Tut-tut, what is the world coming to? This younger generation – pampered, entitled, irresponsible! So many of the baby-boomers are wringing their hands, forgetting that exactly the same complaints were leveled against us by our parents’ generation.

What is the real story on the Millennials, generally defined as people currently age 18-37? A recent article in Barron’s (4/29/2013) provides some interesting data.

First of all, there are a whole bunch of them – 86 million, the largest generation the US has ever seen. They have come of age at a difficult time: wars, mass shootings, terrorist attacks, the financial crisis and its aftermath. Many Millennials have had difficulty launching their careers, which contributes to their reputation of being overgrown adolescents. But in fact they are proving to be a remarkably resilient generation. They are reaching some milestones later than previous generations – first job, marriage, childbearing. But once they get going, their impact on the US economy will be profound.

After being hit hard by the recession, Millennials have recovered 75% of the jobs they lost. Contrary to popular horror stories, most Millennials are not crippled by student debt; the median debt is $14K. Forecasters predict that as their economic situation improves they will move out of their parents’ homes, establish households, have more babies, and buy homes and cars.

Many Millennials do not expect that the government is going to take care of them, so they are saving and investing. Retailers and financial institutions would do well to pay attention to this burgeoning market.

In many ways, the Millennials look increasingly like their parents. But there are three noteworthy differences. They are more politically liberal than previous generations. They are more inter-connected to each other and technology. And in a startling turnaround, Millennial women are more highly educated than their male peers and earn a higher income than their husbands in 1/3 of their marriages.

It’s going to be interesting to watch what happens as they take over the world.

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