37% of Millennials Think They’re Doing Worse Than Their Peers, but Even More Think They’re Coming Out on Top

Happy Money in the Media Monday All! This week we’re looking at comparison culture in a Business Insider article called, “37% of Millennials Think They’re Doing Worse Than Their Peers, but Even More Think They’re Coming Out on Top.” Does it make sense to compare ourselves to others if we only do so with other in our own generation? Let’s take a look.

This article discusses one piece of the results from a survey conducted by Insider and Morning Consult. This piece discusses whether millennials think they are doing better or worse than their generational peers. On the positive side, there are more millennials that think they are doing better than their peers than not. This is a good thing at least for morale, however, these may not be apple to apple comparisons.

A Generation Divided

Within the same generation, there are differences. The article makes the interesting point that the Great Recession divided the millennial generation by those that were in the job market or entering the job market in the worst of conditions and those that were able to enter during the recovery period. This may seem like a small difference, but the effects can be long lasting.

Let’s take, Bob, a 32 year old, who graduated college in 2009 with $30,000 in debt and they couldn’t find a job in his field for two years while the economy recovered. Over those two years, he was able to defer his repayment on his student loans and work some odd jobs, but still ended up in another $10,000 in personal debt trying to make ends meet over that time. By the end of that 2 years, he would have a total of ~$42,500 in debt by the time he was able to get his career going.

Now, let’s take Brian, a 28 year old, who graduated in 2013 in a much better job market also with $30,000 in debt. He found a job making $50,000/yr within the first month after graduation and was able to start making loan payments of say $250/month right away. On top of this, he was able to start saving 6% in his 401K with a 3% match from his employer. At the end of 2 years after Brian’s graduation, he has now paid down his student loan balance to $26,500 and his savings has gone from 0 to $9,800 in that time. Bringing Brian’s total debt down to just $16,700.

That’s a $25,800 difference just due to being able to find a job within that 2 years. Not to mention the mental toll that Bob had to go through as his debts increased and he was not able to find work for those two years. It’s differences like that that make it hard to compare all millennials even though they’re within just a few years of each other.

We Need to Talk About Money More

As for the 37% that believe that they’re not doing as well as their peers. Many said that they felt like they were in a bad position and if they didn’t know of anyone else in that position, they just assumed that it was just them. This is an isolating thought process that can lead not just to furthering money problems, but also lack of self esteem and depression.

Odds are that the friends of these millennials also have their own money struggles, but they’re just not talking about it. In a world of Instagram and Facebook posts about how amazing everyone’s lives are it can be hard to even get others to open up about their struggles. However, that’s exactly why we all need to do just that.

Sharing tales of woe, as well as tales of triumph can help us and those around us improve our situations together. Also, once we know that we’re not the only ones in debt or working to save towards a large goal, we won’t feel bad suggesting cheaper hangout ideas, like pot lucks instead of meals out. These ideas would most likely even be welcomed! Keeping our financial troubles a secret can cause us to spend more by trying to fit into a situation instead of changing it to better not only our budget, but everyone’s.

Do you talk about finances with your friends and family? If so, has it helped you on your financial journey? If not, why not? Let me know in the comments below!