Millennials Are a Trillion Dollars in Debt. Why Are They So Broke?

By Chloe Anagnos

Young people were never as deep in debt as they are now, a new New York Federal Reserve report claims. And while there are plenty of factors that led to the current crisis, there are some underlying economic problems that have made this situation worse.

But are young people aware of that reality? According to experts, the answer is yes. However, they seem to have only realized things weren’t going to be easy a bit too late. Now they are stuck with loans they can't afford and degrees they often have no use for.

In the recently released report, the Fed claimed millennials are now over $1 trillion in debt, a 22 percent increase from just five years ago. This record-shattering increase puts millennials in a bad place when compared to other generations. Perhaps it is precisely because they were particularly unequipped to take on the world that they are now much more conservative with their money than their elders.

“College for All”

To Americans born between 1981 and 1996, life hasn’t always been easy.

They experienced one of the biggest economic crashes in history as teenagers or young adults, all the while benefiting from an era of advanced technology that other generations only had a glimpse of much later in life. Furthermore, they learned the hard way that pursuing a college degree isn’t for everyone — a pursuit that has undoubtedly contributed to their debt.

As a matter of fact, a recent Department of Education report shows that student-loan debt is over 300 percent greater among millennials than other generations. Millennials are also the most committed to higher education of all generations, with the number of people between 25 and 29 years of age with a four-year degree growing 25 percent between 2001 and 2016.

On the other hand, credit card debt among millennials is about two-thirds that of members of Generation X while mortgage debt is 15 percent lower for millennials.

While experts see this dedication to education as a conservative investment strategy, it might just be the result of an overly bloated market — and one that was not caused by healthy demand, but by government’s obsession with making higher education a “right.”

With its heavy-handed involvement in the college business, the government has created an artificial demand for college degrees that have pushed the cost of pursuing higher education to levels never seen before. Unfortunately, millennials grew up in an America where politicians promised them everyone had a right to a college degree. And by making it the government’s job to facilitate this process, these same politicians made young people's lives a living hell thanks to their student-loan debt.

If the government hadn’t made it so easy for students to access loans, would millennials be as enamored with higher education as they’ve become?

What Happened to Personal-Finance Classes?

Across the U.S., only five states require kids to take personal finance classes. They are Utah, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri. This means that only 16.4 percent of all American students are required to learn how to handle money in school.

But lack of financial education at school might not be the only culprit, as kids aren’t learning much about money from their parents either.

According to Business Insider, only 24 percent of millennials demonstrate "basic" financial knowledge. So it’s no wonder that when considering what to do with their lives after high school, so many students go for the easy route and take on a cheap student loan. Unfortunately, they often end up pursuing a degree that isn't worth much in the end.

As you can see, lack of basic financial grasp coupled with government’s misguided policies has resulted in a catastrophe. It is high time young people understand this reality. Perhaps this awareness could really come in handy as younger Americans now consider their options.

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Chloe Anagnos

Chloe Anagnos is AIER's Publications Manager. She is a writer and digital marketer and has been an AIER contributor since 2017. Her work has been the subject of articles in FOX News, USA Today, CNN Money, and WIRED. She has been a writer, commentator, and panelist for media outlets around the country on subjects like political marketing, campaigning, and social media. Follow @ChloeAnagnos.