Millennials are doing far worse financially than generations before them, with student loans, rising rents and higher health care costs pushing the average net worth below $8,000, a new study shows.
The net worth of Americans aged 18 to 35 has dropped 34 percent since 1996, according to research released Thursday by Deloitte, the accounting and professional services giant. This demographic is paying more for education and such basics as food and transportation while incomes have largely flatlined.
“The vast majority of consumers are under tremendous financial pressure,” said Kasey M. Lobaugh, Deloitte’s chief retail innovation officer and lead author of the study. “That is particularly true for low-income Americans and millennials.”
The growing gap between the nation’s wealthiest residents and everybody else, he said, is affecting the way consumers spend.
Education expenses have climbed 65 percent in the past decade. Food costs have jumped 26 percent, health care is up 21 percent, housing jumped 16 percent and transportation rose 11 percent. And there are now expenses that most consumers didn’t have to account for 20 years ago, including smartphones and data plans.
Today’s 20- and 30-somethings spend about 17 percent of their incomes on education, health care and rent, compared with 12 percent a decade ago, the study found. Discretionary spending, which includes dining out, alcohol and furniture, has remained largely flat, at about 11 percent of total income.
“Only 20 percent of consumers were meaningfully better off in 2017 than they were in 2007, with precious little income left to spend on discretionary retail,” the study found.
The findings, researchers say, “debunk many conventional wisdoms about the new-age consumer.” Millennials, they contend, are putting off home-buying and marriage not because they want to, but because rising costs are making it difficult for them to afford down payments and weddings.
“The narrative out there is that millennials are ruining everything, from breakfast cereal to weddings, but what matters to consumers today isn’t much different than it was 50 years ago,” Lobaugh said. “Generally speaking, there have not been dramatic changes in how consumers spend their money.”
Overall, U.S. retail spending has grown about 13 percent since 2005, to roughly $3 trillion a year, but researchers say much of that growth is tied to population growth, not consumers spending more.
In the past decade, the nation’s highest earners — households making $100,000 or more — watched their incomes rise 1,305 percent more than those in households making less than $50,000 a year.
There is one area, though, where consumers are spending less than they once did: Clothing. Shoppers are spending half as much on apparel as they did a decade ago, even as they buy more items, the study found.
Lobaugh said the reasons for that shift are both economic and cultural. Retailers are churning out cheaper clothing and selling it at lower prices as they try to compete with fast-fashion chains like H&M and Zara. At the same time, American are buying more casual and athletic wear, which tends to be cheaper than business suits and formal wear.
On the surface, water bottles as totems of consumer aspiration sound absurd: If you have access to water, you can drink it out of so many things that already exist in your home. But if you dig a little deeper, you find that these bottles sit at a crossroads of cultural and economic forces that shape Americans’ lives far beyond beverage choices. If you can understand why so many people would spend 50 bucks on a water bottle, you can understand a lot about America in 2019.
The first time I coveted a water bottle was in 2004. When I arrived as a freshman at the University of Georgia, I found that I was somehow the last person alive who didn’t own a Nalgene. The brand’s distinctive, lightweight plastic bottles had long been a cult-favorite camping accessory, but in the mid-2000s, they exploded in popularity beyond just outdoorsmen. A version with the school’s logo on it cost $16 in the bookstore, which was a little steep for me, an unemployed 18-year-old, but I bought one anyway. I wanted to be the kind of person all my new peers apparently were. Plus, it’s hot in Georgia. A nice water bottle seemed like a justifiable extravagance.
Around the same time, I remember noticing the first flares of another trend intimately related to the marketability of water bottles: athleisure. All around me, stylish young women wore colorful Nike running shorts and carried bright plastic Nalgenes to class. “With Millennials, fitness and health are themselves signals,” says Tülin Erdem, a marketing professor at NYU. “They drink more water and carry it with them, so it’s an item that becomes part of them and their self-expression.”
.. Kauss says she always knew the bottle’s appearance would be important, even though positioning something as simple as a water bottle as a luxury product was a bit of a gamble. “As I moved up in my career, I was upgrading my wardrobe, and the bottle that looked like a camping accessory really didn’t serve my purpose anymore,” she says. When she noticed fashionable New Yorkers were carrying luxe disposable plastic bottles from brands such as Evian and Fiji, she realized reusable bottles could use a makeover, too.
.. Kauss and her contemporaries struck at the right time. The importance of fitness and wellness were starting to gain a foothold in fashionable crowds, and concerns over consumer waste and plastic’s potential to leach chemicals into food and water were gaining wider attention. People wanted cute workout gear, and they wanted to drink water out of materials other than plastic. Researchers have found that the chance to be conspicuously sustainability-conscious motivates consumers, especially when the product being purchased costs more than its less-green counterparts.
.. For a lot of people, they spark a little bit of joy in the otherwise mundane routine of work, exercise, and personal hygiene. For a generation with less expendable income than its parents’, a nice bottle pays for itself with a month of consistent use and lets you feel like you’re being proactive about your health and the environment.
Trust and cooperation are not standard in our organizations and yet we know they should be. There are two attributes that every single leader has the opportunity to possess that will help them create the types of organizations we would be proud to call our own. Those two attributes are EMPATHY & PERSPECTIVE.
Maximizing shareholder value is like a coach prioritizing the fans over the players.
When asked recently who Republicans should fear most in the 2020 presidential campaign, two prominent GOP figures, both women speaking independently of each other, gave the same response: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
A third Republican, a male, asked which kind of candidate Democrats should want, replied: “They need a boring white guy from the Midwest.”
So, there you have it: The dream ticket of Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Case closed, cancel the primaries, on to the general election.
So if all that creates an opportunity for Democrats in 2020, here’s their dilemma: Can they pick a candidate who can blend the party’s conflicting impulses?
This may seem a long ways off, but the reality is that most Democrats thinking of running for president—and the number probably runs into the 20s—plan to make their decision over the next several weeks, so they can move out starting in early 2019.
.. The winning lottery ticket, of course, goes to somebody who can appeal to both. And that’s why Ms. Klobuchar’s name—and profile—attract attention. She’s a woman, obviously, which is important at a time when newly energized women are a growing force within the party. She pleased her party base in the hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh when she challenged him about his use of alcohol, but did so in a sufficiently calm and understated manner that she won an apology from Mr. Kavanaugh after he initially responded angrily.
.. She also won re-election this year with more than 60% of the vote in the one state Trump forces lost in 2016 but think they have a legitimate chance to flip their way in 2020.
.. The question is whether she or anyone can put together a policy agenda that pleases both party liberals, who are pushing for
- a Medicare-for-all health system,
- the demise of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement system and an
- aggressive new climate-change action plan, and more moderate Midwestern voters, who may be scared off by all of those things.
Ms. Klobuchar’s policy priorities may suggest a path. To address health care, the top priority of Democratic voters, she advocates a step-by-step approach, one that seeks to
- drive down prescription drug costs by opening the door to less-expensive drugs from Canada,
- protect and improve the Affordable Care Act, and
- expand health coverage by considering such steps as allowing more Americans to buy into the Medicare system.
.. She’s talked of a push to improve American infrastructure that would include expanding rural Americans’ access to broadband service, paying for it by rolling back some—though not all—of the tax cuts Republicans passed last year. She pushes for more vigorous antitrust enforcement, more protections for privacy and steps to curb undisclosed money in politics
.. For his part, Sen. Brown, a liberal who this year won Ohio as it otherwise drifts Republican, offers a working-class-friendly agenda that combines progressive impulses for government activism to drive up wages with Trumpian skepticism about trade deals and corporate outsourcing.