Young People Don't Feel They'll Have a Better Life Than Their Parents — Here's Why

A report from the 'Financial Times' details the concerns that young people, especially millennials, have regarding their futures.

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By Justin Chan

Young people under 35 are feeling less optimistic that they'll be better off than their parents down the road, according to a report from the Financial Times.

Far fewer American millennials are making more than their parents at the same age, the publication notes. In 1940, for instance, more than 80% of children earned higher wages than their parents at the same age. That figure has dipped over the following decades; by 1984, there was only a 50% chance that children would out-earn their parents at the same age.

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Today, millennials across the globe are expressing concern that their future isn't as bright as what they were told. One 34-year-old Londoner, Akin Ogundele, told the Times that his number-one concern was being able to pass on assets to his children, despite having a good job in the financial sector.

"If I carry on the way I am, I'm not sure what I'll be able to pass down," he said. "It can't be good for the country — the disparities are just going to grow, the wealthy are going to grow wealthier and those that aren't will get more and more removed."

A survey of 1,700 people across the world (from South Africa to China) by the Times found that, while a majority of millennials acknowledge that they have more access to educational, mental health and travel opportunities compared to previous generations, they are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. Those issues include rising rent and tuition, job competition and climate change.

Young people are also concerned that generational wealth is contributing to a larger disparity between the rich and poor. As the Times points out, as older generations amass more wealth, "Average inheritances compared to lifetime income for the 1980s-born will be almost double that of the 1960s-born." In other words, social mobility today has become incredibly limited by the fact that those with wealthy parents have much more to gain than those without, many respondents feel.

"I am now a director of two successful companies, one startup and one reasonably sized mineral exploration company," one person in Vienna, Liam Hardy, told the Times. "Even with these respectable positions, I wouldn't have got here without having affluent and supportive grandparents. It would have been impossible to provide startup capital or take the time to develop these businesses entirely on my own back."

Respondents in France, Hungary, Italy and South Korea, in particular, were more pessimistic about being better off than their parents, the Times notes. Over 60% of people in those countries believed that they were less likely than their parents to hold a secure job. In Hungary alone, 75% of respondents said they were less likely their parents to live comfortably in retirement.

Moreover, millennials' share of household worth remains significantly low compared to their baby boomer counterparts. Last year, millennials in their early 30s owned just 3% of all household wealth. On the other hand, baby boomers entered their 30s owning 21% of household wealth in the 1990s. That percentage rose to 57% in 2020.

The financial struggles young people face have been further compounded by the financial crisis that occurred in 2008. In countries like Spain, France and Italy, the employment rate of those between ages 15 and 24 since 2008 has been stagnant. Less than 30% of people within the aforementioned age bracket have been employed, the Times points out.

"The older generation does not understand our timidity, insecurity and frustration," a 26-year-old in Turkey told the publication.

"I have a professional job and [my parents] didn't," a corporate lawyer from London added. "[But] In terms of . . . the full-belly feeling of knowing your children will have a better future than you? Not so much."

Justin Chan

Entrepreneur Staff

News Writer

Justin Chan is a news writer at Previously, he was a trending news editor at Verizon Media, where he covered entrepreneurship, lifestyle, pop culture, and tech. He was also an assistant web editor at Architectural Record, where he wrote on architecture, travel, and design. Chan has additionally written for Forbes, Reader's Digest, Time Out New YorkHuffPost, Complex, and Mic. He is a 2013 graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where he studied magazine journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @jchan1109.

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