Cheer Up, Millennials

Public relations specialist Isabelle Novak and her partner. software executive Reid Gridley, both 27, with their dog Freya in their 1911 bungalow in Portland, Oregon on March 13, 2022 They represent a burgeoning population of millennials buying high-end homes across the country. (Leah Nash/Washington Post/Getty Images)

One of the good things about social media is that it can show the current zeitgeist on almost any economic issue. Anodyne tweets on inflation, jobs, supply chains, or any number of other wonky things often elicit, ahem, passionate responses (#engagement) from random others who concur or feel differently. The responses might be factually incorrect, of course, but they do often give a sense of the national mood, especially among people who don’t stare at charts for a living. 

Perhaps no issue elicits more such responses than the finances of millennials (the generation of Americans born between 1981 and 1996), which are widely understood to be just terrible thanks to multiple calamities—war, recession, etc.—occurring during their formative earning years. Post something neutral or (gasp!) even positive about the generation’s economic situation, and you’re sure to be treated to widespread (and often surly) disagreement. Millennials, so the narrative goes, had it particularly rough during the last couple decades and are still struggling today, especially compared with other generations. So just spare them your avocado toast jokes, okay?

A few years ago, such claims were for the most part correct. A global financial crisis, sluggish labor market, inflationary education and housing markets, plus all sorts of political and geopolitical turmoil, surely weighed on many millennials’ financial prospects. But then a funny thing happened: Millennials started getting richer. And today, in fact, they’re doing better in many ways than other generations at the same age. It’s time we updated the narrative accordingly.

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