One report last year pegged the unemployment rate among millennials at more than 15 percent, and another estimated millennials made up about 40 percent of all unemployed Americans—or about 4.6 million.
The competitive job market has prompted millennials to pursue degrees in larger numbers – they are the most educated of any generation. But those degrees have come at a steep price. The Project on Student Debt found the average debt load carried by last year's class of four-year nonprofit college grads was $28,400, roughly 50 percent more than a decade ago. And the degrees (even advanced ones) have proven no guarantee for a well-paying job.
"Millennials are facing strong headwinds in securing satisfactory careers," said Peter Miller, certified financial planner and president of Zoe Wealth Management in Charlotte, N.C. They're also entering the workforce at a time when pensions are fading away, and unlike their parents, they're wary of depending on Social Security payments to cover expenses later in life, he said.
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But that may prove to be a blessing. Their pessimism has prompted many to start saving earlier and to participate more in their retirement savings accounts than baby boomers did at their age. According to a Transamerica Center fore Retirement Studies report, 70 percent of millennials are already saving for retirement in a company-sponsored 401(k) or a similar plan or outside the workplace.
True, unemployment and underemployment can affect their access to retirement accounts like 401(k)s and, of course, their ability to save much. Yet millennials remain optimistic about their ability to save.
Seventy-two percent of millennials are confident they will be able to save enough to create the lifestyle they want in the future, and 68 percent expect their standard of living before retirement to be better than their parents, according to a recent Wells Fargo survey.
And advisors say millennials have reason to be upbeat about their long-term prospects. For one, time is on their side. They've also got an awareness of the importance of saving early for retirement. In the Wells Fargo survey, 80 percent said the Great Recession had taught them they need to save now to be prepared for economic problems down the road, and 55 percent were already saving.