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Gen Y Finances: Not as Bad as Everyone Thinks?

The financial picture isn't exactly rosy for any demographic group at the moment, but a recent study by Western Union suggested that things are particularly grim for Gen Y. Plenty of blogs trumpeted the findings, including that one third of 20-somethings reported a worsening of their financial situation in the last six months, and half are stressed about their finances.

Of course this isn't the first round of hand-wringing about the financial fate of those starting their careers in the midst of a severe recession. I've written about the rising tide of student debt several times (mostly because it's a much moaned about reality among my Gen Y friends), and USA Today reported a think tank study that concluded all this debt means "their generation is the first in a century that is unlikely to end up better off financially than their parents." The Atlantic produced this frankly terrifying piece on the long term impact of the recession on young adults.

But not everyone is buying this gloom and doom. Blog Marketing Tea Party (no connection to the political group) for one took a look at Western Union's numbers, flipped them on their head and shrugged. If half of Gen Y is stressed about money, that means half still isn't. Is that such a bad percentage in this economy? Would the numbers be better for any other age cohort? Take a look at some more flipped statistics from the Western Union survey:


  • Two-thirds of Gen Yers' finances have not worsened.
  • Seven in ten Gen Yers don't have difficulty managing their spending.
  • Nearly three-quarters of Gen Yers have never been turned down for a loan.
  • 40 percent of Gen Yers will graduate with no debt.
  • A whopping 89 percent of Gen Yers don't expect to be worse off than their parents.
The blog concludes:

My point here is two-fold: First, that market research statistics are very open to interpretation. And second, everybody's got it bad financially right now. Personally, I feel a lot more sympathy for Gen Xers who are supposed to be reaching the peak of their earning potential, and the ones most likely to have kids' college funds they're trying to saving for, and paying mortgages, etc. If you're 24, single, and have no kids -- you've got plenty of time to ride out the bottom of the economic cycle.

How pessimistic are you about the financial future of Gen Y, and do you think they'll pay a higher price in the long term due to the Great Recession than other groups?

(Image of measly savings by Iain Farrell, CC 2.0)