“I am very encouraged by millennials and their drive to make the world a better place”, says American businessman and writer John Mackey. Upholding his statement is American writer, television host, director, producer, and transgender rights activist Janet Mock, who states that “millennials are the most woke generation”.
As deciphered, experts from diverse backdrops believe that the free-spirited millennials of today are smarter than ever and can shape society in great ways. But, one cannot dent the fact that this infamous cohort of people born between 1981 and 1996 that we address as millennials has been exposed to two of the world’s most devastating global crisis, the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 and the ongoing unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, which is being deemed as the Great Virus Crisis (GVC).
Today’s True Millennial Chronicle
Undeniably, no age group will escape the pain of the current economic slowdown. But millennials might be the ones to experience the hardest hit. A chunk of this category has been on a much precarious financial footing than their elders, as millennials have relatively low levels of home ownership, net worth, and real income. Let us understand why-
The vulnerable millennials are more likely to get laid off than those in senior positions. Moreover, some millennials who are paying off college debts (probably without savings!) are subject to suffer. Others, who would have been on a verge of building up their savings to perhaps invest in long-term avenues (like buying a house which is deemed to be a key way to build wealth) must have had their worlds in a stand-still, utilising those savings in sustaining a quarantined and locked-down life.
But why this predicament? The rough state of millennials has been predominantly catalysed by the economic downturns and recession phases of 2008 and 2020- the GFC gutted the jobs market for years just when most millennials graduated into the worst jobs market in decades (at its lowest point in February 2010, the US employment had declined by 8.8 million from its pre-recession peak). The ongoing GVC has just begun to show the treacherous repercussions of the invisible enemy (remember when the world’s biggest economy, United States, lost a record 20 million plus jobs in April 2020?).
Not to forget that the GVC has dawned upon while the world was already exposed to trade wars dragging on, yield curve inverting and investors fleeing away to safety. Not to forget, global growth has been slowing and the stock market witnessed its record lows.
Is there a Silver Lining?
One should be optimistic about the sinusoidal fact that economic downturns, though inevitable, are not always severe and in time, fade away.
Even though for millennials, the timing of these two crises has been predominantly detrimental, there is hope. If wage growth suddenly accelerates, urban hubs start to build millions of new homes and the governments announce student-loan debt jubilees, millennials might be in the position to make up for all lost ground.
Another factor likely to play a backstage but pivotal role, which we would like to address is the experience to evil exposure. A survey by Deloitte states that millennials value experiences. One of the smartest, active and with immense vigour to learn, millennials can turn their bad experiences into learnings that pave brighter paths for them. One can even say that having faced two of the biggest black blots in the global economic history, millennials might emerge as the most experienced tribe of these downturns.
Moreover, even when novel coronavirus is a first-time global health disaster that should not be downplayed, it has brought along an array of opportunities- how will the clever millennials fix it? While the only choice is they have to try and do something about it, there is also a deep-rooted confidence about this generation’s ability to gauge current events critically and see what is really going on and what needs to be done.
To add on here, millennials are also the first generation to grow up in a post 9/11 world, the first to grow up with smartphones, the pervasive internet, and social media.
In this backdrop, another aspect that cannot be dismissed is technology- not only is this a high-demand sector positioned to boom in the coming years, millennials are best-suited for jobs in this space than older generations who did not deal with this much or the younger ones, who are still learning.
Speaking about technology, a recent report commissioned by Afterpay Limited (ASX:APT) in Australia revealed that millennials are harnessing new technology to manage their finances closely and almost 1 in 3 millennials use online tools to track their spending while 7% use budgeting apps. The report also found that 72% of millennials research on the go prior to spending, relative to 28% of older Australians. They are increasingly using BNPL as a cheaper alternative to credit cards, which hints that this tribe manages their finances responsibly. The report also suggested that though millennials are savvy spenders, they are 30% more likely to make savings regularly than their parents.
A large, diverse, and economically important group, millennials are key contributors to the global economic growth. Though some may misrepresent them as a young, self-absorbed generation that spends buoyantly (YOLO?), this characterisation is not quite true.
While millennials have been reportedly utilising the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders to learn new skills and enhance their knowledge base, how well they emerge as victorious soldiers with scars of two back-to-back economic crises will not only be an interesting watch, but a fair experience for the Gen Z, who is gearing up behind them to face diverse dynamics of the world.
GOOD READ- Five Smart Investment Tips for Millennials