Why Gen Y Isn’t So Upbeat After All

Millennials are a lot more worried about the future than you might think. Does it change how you should market to them?

Written by Vanessa Milne for Marketing

Millennials aren’t optimistic about their economic opportunities—and their Boomers parents are even more pessimistic about their kids’ futures, according to a new survey.

The poll, which was created for the Broadbent Institute by Abacus Data and surveyed about 2,000 people, found that 49% of Boomers with millennial kids believed their children’s economic opportunities were worse than theirs. In the 20- to 30-year-old group, 34% believed their options were worse.

Most millennials also think the gap between rich and poor will widen in their lifetime, and their parents are concerned that their children will slip down a class.

“We had a sneaking suspicion that there was a high degree of angst out there regarding the employment prospects of young people,” says Rick Smith, executive director of the institute. “But the depth of the angst surprised us.”

Millennials have been portrayed as lazy and entitled, kids who grew up winning participation awards and expect life to be easy. A Boston Globe op-ed compared them to Trophy Wives; The Globe and Mail recently ran an workplace article titled “How to keep those fickle millennials happy.” It’s a stereotype Smith takes exception to.

“Clearly this is not just the imagination of millennials, that their economic prospects are dim. Their parents, who have a lot more experience in the job market, have also reached this conclusion,” he says.

Special Report: Don’t Be Afraid of Gen Y

One of the major shifts is in job stability; despite their high education levels, only 39% of millennials think they will spend their career in permanent jobs; compared to 66% of Boomers who had done so.

Maybe that’s why they’re shifting priorities—a 2011 Abacus Data survey found that millennials valued money and work-life balance above job security.

The younger generation is also waiting longer to get married, move out and have kids. It’s gotten more difficult to leave the nest, as the average student expects to graduate with $26,000 in debt, and the average house price in Canada has doubled in the past 17 years.

Perhaps that’s why only 33% of those polled in the Broadbent survey think they’ll own a home at retirement, while 52% of Boomers do.

The survey also found that fully 20% of millennials reported they don’t know anyone with an employer pension, which may reflect the general decline in defined-benefit plans. That’s an issue, considering a recent report from TD bank found 34% of millennials found it almost impossible to save.

They’re also worried about the social security net, with 41% of millennials and 56% of their parents concerned that the younger generation won’t be able to pay enough taxes to support the older generation’s social programs.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news: a 2010 Pew survey in the U.S. found that millennials tend to be more open-minded than their elders towards immigration and nontraditional families. They’re also more tech savvy, and some argue that declining economic prospects hold a silver lining—a decrease of materialism that’s been replaced with the drive for meaningful work and a balanced life.

Read: What Millennials Want as They Enter their Family Years

This article originally appeared at

Have you noticed these trends in your own business? How do the preferences of Gen Y consumers shape how you market to them? Share your experiences by commenting below.

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