w/other extended family who were dairy farmers, commercial fishers, loggers, and carpenters…so I had a big head start w/the skills required, but in any case my dream in life always has been to simply…get a farm of my own and go back to the land, and/or ‘go to seed’ so to speak. :)

          In the learning and the journey is half the fun anyway…much luck and positive vibes to you and your plans! (and I’ll bet the moment you start harvesting, eating, and selling your first fruit from your orchard will be *almost* as good as the feeling one gets when ones first child is born!)

          1. casino implosion

            “Almost 50”. Me too. Someone should write a book about how we gen-exers actually invented the millennial/hipster culture pre-internet. All they did was filter everything through apple products.

            1. JacobiteInTraining

              Heehee, but don’t tell anyone our secret…that we stole our genx ‘slackerness’ from the generation that came before us of hippies. Who, I imagine, stole it from the ‘hepcat’ generation before them, and on it goes…. ;)

                1. pat

                  When I was a kid my dad was proud of his 1/16 (American) Indian blood. He wasn’t sure what tribe so he told us we were The Last of the Bohemians.

              1. Dave

                Don’t forget the Beatniks, a very important lynchpin in the enlightenment of American Society. Not talking about Allan Ginsberg and Lower East Side poetry phonies, but the real attitudinal shift all over country among blue collar workmen and their families who relied on rural values and simplicity.

          2. Jeremy Grimm

            I like your plan for the future but have a little problem in realizing it — where is the land that supports your small farm and how did you come by it? Good land isn’t cheap and Millennial don’t have and may never have sufficient filthy lucre to come that land and develop it to the point where it will sustain a modest lifestyle. And buying a piece of land takes more than a little knowledge and study — which take time and energy — both of which Millennials have in short supply after working the many jobs and hours needed to get a roof over their heads. So I like your plan but for Millennials it may be problematic given their shortages of filthy lucre, time and energy — and I didn’t even mention the many skills and connections you have access to having been born on a farm/orchard with a country-life skilled extended family. I’m a “Boomer” with more of the resources required for a venture such as you suggest and I find the task daunting — possibly beyond me. My plan is to create a situation like that you enjoy which I can pass down to my children.

        2. weinerdog43

          I wish you both the best. I’m too old to undertake the farming adventure. Jim Kunstler has been talking about this for years so perhaps I’ll have some ‘Long Emergency’ farming foisted upon me anyway.

          But I do want to mention something. A little more than 2 years ago, I accepted a corporate transfer from Chicago to north central Wisconsin, and it takes some getting used to. There definitely will be a culture shock. Rural America really does have a fair degree of “Hee-Haw” casual bigotry. The people are mostly nice, but don’t be surprised to see a Confederate flag every so often.

          But be of good cheer. I think you guys are making the right decision. Good luck to you.

        3. Optimader

          This will play out to be one of those interesting I feel class warfare threads, and i mean that in a good way insofar as it is illuminating how ppl think/perceptions..

          On you small orchard plan, I hope oregonchales , the poster from the willimette valley can provide some opservations to you.

          A bit of free advise to consider ( keep in mind free advise is usually worth what you paid for it) exploit “vertical integration” to differeniate your small volume commodity. What i mean is do your due diligence on details/$ to license yourself as a food manufacturer, get and dry run some good pie and preserve recipes and go forth with “value added “products to independent cafes restyrants gocery stores with good deli depts. ive seen this eork in michigan with small volume fruit production (– fruit that is kick as greay but too fragile to ship as fruit)

      2. jsn

        “Buy a cheap piece of land” is packed with assumptions not necessarily in line with the goals of those worried about $500.

        1. JacobiteInTraining

          If their goal is *not* to own land and start down the path to a self-sufficient existence, then no – I wouldn’t want to impose any of my assumptions upon them.

          If their goal *is* to do that, then there are very few assumptions involved, and certainly none requiring magical pixie dust of the kind establishment Realtors or Politicians peddle.

          Some of the important assumptions involved are:

          – This works _just fine_ for minimum wage workers – who are patient and can plan ahead: Find a property value & size goal, set a budget, save for the budget over (say) 5 years or even longer if you have to. If necessary, band together with another like-minded couple and/or friend(s) to split the cost amongst the group.

          – The property should NOT be utility-connected: lack of in-street water, sewer, electricity, cable (gag) or phone is completely undesired because it only increases the land value. We are going to do power and water and such ourselves, so existing utilities only hurt us. And, for that matter, if the ‘street’ abutting the property is a single-lane dirt road…so much the better. That will also reduce the price, and will tend to keep the riff-raff, tourists, & winnebagos out.

          – One needs to sacrifice ‘fake luxuries’ now, to enjoy ‘real luxuries’ later: Every minimum wage family or friend I have, nevertheless still seems to have cable, a cell phone – usually a smartphone, internet, and/or some combination of the above. Get rid of all of it, NOW, and (if you must) keep a pay-by-the-minute no-contract flip phone. Get old-fashioned paper books in bulk at thrift stores and start reading them to hone the skills you need in the future. (and if your life/job *requires* Internet, at home and everywhere…then you probably already make more then minimum wage anyway and can afford to keep that aspect funded)

          – If you want the cheapest land, be prepared to forego urban areas & cities where all land and property is so artificially inflated. If your goal is to be a farmer, you probably don’t really like the city…and pavement…and parking lots…and SUVs…and shimmering seas of cookie-cutter McMansions anyway.

          – Be prepared to share and care about – and within – an actual group of people working together towards a common goal: I hesitate to say ‘coop’ because of its mid-70’s hippy-dippy connotations, but if one cannot afford to do something by oneself…then DON’T…do it with a group! There is both strength, safety, and economies of scale within a group!

          – Be prepared to completely disconnect ones societally-ingrained Madison Avenue notions of ‘self-worth’ from ones collection of $$ & flashy possessions. A pile of ‘stuff’ that puts you in debt & keeps you up with the Joneses is NOT the goal. The GOAL is to be happy.

          These days, I am at my happiest when I have just finished 4 hours splitting and stacking firewood from a tree I felled myself. Before that, I spent some time feeding sunflower seeds (home grown) to ‘my’ local chipmunk family as they bulk up for winter, and ‘chatting’ with the jaybirds & woodpeckers.

          I fueled the days work and play with bacon and eggs & sourdough pancakes that all were ‘homegrown’. Had some canned veggies & homemade bread for lunch. I read a wonderful science fiction paperback I got free from the county library discards pile, and then took a little chemical relaxation from a fine IPA I brewed myself, and a bit of cannabis grown on the friends place a few acres over.

          A fine day, it was. :)

            1. JacobiteInTraining

              You callin me out? As a ‘hobby farmer’ or ‘trust fund’ dude?

              Heh…okie, I’ll bite: I grew up dirt poor on the family farm. I ate gubmint cheese – and loved it btw – smoked salmon and sturgeon that my dad caught on the Columbia, and ate fruits/vegetables/meats/nuts we raised ourselves. For some months, if we didn’t grow it (or kill it & butcher it) …we didn’t eat it.

              We eventually had food stamps, and mom sewed our clothes herself…or bought them from thrift stores.

              I didn’t go to prom because I couldn’t afford it.

              I stole my first Apple ][+ computer from the store. (not proud of that, but well…it did help me)

              I washed dishes at a greasy spoon up the road in my teen years, driving a $300 Dodge Dart ‘Swinger’. Later, I started making the big bucks burning slash and fighting forest fires in the summer.

              I went to University on student loans, a small scholarship, my own student job income, and a lot of luck.

              Yes, I did have some salad days in my 20’s and 30’s in the dot com world but thats just a bad memory from the past now. I’ll not post my checking account balance because its rather small just now… ;)

              Having said all that – a rich person who eventually comes to understand the simple pleasures of country life and lives within the ethos with a spirit of understanding and community…well, they are just as welcome as any dirt poor person is.

              1. Pathman

                I like you! That is a pretty cool story. Thanks for sharing it. I’m just about to get 5 acres and I’m going all in on permaculture. I can’t wait!

              2. Coast Ranger

                This is probably my first and last post. I’ve lived in the boondocks for over 40 years. I’m pushing 80 now. We’ve been on our current place for the last 37 years. I left my job as a chemical plant manager in my mid-thirties; my first job here was as the elementary school custodian…loved it; no responsibilities!

                We have 57 acres and are on the gird but also have a 3.6kw PV system. Besides our main house we have a rental house and rent camper space to a young bull rider and his girlfriend.

                I don’t want this to turn into a book so here is my quick answer – you won’t have the skills or tools or knowledge to pull off moving to the boondocks without a lot of grief. My suggestion is to find a mentor or become a WOOFer (worker on organic farms) for a few years.

                And, while you may be able to get by on a very low income you can also be hit with big, unexpected bills, e.g., we had to spend over $5+k to replace our well pump and water pressure tank last month.

                It IS a wonderful life but you have to go into it with your eyes open.

                Peace – CR

              3. bob

                Is there anything you haven’t done?

                You’re also extremely light and/or contradictory on details. You seemed to indicate you were a lot younger than you are.

                You also proclaimed to be working minimum wage.

                Pardon me, but it didn’t add up. Still doesn’t.

                1. Coast Ranger

                  Bob, I don’t know where you are coming from so “I’ll assume…”

                  I really am an old fart; I’ll be 78 in a couple of months.

                  During the 44 years we have been in the boondocks we’ve developed three properties; two from scratch where we had to develop the water (one was a spring and the other where we had to drill a well) and bring in power and telephone and our current one that had power (and by the way we are the last ones on the grid for the next 15 miles on our dirt and gravel county road) and a well. Designed and personally (Yup, did it all with only help from a friend to lift the framed walls; included concrete, wiring, framing – everything) built houses on all of them. Power, here, during winter is unreliable which is why we have the PV system this is in addition to three generators – 2.5kw, 8kw and 30kw.

                  Oh, yes, we also get snowed in for 1-3 weeks every winter.

                  I DON’T KNOW IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE THIS OUT BUT WE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE BECAUSE WE BUSTED OUR ASSES FOR YEARS! (sorry for shouting). This what city people and newcomers to the boondocks are seldom ready for.

                  I have been everything from a very small-scale certified organic farmer to the groundskeeper for the school district plus a ton of other jobs like being a substitute teacher. I have also been the foreman of the county grand jury and served on several non-profit boards.

                  I have to tell you that your comment really pissed me off. If you had any sense of what life is like in the boondocks (FWIW, another boondocks reality – getting the mail is a 30 mile round trip to “town”) you wouldn’t have even posted anything.

                  Peace – CR

                  1. bob

                    First up- Who are you? Have I offended you?

                    Second- What do you want, a parade? There are MILLIONS of people who are busting their asses everyday who do it just to stay in the same place of move backward. You managed to be able to build something. The chance for even that chance doesn’t happen anymore.

                    There’s a post about a whole generation of them above your comment.

                    To sum up your advice- Be born 60 years earlier, and “bust your ass”…it’ll all work out.

                    But, it’s not WORKING OUT, for anyone. Enjoy retirement. I’ll never get that chance.

              4. bob

                You’re the “cooler” version of picking yourself up by the bootstraps, bro.

                “just relax…man”

          1. PhilU

            This works _just fine_ for minimum wage workers – who are patient and can plan ahead: Find a property value & size goal, set a budget, save for the budget over (say) 5 years or even longer if you have to. If necessary, band together with another like-minded couple and/or friend(s) to split the cost amongst the group

            No, no it does not. Making less than $50k a year would mean defaulting on my loans. Between bouts of unemployment after graduating in 2008 and being forced to run up credit card debt to afford to make payments; just making the minimum payment on all my debts is a little over $2k a month. I’ve been paying them for 10 years and still will have to keep paying them for another 20. It really is pointless and there is no way out.

            1. Dave

              Pretend that you are a corporation then. With no moral qualms about “your obligations”, declare bankruptcy and as to the non-dischargeable debt, Hammer out an agreement to pay few dollars a month on the cards.
              Failing that, good faith attempt at negotiation, then total default.
              What are they going to do?
              If you plan the latter, run up the cards to the max and buy fungibles that retain their value.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                Lordie. I assume PhilU’s debt includes student debt. You can’t default on that.

                And it’s really easy for people to prescribe bankruptcy who’ve never been through it or looked at it hard. If Phil has had over median income in his state, he has to do a Ch. 13. That does NOT mean you wipe out your debts. That means you agree to a plan with the creditors and go 60 months eating rice and beans. No joke, the budget they allow for food is so meager that they expect a single person in NYC to be able to eat on barely over $200 a month.

                Most people fail to make it through the 60 months, so they do not discharge the debt. And on top of that (as we’ve written at length), many banks cheat on BKs and present the borrower with debt that was required to be discharged in the BK. People who have emerged from BK have no $ by design. They can’t afford to hire an attorney to fight the bank. So the bank gets the house (the one thing many were struggling to preserve in a BK).

                If you think a relationship is tough to hold together with budget stress, a BK pretty much assures a divorce if the spouse can leave (as in is not also on the hook for the debt).

                1. Dave

                  I agree with all you said. I’m talking about a global shift in viewpoints. We know several couples who pretend divorced for financial reasons. Calculate the tax breaks for married couple subtracted from debt repayments and seizure of his future earnings to pay her debts.

                  1. mikes

                    One thing that some people have done, which may not be available to you or desirable given the inflated RE market is buy property. Not expensive property but in a non recourse state. If it goes up, they refinance it and pay down student debt, which is not BK dischargeable, so you should pay first before other debts anyway. If the RE goes down later, they do a short sale or allow the foreclosure.

            2. bob

              All you need is some time in silicon valley, in the 90’s, first.

              Born on second and thought he hit a triple.

            3. Binky

              Bankruptcy resolves in seven years or less, in some states you keep your house as a homestead, and only student loans are chains around your neck. not advice but a thought.

          2. other

            Is it a bit contradictory that you’re posting this on an internet blog? Seems like you’re still connected

          3. reslez

            My smartphone costs $30/mo. But you’d have to be crazy to have cable unless you’re rolling in it.

            I agree with PhilU. Student loans don’t combine well with $12/hr and precarious health care. Kudos to people who manage to save any money at all, even for retirement much less buying land, but I don’t want people to exaggerate how easy it is.

        1. kareninca

          Yes, exactly. I read these “back to the farm” suggestions, and wonder how these kids are supposed to pay for their Obamacare policies. With what money? Or how will they pay for the fine if they skip the policy? Is the assumption that they are going to go on Medicaid? I grew up in a rural area and it is not cheap to live off the land; the local farmers all had someone in the family in the workforce (e.g. a schoolteacher). But “workforce” jobs can be extremely difficult to get in rural areas. Also, I have relatives who have worked with livestock as 4-H-ers; it is not something you just dive into unless you want to engage in animal neglect.

          I can see someone going out to a rural area and joining an established commune or working on an existing farm. I can’t see a regular 20-something – who grew up in a burb, living online, barely outside at all – doing this from scratch. And if they have student loans I don’t see it working at all. The posters who are suggesting all this appear to have started with no debt and some savings, which was a lot easier to manage 20 years ago.

          Really, just owning a car when you are homesteading is a nearly impossible cost. And you have to have a car. (Now someone will chime in, saying that they have a 1950s truck that they bought for $200 and have kept going for decades on a shoestring due to their self-taught mechanical ability. I’m sure such cases exist, but none of the 20-somethings I know could fix any part of a car. They can’t change a tire.)

          1. King Arthur

            And the poverty threshold for Medicaid is so insanely low that I, as an unemployed person with terminal cancer, do not meet the requirements for it because I make more than $16K a year. The Neoliberal solution? “Oh, just apply for Obamacare (shitty insurance) or wait two years (by which time I will be dead and the bills will have piled up astronomically) to get Medicare (which still requires premiums, copays, etc.).

            The game is rigged and I personally wonder how long it’s going to take before there’s outright violence in the streets like Mexico.

      3. Jordan

        I have been attracted to the tinyhomes/ DIY/ “buy my own land and live off it” option as well, but I believe this is simply impractical for millennials for a number of reasons:

        1) Most millennials are in debt and have poor credit. In part their own fault, in part how they were raised, in part because the monopoly board is completely owned and the people who own it aren’t particularly interested in sharing. So because of this, most millennials don’t even have $5,000 to invest in a piece of land out in the desert of Nevada.

        2) Zoning laws (tend to make cheap DIY options in town illegal, so force you out in the country unless you got a couple hundred gs).

        3) Money, money, money, MONEY. Millennials need it, to get out of debt, to pay for food (while you’re waiting on that first crop at least…), and, maybe most importantly, to pay for a car and gas and maintenance and car insurance so you can GET to that piece of land that you bought out in the middle of nowhere because that’s all you can afford. You aren’t going to make this money investing in solar panels (remember you have no money to invest). You’re going to make that money working as a barista. And it’s just WAY more practical to live close to that barista job and pay rent every month for a room than to have a two hour commute with your crappy car that could break down at any moment.

        4) Maybe the most important point- humans are social creatures. Millennials are social creatures. Living all alone in the desert may be satisfying for some people who are REALLY into painting or whatever, but unless you bring at least dozen or so good friends for your commune with you, you’re PROBABLY going to get depressed after about six months or so. And basically nobody wants to start a commune anymore (maybe because the drugs people used to do at communes people get arrested for now?) so this fact makes the “solar panels+ well+ chickens” out in the desert option seem mostly just REALLY lonely.

        For these reasons, I think DIY projects and tinyhome stuff are primarily for: A) young people who have a super hippy-ish boyfriend/ girlfriend/ maybe even half a dozen friends who actually want to try out the whole commune thing (and good for them!) and B) much more likely, hipster people WITHOUT the financial pressures most Americans face- hipsters with rich parents, older people looking for something to do with their retirement $$/ savings, etc.

        Anyways, long response, but yeah, just think this option prob isn’t the best for most of us “quiet desperation” millennials, unfortunately-

        1. jrs

          It’s not all alone if you’ve got a partner obviously and they are willing to do it with you. Many people want more social contact than that though. Then again very few get it anyway after they get married and are working all time, it’s just too time consuming. And that’s urban life: all time spend working and commuting to work just to get by. What little free time is left spent mostly maintaining one’s primary relationship and preparing for one’s next forced career move.

      4. Dr. Faustus

        Many (myself included) *do* consider this a viable option. But you identified the major problem here: inflated real estate values. It’s hard to gather the money. Not only for the land, but also the improvements (however minimalist.) And incomes are just too flat.

        We’re in the midst of a new enclosure movement.

    2. j84ustin

      Exactly this. As a “millennial,” it is so difficult for me and my friends to find meaningful, well paid work. I do consider myself fortunate that I earn more than my expenses and I save money every month. Most people I know don’t/can’t.

      Therefore, most of us dream of starting our own businesses. Of course, most of us won’t, and many of us will not succeed. But I think it speaks volumes to where we’re at right now as a generation and a society.

    3. diptherio

      I’ll use this opportunity to make my regular pitch for worker cooperatives. They exist in every sector and, lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of new ones being created as Boomers retire and sell their businesses to their employees. “Millennials” are definitely front and center in the movement right now, as many have discovered the worker co-op formula as a result of the ’08 crisis. However, worker co-ops (democratically owned and managed businesses) have a much longer track record.

      Cooperative businesses have lower failure rates than traditional corporations and small businesses, after the first year of startup, and after 5 years in business. About 10% of cooperatives fail after the first year while 60-80% of traditional businesses fail after the first year. After 5 years, 90% of cooperatives are still in business, while only 3 – 5% of traditional businesses are still operating after 5 years. This is often because of the many people involved in starting a cooperative and the high level of community support for cooperatives (World Council of Credit Unions study in Williams 2007).

      Follow the link for the full report with lots of numbers and statistics, for people who are into that kind of thing.

    4. Larry

      I’ve considered suicide several times after being laid off 2 times in my 10+ years of working early in my career. At the temp job I am at now, the stock price just lost 50% of it’s value yesterday and I am really scared, especially if Trump wins, on what that will do to the economy.

      I’m not sure how much of this I can take, and I really don’t want to think what will happen to me and my career when I get into my late 40s and 50s.

  3. james wordsworth

    As the parent of two millennials let me dissect the survey question, Note ” …to cover my expenses”, This makes the responses very difficult to compare because each person can have their own definition of “my expenses”. And one thing I have noted is that what millennials see as essential expenses are different from what I saw as essential when starting out.

    1. allan

      As the parent of two millennials let me dissect your dissection:

      Expense #1: Going to an urgent care center which supposedly takes your $300/month (after subsidies) Obamacare policy and have them refuse to honor it because the co-op that issued it is going under at the end of the month and the urgent care center doesn’t want to be unreimbursed, which has happened across the country.

      Expense #2: Multiple car repairs, in a cities where the roads are crumbling and using public transit, such as it is, would add hours of commuting time.

      Expenses #3: Doing professional-level work fro months at a major employer without having the job become permanent or even have a contract.

      Expense #4: On-call scheduling which makes hunting for or taking a second job very difficult.

      Oh, those entitled millennials …

      1. Waldenpond

        Tiny houses aren’t the opposite of climbing the income ladder. Many tiny houses are nothing but mobile homes and most want to stick them in city parking lots.

        We have two grown children that want our house when we’re gone. One wants to do a tiny house in the interim and if he ever gets the house, the first thing he wants to do is rip out the gardens. Oy. I’ve spent years trying to repair the soil, and he wants to take out the apple trees, plum, raspberries, blueberries, the vegetable beds and the chicken coop (just 3 chickens).

        They eat out, cell phones, expensive internet, expanded cable, game accounts, huge tvs, gym membership, weekend entertainment, multiple vacations a year? We have a cheap landline, a tv antenna with a tiny tv, go to the library and our idea of a vacation was a motorcycle trip staying at campgrounds. I will spend a few minutes of my morning putting a batch of apples in the dehydrator and getting some bread going.

        It as if the stereotype of skipping a generation is in action. We raised them with a simpler life, they are consumers. Maybe the grandkid will swing back to appreciating a simpler life.

        1. Waldenpond

          I’m glitchy this am. I hit post and it jumped to another item. ha.

          Expenses #3. Tools used to be included, they aren’t now. Want a job laying floors, put up. Want a job in construction, another set. Switch to electrical…. more $. And every employer has petty requirements on work clothes even if it’s just tan or black so it’s more money to put out when forced to switch jobs.

          1. allan

            Expenses #6. Work loading shelves in a big box store or supermarket.
            Bottom shelves require getting on knees or sitting on floor.
            Store forbids sitting on floor (`not professional’), and hands out crappy knee pads.
            Crappy knee pads don’t stay on.
            Millennial uses knees as knee pads.
            Millennial’s knees now hurt.
            How much will knees cost to treat and/or how much will this restrict future employment?

            No $5 lattes were consumed in the reporting of this anecdote.

    2. Moneta

      At 14, my daughter kept on complaining about not having a plan with data. My initial take was that at that age she did not need the big plan. However, when she had to meet for a group project they all communicated through texting which she did not get. Public phones are quite rare and they don’t communicate by phone anyway.

      Us oldies can argue that we could get by with much less until we are blue in the face, but their reality has changed.

      1. Bullwinkle

        I can recall hearing the expression that “necessity is the mother of invention”. I think we are now living in an era where invention has become the mother of necessity. IMO, that’s unfortunate.

      2. jrs

        you don’t need data to text, a dumb phone without a data plan will often text if the cost of texting is included in the plan (again NOT a full data plan, that’s different). There’s some pretty cheap plans that include texting.

    3. PhilU

      As a Millennial what I see as necessary expenses. Grocery store, gas, minimum payments on debt. Luckily I am staying rent free with a friend now because rent would require more debt. Getting an engineering degree was the biggest mistake of my life.

      1. Romancing The Loan

        …Engineering degree you say? Have you looked into patent law at all? Many law firms LOVE young’uns with engineering degrees and will pay full freight for them to attend law school in the evenings while offering a nice salary ($100k) to learn to write patents during the day. When you graduate you’re a lawyer with a guaranteed job (unlike 90% of lawyers these days) and they jump you ahead a couple years because of your experience. It’s pretty grueling hours, but excellent money and most people do not know that this is an option. My husband (late GenX/Early Millennial) did it and it was a fantastic idea. Just trying to help!

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Law school enrollments are down 15% and falling because there are too many lawyers. I sincerely doubt demand for patent attorneys now is anywhere near as strong as you suggest. And getting $150K MORE in debt on top of existing student debt to get only a $100K salary is a bad economic trade. Assuming a 6% interest rate and a ten year loan term, the annual debt service is $20,000 a year, AFTER TAX, on the law school debt alone.

          Help me.

          1. Romancing The Loan

            For regular old went-to-college-then-to-law-school lawyers? No. For people who have not yet been to law school? Much easier. And did you miss the part where I said they’ll pay your full law school tuition? Clearly you did.

            I would never ever advise going to law school unless it was free, free, free.

            But me and my husband both pulled it off. It can be done.

            1. Romancing The Loan

              Actually if you have a sec and want to shoot Phil my email off-list I’d be happy to offer suggestions and (if he has the right kind of engineering degree – computer engineering’s ideal but EE can be made to work) a possible job.

              (PS Phil – the jobs you’re looking for are called “technical specialist” or sometimes “staff scientist”)

        2. Ian

          I council my kids against taking on debt. You often end up paying 2-3 times over the value of the loan by the time you are done, depending on terms. I’m working on making sure the college will be paid for. No sense casting off in a sinking ship. I have no illusions though that their spouses will not be in any such fine shape.

          I’m in the 1%, though. We live frugally, spend around 10-15% of our income, give the government half and save the rest. I don’t have a mortgage or car loan. This isn’t a recipe that everyone can follow. I’m not really clear how those on a median wage or less make it.

  4. Tirpitz the Destroyer


    Respectfully, you’re wrong that people are romanticizing entrepreneurship. The incubator boom has made it easy for a lot of people to get small amounts of funding, but it has become a viable option exactly to the extent that other jobs vanished.

    Starting a company is as much a way to put food on the table as anything else, and if there is the possibility that their company will be able to get further rounds of funding and/or pay them a salary someday, well that’s a nice dream to hold on to.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      With all due respect, you live in a bubble. Ventures that are financed by VCs account for 1% of total startups.

      And over 90% of INCUBATORS fail. If you bothered Googling, there are plenty of stories that say they don’t improve the odds of a venture succeeding. All they do is get the kids with fancy resumes an A round of financing before they fail.

      And the experts (Silicon Valley types) still say 90% of all new ventures fail. None points to any evidence that incubators improve the odds of success. They all describe an idealized type of incubator that could, but that seems to be almost never observed in the wild.

      For instance:

      Most incubators use funding as a success metric, which is a somewhat flawed criterion. Over 99% of companies should operate as organically grown, self-sustaining businesses — bootstrapped, without external financing. For them the goal is to achieve customer validation, not financing. Yet if the incubator uses financing as its success metric, it will try to force inexperienced entrepreneurs into an unnecessary financing round. And more often than not, they will fail.

      See also:

  5. jfleni

    Geat article! Just compare it to the sneering of Hillary: These people are actually
    living in their parents’ cellars! Yuk, yuk, what a clutch of losers, not experienced
    like us.

    Experienced! But only in corrupt grovelling to the .01 percent! Anyone who really believes that the “Bernie” movement was just a passing fad has to wake up; the really moderate and polite demands so far will be far exceeded by the roar of the coming, un-stoppable changes.

    The .01 percent knows it too as they hunker down in their $$$Bunkers.

    1. jrs

      they learned one way (not the only way, but one way for sure) to play the game and win, people like Hillary, they learned it involved selling their souls, they had no reservations. Why can’t everyone just do so and be winners like them?

    2. Ian

      Thank you for using 0.01% instead of the 1%. There is a big difference between doctors, attorneys and engineers paying a 52% marginal tax rate on healthy but not grand incomes (most of the 1%), and the privileged elite who pay capital gains rates on unearned income.

  6. duffolonious

    As the oldest generation of Millennial (graduated high school in ’00) I think the great recession split would probably make this look a lot worse for people graduating college/hs after the great recession.

    Because, anecdotally, my old friends are generally doing fairly well (good jobs, maybe own homes). That said, it wasn’t a path to stardom right out of the box. Also, a lot of my close friends guessed right and went into programming or sysadmin work, like me. After FB and the like this has been a pretty good career (I had a slow start after the dotcom bubble as did my friends). Still there wasn’t much time to establish myself even before the recession (I got my first big raise in August ’08).

    And I agree about the entrepreneurship – exactly that – niche in an industry you work in. I don’t see how you do that outside of low level consumer goods, that you can have an idea of even how to approach getting people to buy your product. I’m just starting to look into this after 10 years in The Industry.

      1. jrs

        or as they enter a new career, sure if they are middle aged and starting a new career they might at least have savings, maybe a start on paying for house etc. (IF they are lucky). But I think a serious recession can freeze a lot of people in their tracks. I don’t see almost any even somewhat entry level (I mean for people with training) jobs in anything, they all want highly highly experienced in their exact thing. How does anyone old or young start out or make a move at all? I don’t know.

  7. Jim A.

    At one point I was trying to popularize the term “self-unemployed,” although I was applying it to RE brokers after the crash, not getting any commissions.

  8. Clive

    In my opinion any corporate drone type of position which gives the possibility of climbing the greasy pole is infinitely preferable if you are just starting out or have dependents such as a young family to support (with the smallest possible exception that you’re physically or mentally under a severe strain for a medium term length of time — 6 months or more — corporate landscapes are endlessly shifting and you can easily find that there has been two re structures in a year) than any self-employed or “entrepreneurial” alternative.

    But another societal shift which has betrayed younger people is the notion that you “don’t have to take any cr@p from anyone”. No, no-one should have to take any poor treatment of any description if they don’t want to, but big corporate meal-ticket jobs an the enterprises that offer them are fully aware that they offer a trade-off between treatment that is degradation in all but name and reasonably reliable and not-that-bad renumeration. Everyone knows the deal, or should do.

    But what only exists on a unicorn level of frequency are stable corporate greasy pole climbing opportunities combined with good pay and being treated really nicely. Parents, high school counsellors, the media and so on should be far more honest about the realities of the modern workplace with those entering that workplace rather than pretending there’s some non-existent Halcyon idyll.

    1. Moneta

      My dilemma with the corporate world today is that as you go higher up the ladder you are very well paid to do things that the perma-optimists see as fine and the realists see as illegal.

      Up to now the perma-optimist view has prevailed but if the winds turn, there could be a lot of scapegoats.

      1. Clive

        You are unfortunately entirely correct there. Either outright unlawful or illegal conduct is increasingly demanded by large corporations of their workforce (and even not-so-large ones) or, if not outright illegally, then you have to best-case go along with an orchestrated cover-up or even, worse-case, design and run the cover-up itself. Wells Fargo is a case in point.

        But that still doesn’t mean you have to run for the exit and throw yourself on the cruel mercies of trying to start up and then run your own business. You can plan your exit from the criminal enterprise and ensure you have another similar position to go to or even a better one. You can play along with the unlawful activities but make absolutely sure you get the goods if ever the fateful day comes when you have to try to get a pay-off from the company or even cut a deal with law enforcement. You can even subtly signal that you know what is afoot is wrong, you know they know, you know they know that you know, and can we all benefit from this by promotion, raises or whatever. That, regrettable it is to say it, is likely a far more profitable set of entrepreneurial activity than trying to survive in the gig economy.

        Note though that I am conveniently skirting around the inherent amorality here; but that, miserable reflection of our times it may be, is the world we live in.

        1. WheresOurTeddy

          That your comment is so spot-on and – for those in that situation – inarguably the best course of action underscores the inevitable conclusion that this is an empire in decline.

        2. jash

          The corp world has been that way forever.
          The world has been that way forever.

          I don’t know that it is worse now.
          I can recall being neck-deep in the 1980s s&l mess and yes , there were things I did or did not do back then that I would not be able to judge in black/white even today.

          That’s life.

          I never wanted to run for the cave then or now.
          That is a great option if it’s for you.

        3. jrs

          and what about people who just can’t do this? Because I’m telling you if I was asked to do this, yea I think I’d be at the door (maybe to try to find another job while unemployed rather than entrepreneurship but …). I’m usually not high up enough the pole to get asked though. Good!!! I don’t want to be!

    2. Ian

      > Parents, high school counsellors, the media and so on should be far more honest…

      Really? Let kids be kids. You need to educate them to be careful, but to crush them by telling them that all life holds for them is wage slavery and mud groveling seems unnecessary. I don’t think anyone would have predicted where my life turned out. Certainly not me. Life is what you make of it, with a bit of luck thrown in to keep it interesting.

  9. philnc

    Staples came on the scene in 1986, well into the “Reagan Recovery” when then young boomers faced stiff competition for decent-paying jobs in an economy that had been shedding them for awhile. I can recall pinning my newly printed business card on the “wall of hope” at my local store in 1987, as I embarked on my own journey into “self-unemployment”. Staples fed the dream of sucess as an entrepeneur. Unfortunately most of us didn’t have the luck to do more than hang on by the skin of our teeth. Fast forward to the mid-nineties when the brief boom in domestic tech jobs (before it was cut short by offshoring) finally put many of us into the middle class, although we had to go through intensive retraining to get there (mostly on our own dime). When vast amounts of wealth, particlarly government wealth in the form of tax breaks, is flowing to a tiny elite it’s hard to see how the current system can be sustained. I know if I were a Millennial I’d be looking overseas for someplace to make a fresh start. The US has become a trap, and a hostile one at that, where they not only shoot the wounded, but the able-bodied as well.

      1. jash

        I never had to go into debt for ed , but when I started I slept on the floor for a year or so at a couple of different times.

        They can’t make you pay if you are not making anything?
        The trick I guess is to survive until something comes along.
        It may or may not.


        1. PhilU

          If I default they go after my dad… who just last week sold the house that hurricane Irene (1 yr before Sandy) destroyed… all the while paying the mortgage and taxes on it.

    1. Larry

      Why do you think they are building the wall?

      They don’t want to keep young immigrant labor (that capitalists can exploit) out; they want to keep the young tax paying citizens IN.

  10. Pepe Aguglia

    Relax, Hilary sez the Millennial Malaise is just a mindset. Millennials will be fine once they adjust their expectations sufficiently downward.

      1. Pepe Aguglia

        a bit longer Hillary: “What we here is Millennials’ failure to docilely resign themselves to the future planned for them by those who’ve bought and paid for my ass.”

  11. Thure

    I would like to see the other side of the coin. It’s not just about making money and expectations. Its also about what you spend it on.

    It would be interesting to also survey the “Millennials” with respect to what products/services they actually spend their money on. I.e., what they consider important.

    If its high cost smart phones (and their plans), expensive internet/cable packages, drinking $5 latte’s, craft beers and and other expensive consumables. Then I would suggest we have a group of people who have unreasonable expectations and are excessively “consumerized”

    1. a different chris

      Your BS has been (pointlessly, apparently) rejected more times than I can remember. “High Cost Smart Phones” — so somebody has the latest iPhone @750 bucks – that’s < 40 bucks a month. How much is a car payment? How much is the f*cking insurance for said car? Forget about a mortgage payment.

      But yeah they drink $5 craft beers, that’s the problem. Jesus.

      1. Michael

        Rent, car, health insurance. None of these are optional.

        In a reasonably good economy, you can get a job to escape abusive family. This is also key. They’ll take you down with them, and self-medication is expensive.

        Finally, a lot of us are struggling with ill health — bad food, bad environment, bad childhoods.

      2. macaroon

        I wish olds would consider expenses as a portion of income. It’s easy to look at phones as expensive, but they are the one expensive thing most youngers have. They don’t have cars, they don’t have expensive cable & internet packages, they don’t go out or spend a lot on clothes. Their vacations are crappy, if they get any, their housing is crap, unless they splurge on high rent and go without other things, they have a fucking house payment with no house. If they’re women they bump up against 30 with $500 a month student loans, $1,000 a month day care if they have a kid. They’ll be married to someone in the same economic position. Imagine life if your college and daycare was $2,000 a month before anything else, and shut up about the damn phones.

      3. Thure

        There is no need to be abusive.

        I’m simply stating that I would like to see a survey that details spending habits.

        1. DanB

          How about turning this around and looking at their incomes? You my not mean to be doing it, but you are blaming the victims.

        2. J

          Uh huh. It makes my head spin that after the catastrophes of the last 7+ years, that people like you think the issue is that the beers they’re buying are too expensive.

          1. WheresOurTeddy

            Craft Beer revolution of past 10 years is one of the few GROWING parts of our crony capitalist economy (even if they’re all being bought out by the Big Boys now *cough cough Lagunitas cough cough*)

          2. jrs

            even if it’s true in some cases, it’s doubtful boomers or Gen X etc. were all so virtuous on their spending: they weren’t.

          3. Larry

            Beer has never been cheaper, in relation to quality.

            The problem is we spend too much money on the things we need (rent, transport, healthcare, food, education). That stuff is hyper inflating and folks go into deep debt for this shit.

            Luxuries like TV, alcohol, entertainment, clothes have not only gone down in price, but have hyper deflated.

            The creates an imbalance that is hard for consumers, especially young ones who don’t get paid much, to navigate.

      4. Erika

        $40/month plus $90/month for a calling/texting/2GB data plan. At least that’s as much as it was for me before I gave up on smartphones for being too expensive. $130/month is a huge expense for someone struggling to get by.

        That said, the economy is going to continue to struggle as its generation of young adults are bogged down with debt and low-paying jobs, regardless of how they’re spending their money. Economic growth relies on their profligate spending.

        1. DF

          $90/mo for that little? My wife and I pay $70/mo for two phones with unlimited text, calling, and 2.5 GB of data for each phone.

    2. oh

      unfortunately, they do have unreasonable expectations. I think you mean to say include a fancy car (BMW), expensive haircuts, eating out at expensive restaurants, riding uber under the expensive consumables. They don’t have any idea of short term sacrifice for future gain.

      1. PhilU

        I think you have no fucking clue what it’s like to have no money no income and a pile of debt that you can’t get rid of even in bankruptcy. If people use Uber it’s because they can’t afford a car and it’s cheaper then a taxi. I don’t know anyone that eats out with any kind of regularity. The occasional birthday and what not but that is it.

        1. J

          I personally got rid of my car almost 3 years ago (or rather, declined to repair it as it was a 90’s era GM model) to save money and just take mass transit now.

      2. J

        unfortunately, they do have unreasonable expectations.

        You forgot to include “40 hour a week” jobs in your list of unreasonable demands.

  12. Ann

    Good piece. Of course, anyone of any age who finds themselves having to start over (due, say, to a layoff or some other traumatic event) will be facing the same pressures. They might have more in the way of capital to tide them over, but will be facing the barriers of ageism and emotional adjustment to the 1099 world. From personal experience, I can say that these are considerable.

    Clive’s point about the inherent meanness of today’s workplace is something that’s troubled me for some time. Where is the virtue in meanness if it means people work together less effectively to get things done? We now value fear-driven workplaces over productive ones. So emblematic of the short-sighted thinking we see nowadays…

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      My impression of the workplace is somewhat different than yours. There was definitely a level of fear present — but the creation of that fear seemed less intentional than a side effect of what I saw as the driver behind our workplace hells — and I do admit certain businesses and bosses did seem to have a streak of sadism. I believe “control” is the main driver creating workplace hell. Managers want to control and count everything and set ever growing demands for “productivity gains” from their minions. When we still made stuff it was a little easier to measure productivity gains — although just as fraught with errors in omitting the accounting of total costs. Now in our “service” economy where much of the service is intangible and sometimes illusory measuring productivity and demanding gains has become a formula for the craziness of today’s job world.

      I — got-laid-off/retired — just as the credentialism and control mania reached true points of misery and pain. I truly sympathize with the miseries facing those who continue in the workplace and especially for the growing marginalized populations like the Millennials.

      1. Ian

        There are some bright sides. My Dad used to complain about wearing a tie to work every day. I never have. I complain about having to drive into work every day. It isn’t unreasonable to think my son might be allowed to work from home. There is no particular reason my I need to go to an office to work. I can do it all at home. My employer just likes to see my smiling face each day. I feel like some of the power asymmetry and “abuse” would be greatly reduced if the worker is doing his job from the comfort of his own home office 30 miles away.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Haha. Agreed.

          One of my relatives (three failed startups of his own in 5 years) is back at a job with a boss who sends out crazy, sometime abusive e-mailes starting at 6 PM. He quickly realized this was the result of drinking. Other members of the team would try defending themselves or placating the boss during his looped hours, which only made matters worse. He’d ignore him until the normal business day and diffuse it then, which has seemed to work.

  13. DJG

    Thanks for this. Like Lambert and Yves, I don’t like generational politics. It was tried in relation to Social Security, and it was contemptible. I like the part of the survey, though, about millenials and what they hate: They hate organized religion and corporations. Flying Spaghetti Monster be praised for such discernment!

    That said, I am not sure that what I am seeing is “entrepreneurship.” I see a lot of under-employed staff at the local coffee bars. [Unlike PlutoniumKun above, I avoid the local cupcake shops, which don’t do well in Chicago anyway.] Very often, the entrepreneur is one person–and everyone else cheerfully serving the local microbrew or blueberry pie is an employee on minimum wage. So we are seeing a lost generation, whose education and skills are not being put to good use. I agree with the comments above that agriculture and food production may be viable routes, but I fear that the deliberate misuse of labor won’t allow them to grow well.

    Yves mentions being on one’s own. She describes being a sole-proprietor free lance, I believe. (Are you incorporated?) I did that for twenty-five years. I recommend it. And yet, I was offered a great job last fall, started as an employee of a rather large publishing house with many imprints in January of 2017, and watched my health-insurance payments fall precipitously. The health-insurance and health-care systems of the USA have produced very poor results–and distort the work force. But I do recommend being a free lance–if you can make an almost merciless analysis of how much work is out there in your field. If there isn’t the work, or the practice of using consultants and contractors in a serious way (you know, as in paying well for the work), don’t expect it to come over the horizon. Trying to become a roving cupcake recipe consultant, just because it seems “entrepreneurial,” may not pay off.

    1. a different chris

      >So we are seeing a lost generation

      We need to lose *my* generation, the Baby Boomers — I’d gladly go if I could be sure everybody else from my generation and above would go with me. But even that probably isn’t enough since 1/2 the world’s population is like less than 25.

      > describes being a sole-proprietor free lance, I believe. (Are you incorporated?) I did that for twenty-five years. I recommend it.

      Me too, did it from my late 30’s to early 50’s– the thing is, you really don’t know what you need to know when you are 20-something, and when you get to 50-something our (American) health care system is going to squeeze you like an orange. That – health care – is the only reason I stopped freelancing.

      1. PhilU

        We need to lose *my* generation, the Baby Boomers — I’d gladly go if I could be sure everybody else from my generation and above would go with me. But even that probably isn’t enough since 1/2 the world’s population is like less than 25.

        lol. Thank you, While there are plenty from your generation I would like to spare I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a deep rage at baby boomers who had literally everything handed to them; state subsidized college, for most a decent economy as they were entering the work force, and a healthy planet. Then they managed to destroy all of that and make my life not really worth living.

        1. jash

          Lots of boomers were drafted , spent time in cities convulsed by RIOTS, not the puny BLM , but real riots.
          Have we done all we could for the new ones? No.

          Does anyone have perfect foresight , I don’t see them around.

          Is YOUR LIFE worth living, HELL YES.

          As someone kinda said, you just need to survive long enough to see that it’s all at least decent most of the time.
          There were recessions, gas shocks, sky high interest rates, crappy jobs , I HAD SEVERAL OF THEM for 4-5 years.
          on and on.

          Stow the rage , it clouds the mind.


          1. Temporarily Sane

            Agree totally. All this talk of “Millenials” vs “Gen Xera” vs “Boomers” isn’t useful for the reasons pointed out at the beginning of the piece. Are all “Boomers” rich and entitled? Fuck no! Did previous generations have opportunities available to them that this generation does not have? Yes, and you can’t hold it against them for taking advantage….that would be a tad hypocritical.

            The biggest mistake those buying into “generational politics” make is assuming the “Boomers” all colluded in pulling the ladder up behind them. Think about it for a moment. Mindlessly blaming an entire generation for the current economic crisis is pretty convenient for the top 1% who benefit from it by enriching themselves at the expense of everyone else. If you want to “blame” somebody for the shitty economy…focus on the über wealthy and the Wall Street/City hustlers and scammers…and the media for acting as their PR/cheerleading section.

      2. jrs

        Yea I don’t see that as a reason not to go freelance though, because employer plans are increasingly HORRIBLE, paying very little toward costs, throwing employees on individual exchanges etc.. So it’s becoming screwed either way for many. Some of it as a result of ACA restrictions.

        So yes if you can get an employer with a good healthcare plan, and many still do have them, but it’s becoming harder to find and will probably only get more so, it’s not at all a given anymore. 5 years from now it might barely exist.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      If you had read the study, in fact very few Millennials are entrepreneurs. But they idealize it, which raises the odds that more than ought to will take their savings, if/when they manage to scrape them up, and flush them trying to start a business.

  14. Duder

    I think the author should reconsider why they consider irrational millennial optimism for entrepreneurism. For an older generation for whom corporate or institutional employment offered secure employment, even with the costs of submission to horrible bosses, entrepreneurism is a risky prospect. But for millennial’s these kinds of jobs are increasingly scarce. For most millennials (I am speaking as one and from the experience of my cohort and friends) corporate jobs mean the same kind of insecurity you find outside and you are forced to engage in the same kind of “entrepreneurism” inside a corporate or even government job as outside. What is a “internship” after all but becoming an entrepreneur within a corporation. Employers force young workers to take on business risk or perish. Showing entrepreneurial spirit is increasingly a job requirement for millennials no matter the sector they are seeking to create a career. It is logical to think, “screw this I am going to cut out the middle man overhead costs and do it on my own”. Speaking from my experience, the only fellow millennials I know who are financially successful and happy are self-employed.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Did you bother reading? 90% of entrepreneurs fail. The odds of a millennial entrepreneur failing will be greater, probably more like 95%, because they lack contacts, sufficient experience to identify a viable niche, and experience. Actually, the odds of success are lower now independent of the Millennials’ disadvantages, due to the crappy state of the economy. The same things that make the job market lousy, weak demand, make it harder to launch and expand businesses. That’s why hiring by small businesses has been weak.

      This isn’t an alternative. It’s a fantasy. If they go into business for themselves, they will drain their savings, run up credit card debt and borrow money from friends and family. Those are the big sources of funding for entrepreneurs. So when they fail, they’ll have a big pile of debt on top, have burned some (many) of the people closest to them, and will still face their pre-existing predicament, a bad job market.

      The ones for whom it will be different are ones who don’t need the help: the ones with rich parents who buy them a Taco Bell franchise.

      1. Duder

        “So when they fail, they’ll have a big pile of debt on top, have burned some (many) of the people closest to them, and will still face their pre-existing predicament, a bad job market.”

        You mean like student debt? Maybe you should start urging youth to skip college or professional degrees. The outcome is the same for most in my generation. For instance, I know many people who will never be able to buy a home in their life because of student debt.

        Yves, your vulgar economism is showing. My post was intended to explain the common sense logic behind support for entrepreneurism, not advocate it as a general solution for millennial economic frustration. Get a grip. Young workers are stuck in a rough spot and it makes sense that we idealize a path that at least gives us the illusion of self control.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Wowsers. Did you miss the point that to be an entreprenuer, you need to be able to pay your business related bills and have enough left over to survive? I’ve been there and you haven’t. You’v got a hell of a lot of nerve sitting in judgment.

          There is no “common sense logic” here. This is a fantasy.

          You are missing that entreprenuership is being sold as hopium, a phony way out for millennials. And it’s also used to sell the con that they should be able to pul themselves up by their bootstraps when what they (and the rest of us) need is better economic policies.

          See how you point to a huge problem being student debt, and instead of calling for a solution for that, starting with it being dischargeable in bankruptcy, you are instead doubling down on the entrepreneurship con? You are manifesting the exact sort of behavior that focuses millennials’ eyes on the wrong ball.

          1. Duder

            No Yves. I am calling you a vulgar economist. Do you know what that means? You should look it up. It means that you reduce human decisions to economics, which, news flash, is not how most people, really anyone, make decisions, even economic decisions. There is this thing called ideology. Everyone lives with illusions. That is how we decide what is a good decision and what is bad. Values in other words. Economic realities are rarely what drive human decisions. Get a grip. Seriously.

            1. bob

              “There is this thing called ideology”

              “Values in other words.”

              So, apparently you have an opinion?


              What is it? anything? You just like to see yourself *wining*? You lost. And you look like a spoiled 8 year old who still wants to believe in Santa, even tough your parents told you the truth.

              But who will feed him?

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              You are ignoring what I wrote in the post, and what I told you, that the hype around entreprenurship serves to reinforce the elite/libertarian myth that everything is hunky dory and the problem is those lazy, uninspired, not educated enough, not hustling enough Millennials who don’t go out to create their own work. It serves to justify bad policy, as well as support a cottage industry of “How to start your own business” books, videos, and seminars in their many forms.

              This hype is no different than selling snake oil. Would you defend someone promoting an operation that had 10% odds of working and 90% odds of making your health (and your personal relationships) markedly worse? That’s precisely what you are doing here in defending the cultural promotion of the “you too can/should be an entrepreneur” nonsense.

              Even worse, it encourages complacency in the young about fighting against student debt (my rejoinder that you pointedly ignored to broken record your earlier point with more invective), for more stimulus, for better protections of workers. The fact that I am calling it out means I am fully aware of the role of not just emotion, but cynical manipulation in this equation.

              And finally, starting a business is an economic decision. You have to thing about your prospective costs, margins, risks, working capital needs, etc. You can decide you want to make those risks because you value your freedom or think you have a cool idea, but to argue that this is not substantially an economic decision is absurd because there are so many economic constraints in the equation. And that is why despite the adulation of entreprenuers among the young, so few do it. They actually are rational on this front. I just hate the sense of regret and this survey’s focus on this issue (2 topics out of 10) adding to that.

              I have never been an economist. And you are in violation of our written site policies via arguing in bad faith (broken recording), making an ad hominem attack, and attacking me personally. One more like this and you will be blacklisted. This is not a chat board. Commenting here is a privilege, not a right.

            3. Dr. Faustus

              Respectfully. You’re arguing a different point. You both are allies, actually.

              Smith is not saying it’s stupid to be self-employed. Smith is saying that self-employment is used to quell rage and obscure poor policies. And that, in the final analysis, self-employment is a poor antidote to economic decay. Smith is also suggesting that these lost years have made self-employment harder because we missed out on the vital contacts/skills that make self-employment work.

              I believe Smith is saying ‘stop trying to be a beard consultant and start demanding answers. Don’t be co-opted. Be productively enraged.’

  15. simjam

    Most of these comments are about “me.” The worm will will turn when this cohort starts talking about “us.” Their numbers will multiply as young men and women leave colleges and universities with no place to go

    Don’t ask me to help them. I have substantial savings and receive great paying dividends. I am a Democrat supporting TPP and will vote for Hillary.

  16. curlydan

    “As someone who has been in business for myself for 27 years, I can tell you that anyone who has a decent gig and can manage corporate politics should seriously question the idea of going out on their own.” Dang, Yves, it’s time to sign you up for some commencement speeches. The young ones need to hear that loud and clear.

    So much insecurity could be relieve by having a decent, single payer healthcare system and true, universal insurance. Young adults can often fall back on parents and friends temporarily for help with lodging and food, but virtually no one can help pay a hospital bill without insurance once you hit 27. The greatest or most widespread crime in this country is that people fear going to the hospital or doctor–not because they fear sickness so much as they fear the bills. We have a preventative health insurance system–preventing you from peace and the good treatment you deserve.

    1. Carla

      Here’s hope: Students for a National Health Program says “This Halloween, let’s treat, not trick our patients!” To that end, they are holding a national day of action for Medicare-for-All on Halloween: #TREATNOTTRICK

      “Despite living in an era of great potential in the fight against disease and death, Americans continue to be haunted by health care profiteers. This Halloween, hundreds of medical and health professional students around the country will call on candidates and elected officials to abolish private health insurance, and to replace the health insurance industry with an expanded and improved Medicare-for-all.

      Our message: ‘Private health insurance is a trick – we just want to treat our patients.'”

      We can support Students for a National Health Program with a donation to Physicians for a National Health Program ( Add a note earmarking your contribution for SNaHP.

  17. Jason Boxman

    Add me to the list. I only see decline in our future.

    I don’t ever expect to buy a house. Job tenures are too short and uncertain, plus debt in service of credentialism.

    1. a different chris

      It’s funny (not in a ha-ha sense) that you can find pretty much on the same page of our esteemed news outlets one article about how it’s your fault your not flexible and ready to move and another article on how people need to be encouraged to buy houses. WTF?

      1. PhilU

        From the survey

        64 percent would move to a different part of the country for a better job or access to better opportunities.
        63 percent would add an hour to their commute for a better job.

      2. WheresOurTeddy

        You’re expected to take on $100K+ in debt for that degree, then do an unpaid internship for 1-2 years in an expensive city to live in, then maybe get entry level position if you’re lucky or lick the right boots, making peanuts that don’t service that $100K+ debt, and why aren’t you going for drinks every afternoon with the office? Don’t you know that’s valuable networking time? What, you’re 30 and don’t own a house? What’s wrong with you?

      3. jrs

        I think some people who don’t even in an ideal world want to own a house (because they would rather be mobile for jobs etc.), might start to consider it just because rents have been climbing astronomically. But then so have housing costs, so it’s only so much of a solution.

  18. QQQBall

    Whether you live in your parents’ basement, toil at a corp job or have your own lawn mowing biz – work hard, live below your means, save and invest. Keep a rainy day fund, embrace change and eyes open for new opportunities.

    1. a different chris

      Yeah because you can “save and invest” and pay off that 50K college loan at 7% on your barista job. But hey, there might be a new opportunity to do a night gig at McDonald’s…

  19. DWD

    Not a lot to add but this is really an excellent article, Yves.

    My admiration for your work is amazing.

  20. J

    Nothing use to send me flying into a rage faster than listening to some idiot talk about how young people are lazy entitled whiners. Typically, this person would go on to explain how they started at the bottom and had to work a bad job for a couple of years. Never mind the fact that that bad job was full time and allowed them to get started in a field, as opposed to, say, working 25 hours a week for minimum wage as a cashier. See this link from 2010 for a good example:

    At a certain point, I realized that these people just couldn’t be reasoned with and that they seemed to extract a certain pleasure from our seeing us react angrily to them taunting us in our misery. It’s now 7.5 years since I’ve graduated (of that, I’ve been unemployed for roughly 2.5 years off and on) and things ate finally starting to break positively, contrary to this article. There’s no point in arguing with these people any more that “this is different” because, put simply, the damage is done. If things like partial debt forgiveness aren’t on the table given these circumstances, I doubt that they ever will be. All that I ask is that the next time there’s a financial crisis is that everyone be held to the same standard we were.

  21. Paid Minion

    Met “Exhibit A” for illustrating the job market the other day.

    Scheduled in the carpet cleaner. Young guy shows up; found out he’s a newly minted Electrical Engineer, graduate from one of the local state universities. Graduated in May, has been looking for a job since last winter. Said he is going on his FIRST interview in a couple of weeks, in Denver (600 miles from here). Found out his biggest problem is that he doesn’t “know someone”, and has to apply thru HR.

    (HR doesn’t look for qualified candidates….their job is to ELIMINATE candidates, and/or generate documentation to justify hiring H-1Bs)

    And yeah, he knows what “H-1B” stands for.

    Not noted in this story is the cost of the financial drain on the parents of millenials. Direct subsidies from the First National Bank of Dad to the kids for essentials, to keep them from doing something stupid (like payday lenders)

    Entrepeneurship……..have been doing part time consulting for some of the locals. Really not worth my time. The only reason I continue to do it is to keep an income stream coming in, should the SHTF at my “real job”.

    Finally, is it just me, or do all Millenials think they are going to hit it big as microbrewers? Seems like that is the future plan for the crowd with ink, or who can’t pass a drug screen.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I like that you noted the cost and financial drain on the First National Bank of Dad. I am getting by for now — not especially well-off but I don’t require much. Worries about paying for my own future health care costs blend with the current worries I have with making sure my kids get care they need — little things like getting cavities filled $$$$$. And both my kids got hit with more than couple of tickets for minor traffic infractions which would have been warnings in my day. The tickets were exorbitant — I suspect to help pay for the bloated local police force. Some might suggest I should have made my kids pay. The tickets were too expensive and worse I felt they were unjust. Bank of Dad refused to pass on the injustice. Whenever possible the Bank of Dad tries to pass a little extra on to the kids so they can do the little things I enjoyed as a young adult — little things like eating out occasionally, going to a movie, or buying a $5 beer or $10 mixed drink. The horrible jobs environment is hard on Millennials and anyone who has their backs.

  22. Roquentin

    I know I’m stating the obvious, but is it any wonder Sanders was so popular with young people. He was the first political candidate in their lifetimes who actually spoke to issues which mattered to them and at least talked about trying to help.

    As an older millennial (finished high school in ’02), I’m just finally at the point where I feel like I have a decent career now. I got my first decent job about a year before the recession and spent 9 long years for pay that was somewhere between low and criminally low. So much so that when I started this new job I got more to be a freelancer on the absolute bottom rung. It could be a lot worse. I get paid better, the work is very easy, and I have relatively few responsibilities. This is also the first time in my life I’ve done anything except live paycheck to paycheck. I’m certainly not rolling in the dough, especially by NYC standards, but I’ve almost got rent down to 1/3 of income after tax. Not quite, but close.

    Anyhow, I’m sure those 9 long years in that dump did permanent damage to my earning potential. I guess it wasn’t all bad, people I used to work with got me this new job.

  23. Ivy

    Millennials have told me that they were scarred by what they saw their parents and others go through in the 1990s with all the downsizing and decline in trust across society and especially in the workplace. They tend to be a lot more cut-to-the-chase than prior generations as they just don’t have time or inclination for the lies that they see and hear all around. That directness is somewhat counter-intuitive in the age of instant social media feedback, where others guard and cultivate their personae.

    Following Roquentin above, many Millennials in particular found that the Sanders ideas resonated because he was the only politician that came across as honest in a world that is decreasingly so. In part because of that, several I know are more interested in being entrepreneurs as they want to have greater control in a world that seems way out of control to them. They aren’t that happy about basement or group living, but have more of a sense of navigating and co-existing in a network (using skills developed daily in school and on those ubiquitous smart phones), commiserating and making do while they progress.

    The economic current turmoils and transitions remind me of 40 years ago, and the impact that those shocks had on a prior generation. Going off the gold standard, Watergate, first OPEC oil price increase, exiting Vietnam, other troubles in 1974-75 all served to let the 1960s generation know that they were going into uncharted territory. There wasn’t much left of the Summer of Love and similar sentiments that got suppressed by economic troubles, unemployment and gas lines, and insulted by the cultural nadir of disco and wide lapels, and those informed a prior generation to ‘go for it’ in the 1980s with all that excess. Guess I’m showing my age now.

    1. Ian

      What I love about Sanders is that he is an _old school_ liberal. There are very very few of them left. He is exactly what the country needs, even if his sights are probably pointed right at my wallet, and he doesn’t stand a chance in hell of getting what he wants done through Congress.

      Consider how the country has changed since that sort of liberalism was popular. There was a time when the country managed to pass a Constitutional Amendment authorizing the federal income tax. How would that pass the Norqvist pledge today?

      I’d personally be amused to watch the answers from the current Congress:

      Do you support the United States Constitution?

      Even the 16th Amendment? If it had to be ratified now, would you support it? (Awkward shuffle as congressman looks up 16th amendment…)

  24. Rosario

    Based on my reading of history this is not a problem particular to millennials. This is just the normal functioning of capitalism. The cyclical catastrophes of capitalism do this every few generations. Problem is, this time, we don’t have another catastrophe (say a war) to get the motor going again and distract everyone from the BS mechanics of the system. We just need another major war, ya know. Get those juices flowing again. Syria is a good start. Is the sarcasm palpable yet?

  25. WheresOurTeddy

    33 year old 1983 Reagan Baby here. Long time reader.

    Whoever runs for president against Clinton in 2020 should memorize this phrase:

    “40 Years of Failure”

    1980-2020 is our second Gilded Age. Where for art thou, Teddy Roosevelt 2.0?

    1. bob

      C’mon! Reagan? We finally got Gadaffi!

      We WANT bad winners. You know, the ones who sneer while they play the victim?

      Losers lose. Winners, these days, cheat at everything, then blame the ref for not having another 200 points

  26. Quantum Future

    Good article and survey. For millenial readers. Bootsrapping which means working to pay bills while starting your own business is difficult indeed. I have done this successfully but be prepared to live cheap, refuse debt and also you should buy Business Plan Pro. It walks you through how to run a business and forces considerations such as compeition into your mind. It is about $100 last I checked.

    It isnt 90% of start ups that fail that number is wrong. It is 70%. And the number one reason was lack of research because such did not create a business plan.

    Millenials are good with social media. Use it for networking and understand it will take hours to set up a simple site (Go Daddy has a $15 a month package) and reach out and touch someone. A few marketinf programs are free, but most are not so plan on at least a few hundred bucks to generate leads.

    As for expectations, the Boomers have money and want certain services. You probably wont make money on your Smart Phone and Internet, getting your hands dirty physically can get you wealthy.

    Here is an example: I live in an HOA in Florida. There are 60 units here and within my park is two other HOAs. All totalling 230 condos. I offered a power washing service for $125. Each job is about three hours. I outsourced the labor for $50 net profit said and done. I walked around and put a print out on everyones door. Lots of jobs. Many of these folks I talked with and they asked me about handyman work, plumbing, home health care. My wife is a cardiac rehab nurse. I tried pushing her to that business.

    Plumbers, electricians, home inspections offer competition that doesnt advertise well. You can beat out such clearing $100,000 first year and grow from there. Plus you can write off near all expenses to pay little tax.

    If you want to be tech geek and work for a company become a DBA. You can get say an SQL tutorial for free online. You can get certified for a $1000 or just lie and say you are but you had better learn a little Unix and SQL first. Programmers have to compete with millions of others while DBA’s do not. Many hospitals and medical facilitiee would hire you. The key words to an employer are ‘If you want someone to show the company how to intepret the data to make or save money, hire me.’ Put it right as your opening email to a company.

    I hope this helps some to compete. It is hard out there. Boomers I meet at my pool admit they retired when it was ‘good’.

    1. sunny129

      Sorry, What’s DBA?

      B/w you are ‘spot on’ re demand for ‘handy man work, plumbing, air condition/furnace/heating service, Electrician++

      These are perceived ‘dirty’ jobs by many milenials in this ‘digital’ / GIG Economy. 4 yr college (even STEM) is no guarantee!

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I am surprised you found an area where there is too little power washing service available. Where I live and have lived I rarely see any power washing done and between mailers, door-hangers, and grocery store 3×5’s I didn’t notice a shortage of providers. While it is true college graduates are reluctant to get their hands dirty it should also be remembered not all Millennials go to college and those who don’t are not reluctant to get their hands dirty.

      As for the big opportunity for DBAs — Infosys and TATA seem to have that market well-covered where I live and have lived.

      Just out of curiosity — who do you hire to do the outsourced labor you take profit from? What stops them from replicating your business and undercutting you?

    3. Mike Mc

      Quantum Future is spot on. Moved to a nice older townhouse development and good repair help is worth its weight in gold, and many Boomers (especially those of us sliding toward retirement) only too glad to pay for it.

      I’m a weird Boomer example of same. Bailed on college in the 1970s – too many other fun things to do! – and by the time I went back in the mid 1980s, the current trend of climbing costs and easy debt peonage frightened me away.

      Lucked out and guessed right about desktop publishing and the Mac platform. Fast forward to now, and I’ve been selling and/or repairing Macs since 1999 (lucked out again thanks to Saint Jobs and the iMac). Took a position at a state college for the stellar benefits – which compensates for the crummy pay – so retirement in four years not so terrifying. Also married very well (and up quite a bit) the second time, so our six kids (three each) who are smack in the middle of Millennial-ville will likely have some grubstakes when we shuffle off this mortal coil.

      I had been pressured – hard – to become a suit and tie type from junior high on, so bailing on college was my rebellion AND my salvation in that I did not succumb to drugs, alcohol or tobacco for self medication (cigarette smoking has taken many peers and family, can’t stand it) and went the tech labor route. Just wish the computer revolution had happened ten years sooner!

    4. bob

      I’d suggest that the money would be better spent on getting the old folks something to do.

      I’ve seen WAY too much damage from power washing.

      Why enter the pretend loop when all the old folks want is some company? Charge $125, burn gas, depreciate equipment, damage houses, Injuries?

      You are an entrepreneur. I just don’t think you know what the word means.

      I’d also suggest that you make money on the other end- 2 years later when the siding is ripped off, because of damage from being powerwashed.

      How did you come across your knowledge of sub-contracting? Also, there’s NO WAY you’re doing that in any other than off the books terms, for the prices you quoted.

  27. troutmaster

    One other path, consider working in the Non – Profit sector. Find something you are passionate about and find a corresponding non-profit organization. You will find a different culture and many fewer sharp elbows. And if you are really lucky, your non-profit may be subversive to the corporate culture as well. I have a number of friends who have followed this path, they make a good living w/ benefits and they are very happy.

    1. bob

      My local health insurance monopoly is a non-profit.

      $54 million to the man in charge, after he left, and they counted the OTHER retirement that he promised himself from yet another non-profit that he “bought”.

      Try again.

  28. Jim

    My advice to the millennials is to think big and bold. Don’t play it safe in your 20’s and 30’s. Don’t be satisfied with some supposedly “safe” corporate position which will pay the bills. Go after your dreams. Go for meaning/community/generosity and concern for the well-being of others.

    In many of the comments above there are laments about the contemporary amoral nature of our economy and society. If interested you could become an entrepreneur who decides to take on such amorality directly.

    You might try to shift the emphasis of your new business from the cash nexus to a more social nexus, realizing the absolute necessity for the eventual creation of a new definition of a market that would highlight reciprocity, shared needs, and mutual assistance–a more civic economic alternative to the vicious pursuit of private interest which now reigns supreme.

    We make ourselves happy by making others happy. Why not see economic activity as a pursuit of well-being, with the realization that such a pursuit can begin to repair human bonds broken by extreme individualism and the amoral.

    Why not choose an economy where you and the local butcher care about each other as neighbors to the extent that it might influence your respective economic transactions between each other (price agreements or debt forgiveness).

    Isn’t there often a gift element in many economic transactions which is largely obliterated by the traditonal behaviors of the market and the state?

    Lets create a new economy embedded in a new interpersonal network.

    1. weinerdog43

      I can’t tell if this is snark or if you’re serious. Because if you’re serious, I somehow missed the part where the ‘big and bold’ thinking puts food on the table or makes a dent in one’s non dischargeable student loan.

      The crap job market that has been inflicted on the Millenenials also affects the parents of these young adults. 1st National Bank of Dad indeed.

      1. Jim

        The triumph of liberalism/neo-liberalism today can be seen in the creation of a contemporary cultural atmosphere of a war of all against all (Hobbes). For many this originally fantasized state of nature has become the only reality.

        It may well be that the key assumptions of liberal thought have succeeded today in defining human nature as only individual human existence separate from any type of social embeddedness–with liberal practice replacing the quest for reciprocal recognition with simply the pursuit of wealth, power and pleasure.

        But despite this liberal hegemony of thought and practice it strikes me that most of us are still interested in performing our jobs well, being a good spouse, parent, friend,colleague and citizen.

        Is history simply a concern about putting “…food on the table…” or making “…a dent in one’s non-dischargeable student loan…”?

        What if our contemporary politics is failing because it mistakes the very nature of the realistic?

        What if cynical verdicts about the nature of our world are insufficiently realistic?

        What if we have finally reached the limits of liberal thought were its central assumptions have ended up creating our modern world of horrors?

      2. JTFaraday

        “1st National Bank of Dad indeed.”

        This attitude is entirely symbolic of the sort of problem he’s attempting to get at. Before I graduated college (some time ago), my maternal grandmother– having helped me pay the bill– told me that she EXPECTED me to return home and start saving money.

        This took me by some surprise at the time, but I, and all my siblings, did so. She wasn’t wrong.

  29. Claudia

    The idea that anyone can become an entrepreneur is well promoted- but silly. You can learn to run a business, but being an Entrepreneur is something you’re born to, and makes you tiresome to those who are related to, or work for you. It means having an intense focus and single-mindedness that is quite rare and an energy level to match.

    Why should we prize one personality type higher than others? especially when it’s the social engineering folks who are molding the message. Wolves eat sheep.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No this “born to be an entrepreneur” is more romanticization. Please stop it.

      I must stress: surveys have shown that the most common personal trait of entrepreneurs is they were fired twice. That means they can’t manage in a corporate/business environment, most likely observing the rules of the inner game. Even the widely revered super duper businesses successes like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would have hewed to that pattern had they not been born in the computer age and been really good at it. Can you imagine being the boss of either of them? Both were remarkably arrogant and difficult at a young age. It’s not hard to image them being fired if they had been in any sort of normal environment (and Jobs was more or less fired as CEO of Apple). There are a lot of people who have similar confidence in their talent who aren’t talented (see Dunning Krueger syndrome) or are talented but are missing key business skills or are unlucky.

      So many enterprenuers start businesses out of necessity: they were canned, there were no jobs or no what they considered to be decent jobs. They have a go at it. Some make it. The overwhelming majority don’t. That is why the romanticization drives me nuts.

  30. Jeremy Grimm

    Testing CloudFlare just blocked me????? I think it didn’t like some bullets I cut and pasted from the stats site optimander referenced. Best filter comments through a textediter to remove extra stuff?

  31. pdxjoan

    I don’t think that it is a coincidence that after 40 years of the widely circulated and culturally reinforced meme of “government is the problem, not the solution”, that not one person mentioned getting a job with the nation’s biggest employer, the government.

    The only person I know who retired at age 52 with lifetime healthcare, and a pension benefit that pays 80% of her salary until her death (assuming the state’s public pension has been properly funded), was an HR manager for a county government.

  32. Pespi

    It seems like the millenials doing well are those with family connections in the scam-racket sectors of the economy, or are really skilled, incredibly hard working or just lucky. I would suggest that we build an economy that does not reward racketeering or scamming. A modest proposal

  33. Qrys

    I’m not convinced this is a useful survey, going beyond known facts about how underemployed and overdebted the generation has been ‘forced’ to be. For example of what I mean, I truly wonder just how many Americans would NOT respond to a lottery winning of $5000 as “I’ll pay down debts” in the current economic environment; and yet student loan debts are, as Yves and others repeatedly point out, a different category of debt altogether, with ominous implications for these young adults. While I’m somewhat skeptical of the exact framing of Strauss-Howe generational theory, we do know that mammals respond in reproducible and measurable ways to environmental stimuli, and our socio-economic environment today is going to compel quite a lot of these young adults down work/life paths which are proven or rumored to be most successful (or least painful) (see Yves’ comment about an overabundance of Lawyers above) whether or not they are pan out. This is about as predictable as the press of labor from fields into workhouses in the Victorian era, or the contemporary mass movement of farmers into the squalid cities of India and China due to governmental policies, and impacts of prior industrialization on the natural environment.

    It’s one thing to take the temperature of the patient, but it’s far more meaningful to find the cure for the disease.

  34. Mike G

    Millennials faced a job market that left even normally-always employable new college grads out of work or employed at well below their potential as baristas, temps, or in low-level retail jobs.

    As a Gen-Xer I faced a similar situation graduating into the recession of the early 90s. If you read the pop culture literature from that era like Douglas Coupland you will see similar themes of underemployment, depression and alienation, which was personally my experience. Fortunately I had family support financially and emotionally or I don’t know if I’d be around today. Several of my friends did not make it.

    When tech took off in the middle of the decade I took some tech-focused community college classes, got a certification and was finally able to claw my way into a college-grad-level job, over 8 years after graduating. For those going through a similar experience now my heart is with you, and I sincerely wish you well.

    1. JTFaraday

      Yes, the problem with saying one doesn’t like generational analyses** is that one misses that this has been going on for decades already.

      **Honestly, this doesn’t make sense to me. If you think the job market, and the new ways people are compensated, has been in a downward trend for 30 or 40 years, it’s tantamount to denying history to ignore that there are “generational” or demographic effects of this. Any historian would regard our pop sociological characterizations of generations with a good deal of skepticism, but no historian would outright deny this.

      In fact, I think you miss more than a little. I don’t doubt that, for example, the late 80s/ early 90s double recession experience helped turn a lot of then young men into today’s predatory neoliberal libertarians, whether they got the hard assed MBA jobs and got to do it directly, and therefore have to justify themselves, or if it just manifests more indirectly in their politics.

      In 2000, I said the only people who are making any money are those who are screwing the rest of us. It’s more true than ever.

      1. JTFaraday

        ie., that wasn’t necessarily true of successful baby boomers, at least in their youth, or necessarily implicit in the ways they were compensated, or for what.

        1. JTFaraday

          Let me add one more thing that has bugged me for quite some time. This largely pernicious notion that there are a lot of women out there making a lot of money this way is a fantasy.

          More symptomatic of the true state of affairs is the small handful of attention seeking libertarian women out there, literally putting the tits on the political movement, (which is just gross).

  35. Salamander

    It’s rough all over. All my sympathy to the millennials struggling to build lives in the warped and rigged political economy that we’ve created.

    I had to look it up – because I generally don’t think in these terms – but I appear to be a gen-Xer. I’ve had the rare benefit of a lot of free education… and even so, I’ve experienced the shame, estrangement, isolation and desperation of unemployment. And I’ve lost friends to it.

    I was an older MBA, not out of love for corporate America, but because that’s the kind of choice many of us make when we are lost and looking for any kind of a transition.

    I had a classmate, also an older MBA, who was an engineer by trade and education, smart, hard working, a leader in the class because of the obvious real-world experience he brought to our cohort. I looked up to the man, not least because he did well for himself out a middle-tier, mediocre MBA program. Many of us who came into the program with significant experience were looking grimly at the same job offers we might have secured before completing the MBA; at one point, a firm offered me $40K/year to work in a cardboard box factory in Baltimore…

    But my friend secured the only internship with Big Blue that was offered through our career center – and he translated it into a real job offer. I thought he’d found a real career path. Unfortunately, he seemed to feel that the “business development” title was little more than an overblown sales gig. I’m not sure why he didn’t make it there… I assume he didn’t hit his numbers. Perhaps he was distracted by marital problems. Or perhaps his marital problems stemmed from his ever more tenuous grip on his job. It’s hard to know as an outsider which was the cause and which was the effect.

    Leaving IBM in his late 40s, he never did get another real job. His marriage fell apart. He moved in with his parents again and tried to reinvent himself as a self-employed consultant and – at one point – an “executive recruiter.” That obviously went nowhere, despite his aggressively cheerful social media persona.

    Last year I learned that he drank himself to death in his parents home. I wish I’d known. I wish I’d had the chance to talk it through with him… he was bilingual, had three degrees, and a long resume. Surely he could have made it with a little bit of support and insight…

    Quiet desperation… whole swathes of the nation looking for a toe-hold, while many who have one live in fear of the slightest misstep or simple misfortune. Professional life is now akin to the terrifying real-world experience suffered by the refugees of the most benighted parts of our planet – exhausted and ill, clinging to an overcrowded and unseaworthy vessel in a wide open, dark, and stormy sea. Lose your grip, and you are overboard, lost forever… doubly terrifying if you are responsible for other young, innocent, and dependent lives.

    To the young reading this board… you are not crazy, and while there are no doubt individual exceptions, your generation is not “lazy.” Perhaps slime like HRC really don’t get it… but most of us do. I’m saddened that there are no easy answers to a context created by decades of feckless and irresponsible fiscal, monetary, and trade policy foisted on us by our now geriatric leadership. It has been class warfare from start to finish, and it remains class warfare. You are the casualties.

    I would say this: don’t let TPTB convince you to wear their chains. Pare your costs down to nothing. Run opposite of the herd… you’re damned right, what worked for your parents might not work for you. Don’t overlook overseas opportunities… they are out there for the bold. Some nations still offer nigh-free education, and the internet makes it easy to research. There’s the JET program. Learn a boutique language, and you’ll be surprised what opportunities may be available. Student debt can’t follow you there…

    Whatever you do… don’t give up and accept the status quo. You have one life to live. Every aspect of our society – from education, to health care, to real estate, to unpaid internships – has been converted into a rent extraction device. There are places that are not yet so bad…

    Choose the red pill. Don’t let the matrix suck you dry while feeding you a steady opiate of porn, video games, sports channels and music videos.

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