How much money millennials have, compared to what their parents had at the same age

Madeline Heising | Twenty20

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Millennials aren't worth as much as their parents were at the same age.

"While young adults in general do not have much accumulated wealth, millennials have slightly less wealth than boomers did," the Pew Research Center explains in a 2019 report. The median net worth of millennial households was about $12,500 in 2016, while boomers had $20,700 at the same age in 1983. Gen X households had about $15,100 at the same age in 2001. (Pew's analysis of net worth is in 2017 dollars.)

Net worth refers to assets minus liabilities, which is your total savings, including the value of your home, 401(k) and any other assets you may have, minus any debt.

"This modest difference in wealth can be partly attributed to differences in debt by generation," says Pew, which defines millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996, Gen Xers as those born between 1965 and 1980 and Boomers as those born between 1946 and 1964.

Compared with earlier generations, more millennials have student loans: "The share of young adult households with any student debt doubled from 1998 (when Gen Xers were ages 20 to 35) to 2016 (when millennials were that age)."

Millennials also tend to owe more. "The median amount of debt was nearly 50% greater for millennials with outstanding student debt ($19,000) than for Gen X debt holders when they were young ($12,800)," the report says.

While young adults in general do not have much accumulated wealth, millennials have slightly less wealth than boomers did.
Pew Research Center

However, millennials aren't necessarily making more. "The individual earnings for young workers have remained mostly flat over the past 50 years," Pew reports. "Millennials in 2018 had a median household income of roughly $71,400, similar to that of Gen X young adults ($70,700) in 2001."

Plus, life is getting more expensive and salaries aren't going as far as they used to to cover the necessities, let alone the soaring cost of college, housing and child care.

Many millennials, and Americans of all ages, are struggling to get by. Several are turning to part-time gigs or side hustles. About four in 10 Americans hold some kind of second job, according to a 2018 Bankrate survey. That rate is higher among millennials: 51%.

"Young people entering the workforce today are far less likely to earn more than their parents when compared to children born two generations before them," a 2016 analysis from Stanford found. While Americans born in the 1940s had a 90% chance at making more money than their parents, millennials born in the 1980s only have about a 50% chance of doing the same.

As Stanford researcher Raj Chetty put it: "It's basically a coin flip as to whether you'll do better than your parents."

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