Updated June 20, 2019

Millennials Age Range and Characteristics

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News headline and cranky uncles love to blame Millennials for just about everything. But who are Millennials? And is everything really their fault? We separate fact from fiction below.

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Generations by the Numbers:

WHO ARE THE MILLENNIALS?

Breaking down generations can get confusing—there's always some overlap as to when one starts and the next begins.

FYI: Generally, the term millennial refers to people between the ages of 19 and 38 in 2019. This group is also called Generation Y, Gen Y, or Generation Next.

Pew Research Center defines Millennials as people born between 1981 and 1996. They are and "the first generation to come of age in the new millennium."

But the United States Census Bureau says Millennials are those born 1982 to 2000.

What's not in dispute? Millennials now number 83.1 million and represent more than one-quarter of the nation's population. This makes them the largest—and most studied—generation to date.

It's tricky business generalizing any group of people, especially those born over a 20-year period. But here are some events that shaped the Millennial generation.

MILLENNIAL LIFE EXPERIENCES

9/11 Terrorist Attacks
Millennials were between 5 and 20 years old during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For the most part, they were old enough to understand the historical significance of the attacks.

In the aftermath, they became focused on community, family, and unity. Millennials grew in the belief that every individual is responsible for defending the world against terrorism and civil issues.

First Black President of the United States
Older millennials helped elect the first black president, Barack Obama. President Obama had historical approval ratings among voters born between 1982 and 2000.

This enthusiasm is said to stem from Obama's promise of change—which included prevalent issues such as:

  • Affordable health care and insurance
  • Interest rates on student loans
  • Job availability
  • Livable wages

Obama also supported (and represented) diversity in the nation. This spoke directly to the Millennial's vision of creating a more tolerant, racially, and ethnically diverse America.

Internet Explosion
The internet explosion began in the 1990s, and Millennials came of age in the middle of this era. Handheld technological devices like smartphones quickly became must-have items.

Millennials became a digitally independent generation, taking these devices everywhere they went. When entering adulthood, they stepped into the "always on" technological environment.

Economic Recession
Millennials entered the workforce during an economic recession. They were particularly hard hit by its effects, especially students who graduated in 2008.

Many citizens dealt with bankruptcy and business/personal property foreclosures. But for young, inexperienced workers, finding a job and becoming independent adults was nearly impossible.

Student Loan Debt
Millennials are stuck in the middle of a student loan debt crisis. NBC news reported in April 2018 that:

  • 49% of African-American Millennials have student loan debt, and
  • 62% of Millennials overall owe more in debt than they have in personal savings.

Student loan debt is directly attributed to the rising cost of higher education, which surpasses the general cost of living and medical expenses. (More on this below.)

Dual-Income Households
Statistically, Millennials are the first generation born and raised in households where both parents worked full-time. This was increasingly necessary in light of rising mortgages, health and medical expenses, and education costs.

The rise in dual-income households began to peak in the early 1980s. Around this time, Millennials left child care (another growing financial demand) and entered elementary school.

Single and Two-Parent Homes
The rise of single-parent families, specifically single-mother households, drastically increased in the early 1990s. Perhaps relatedly, Millennials are having fewer children than older generations. They also have kids later in life.

Children with Schedules
As children, Millennials often had schedules as part of the weekly routines. Activities such as "play dates" and after-school and weekend activities became normal.

This gave rise in part to the term "helicopter parent." Unlike prior generations, parents of Millennials overcompensated for their busy work schedules with over-involvement and connections through technology.

Another hallmark of the Millennial generation? Crushing Debt. Read on to learn more.

MILLENNIAL STUDENT LOAN DEBT

The days of obtaining a high-paying career without a college degree are fading fast. Yet the cost of education continues to skyrocket.

This means most students rely on student loans to pay for their college education. Millennials are marked with the highest student loan debt in history.

Difficulties with repayment are common and vary across race and ethnicity:

For White males ages 18-29:

  • 22% of loans were paid off
  • 69% were current
  • 9% were behind on payments

For Black and Hispanic students ages 18-29:

  • 7% of loans were paid off
  • 68% were current
  • 25% were behind on payments

Check out loan forgiveness and refinance options if you are struggling with student loan debt.

Difficulties in repaying student loans often results in a lack of savings. This, in turn, can increase emergency spending, usually in the form of credit cards.

Keep reading to see the other kind of debt plaguing Millennials.

Credit Card Debt

Due to the astronomical cost of education, many Millennials entered the workforce with more debt than previous generations.

Hourly earnings for millennials are growing at nearly double the national average.

But a huge portion of that income goes to pay student loans. As such, their discretionary income after paying for healthcare, utilities, and groceries is shrinking. This may explain why Millennials have taken on historic credit card debt.

Millennials have even more than student loan debt.

In some cases, Millennials accrue credit card debt when covering for a lack of discretionary income. This may include paying outstanding bills with their cards.

But some credit card debt may also be attributed to social habits.

FYI: A study by Credit Karma/Qualtrics reports that Millennials feel pressured to spend money to release stress. They also spend to keep up with others so they don't lose friends.

Whatever the root, student loan and credit card debt prevent Millennials from building substantial savings. This hinders their ability to buy a car or even a home. In fact, 67% of millennials on average have less than $1,000 in their savings account. 40% have no savings at all.

How do Millennials spend their money? Read on.

SPENDING HABITS

Millennials tend to be less brand loyal, but more fashion and style conscious. They feel compelled to keep up with the latest trends to remain connected with friends.

They are smart shoppers when they purchase merchandise. Most Millennials shop online and compare product value to price to get the best value. They also buy less "stuff overall."

On the flip side, they tend to spend big on the newest and best in technology and experiences.

Millennials are also surprisingly good savers, even if they don't have much to save. Many are slow to move out of their parents' homes to keep rent and mortgage payments off their list of monthly expenses. This allows them to save some money, even with their debt.

By saving, they can slowly gain the ability to purchase brand new cars, save for retirement, and save for home purchases.

MILLENNIAL EMPLOYMENT HABITS

In 2016, Millennials comprised the largest percentage of the United States labor force. Their wages increase faster than the national average as a whole. But they make less money than other wage-earners.

How do Millennials combat today's poor wages?
One recent study found that a large chunk of college graduate Millennials are flocking to West Coast tech hubs in hopes of higher salaries.

Another state, Texas, has also witnessed population growth as technology centers have shifted to major cities within the state—and Millennials follow.

Are Millennials job hoppers?
In 1983, 1 in 3 workers aged 35 to 44 worked for the same employer 10 years or longer, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Workers aged 45 and older worked for the same employer for 20 years or more.

In 2018, BLS reported wage and salary workers had been with their current employer for 4.2 years.

So why do Millennials frequently change jobs?
Many Millennials, especially those who graduated in and near 2008, experienced economic recession. Everything crashed at that time and layoffs ran rampant.

Wages since have largely stagnated, coupled with growing student loan debt rates and a rapidly increasing cost of living. Millennials feel they must fight for the best pay. This fight results in switching employers more quickly than their predecessors.

What do Millennials look for in a workplace?
Millennials resist being defined by their jobs, considering that they do not stick with employers for 10 to 30 years like previous generations.

Instead, they want to feel happiness in a "social" workplace—a place where there is virtually no line between personal and professional self.

Consider today's office open floor plan:

  • The sharing of desks and equipment.

  • Flexible working hours.

  • Significant social interaction.

Now compare this to the office cubicle world of the 1970s and 1980s:

  • Break time was scheduled and limited.

  • Collaboration between employees was stifled between cubicle walls.

  • Dress codes were strict.

Old-school employers focused on developing employee skills, not on creating a sense of happiness in the workplace.

How do Millennials compare to previous generations?

Millennials also work now to achieve different goals than their parents. This article from The Frugal Gene discusses how modern economics have changed what millennials expect from their working lives.

GENERATION COMPARISON

While it's unfair to overgeneralize, each generation is shaped by a unique set of experiences. Here's a brief overview.

Traditionalists

  • Born: 1900-1945, came of age 1918-1963
  • Age in 2019: 74-118
  • Percent of U.S. Population: 9% and declining
  • Other Names: The Depression Era, World War II, Post-War Cohort, Veterans, Silent, Moral Authority, Radio Babies, The Forgotten Generation (several generations are commonly linked together as the "Traditionalists" generation.)
  • Life Influences: WWII, Korean War, Great Depression, Nuclear War Threat
  • Main Life Focus: Task-minded, oriented to getting the task done before pleasure in life.
  • Work Ethic and Values: Dedicated and morally obligated. Work hard and respect authority. Company loyalty comes first. Age equal to seniority on the job. Respected authority.
  • Spending Habits: Conservative and compulsive spenders. Stored and stocked purchases, mainly food, in an effort to prepare for emergencies or difficult financial situations. Purchases geared towards leaving a legacy for future generations.
  • Retirement: Retire after approximately 30 years on the job. Live off pension and savings.

Baby Boomers

  • Born: 1946-1964, came of age 1964-1982
  • Age in 2019: 54-72
  • Percent of U.S. Population: 23%
  • Other Names: Boomers II, "Me" Generation, Moral Authority
  • Life Influences: Vietnam War, Cold War, Sexual Revolution, Cold War/Russia, Space Travel, Growing Divorce Rate, Kennedy and Martin Luther King Assassinations
  • Main Life Focus: Monetary results from hard work. Inventors of the 50-hour work week. Resisted authority. Relationships are important but the work/life balance was not a focus.
  • Work Ethic and Values: Worked long hours. Identified self-worth with work. Focused on quality of work. Driven.
  • Spending Habits: Big spenders. Brand loyalty—once they find a brand they like, they stick with it. Lack of savings—lack of retirement investment. Luxury vacations—expected to continue in upcoming years. New car purchases, topping other generations in the U.S. Was not beneath them to begin adult life with second-hand furniture and household items, but were the first generation to increasingly buy and build new homes. Buy now, pay later generation.
  • Retirement: Due to lack of savings, first generation to continue working at least part-time to fund retirement age.

Generation X

  • Born: 1965-1980, came of age 1983-1998
  • Age in 2019: 39-54
  • Percent of U.S. Population: 15%
  • Other Names: Gen X, Post Boomers, 13th Generation, Xers
  • Life Influences: Watergate, Energy Crisis, Dual Income and Single Parents, Increased Divorce Rate
  • Main Life Focus: Value work/life balance. Prefer diversity, technology, informality, and fun. Resist traditional rules.
  • Work Ethic and Values: Not focused on advancement. More concerned about work/life balance. Prefer casual work environment. Move easily between jobs. Want to get the job done and move on to the next thing.
  • Spending Habits: Value saving money. Purchase online and do comparison shopping. Consider personal values when deciding on purchases. Become brand loyal after experiencing value and personalized experience. A higher focus on technology purchases, compared to prior generations.
  • Retirement: Not proven yet, but plans include saving money and retiring early. Prefer a variety of experiences and may change careers more than once before retiring. May take a stretch of time off from work before retirement.

Millennials

  • Born: 1981-2000, came of age 1999-2018
  • Age in 2019: 19-38
  • Percent of US. Population: 25%
  • Other Names: Generation Y, Gen Y, Generation Next, Echo Boomers, Chief Friendship Officers, 24/7s
  • Life Influences: School Shootings, Terrorist Attacks, AIDS, 9/11, Children of Divorce, Economic Expansion, Children with Busy Schedules
  • Main Life Focus: Relationships. Friendship. Family. Equality and respect. Diversity.
  • Work Ethic and Values: Earn larger income but commit fewer hours compared to predecessors. Believe in a team effort, with creative and bright people. Prefer interactive work environment. Support working from home, entrepreneurship.
  • Spending Habits: Trendy spenders. Keep up with the latest as an effort to remain in-sync with friends. To experience happiness, partake in trendy experiences. Prefer to shop online and compare pricing versus shopping at traditional department stores. Typically live minimalist lifestyle to enable high cost and quality purchases. Purchase the latest and newest in technology.
  • Retirement: Not determined yet, but expected to mirror Generation X.

Who are the younger generations?
Children born after 2001 are known as the iGeneration and Generation Z. This group ends with birth years in the early 2012s.

The social and economic outlook for Generation Z is not decided. They are just beginning to step into the workforce and secondary education.

Bottom Line

Millennials may seem unique compared to prior generations, but they have similar economic dreams. It's just taking this economically-challenged generation longer to achieve them.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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