Unpacking the Surprising Challenges Facing Millennials in 2023

Unpacking the Surprising Challenges Facing Millennials in 2023

It’s no secret that millennials are moving out of the city and back in with their parents. But why are they doing this? Are they lazy?

There are a few reasons why this is happening. However, laziness, entitlement, and a lack of ambition are not among them. These assumptions about millennials are not only vastly inaccurate but also incredibly damaging––and heavily steeped in generational bias.

For years, intergenerational households were the norm. It wasn’t until the post-World War II boom that young adults started leaving the nest in droves, thanks to various factors, including the GI Bill, which made college more accessible; the development of the suburbs; and an overall increase in wealth and opportunity.

But things have changed—a lot.

Not only are millennials facing a different job market than previous generations, but they’re one of the most culturally diverse and educated groups in history. Thus, the increase of multigenerational households is twofold.

On the one hand, you have an increase in those in their 20s and 30s moving back to their childhood homes out of financial necessity. On the other hand, young adults are intentionally choosing to live with their parents (or grandparents) later in life to offer care and support for aging loved ones. And in many cases, it’s a bit of both––especially within the United States.

Axios states, “Nearly 1 in 5 Americans live in a multigenerational household, the highest level in over 50 years.” And that number is only expected to grow. And there are several reasons for this. Here are five of the most common:

1) The high cost of living

When it comes to the cost of living, millennials are getting hit hard.

In cities like San Francisco, New York City, and Seattle, rent, food, and transportation costs can be astronomical. And with wages remaining relatively stagnant, it’s no wonder that more and more within this generation are having to take a few steps back if they want to move forward.

But it’s not just the cost of living in cities driving millennials back home. In August 2021, a typical single-family home in the United States cost $303,288. And one year later, the average price hit an all-time high of over $400,000.

With the cost of homeownership becoming increasingly unattainable, it’s no surprise that many are reconsidering their options and moving back in with family.

Of course, this isn’t to say that all millennials live at home because they can’t afford to live independently. But for those who are, it’s not because they’re lazy or unambitious. It’s because the cards are stacked against them.

And that leads us to our next point.

2) Student loan debt

In the United States, over 44 million people carry more than $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. And the average graduate leaves college with over $28,950.

President Biden’s recent announcement to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt will provide much-needed relief to those struggling to keep up with their payments. But for many, it won’t be enough. If anything, it won’t even make a dent.

Think about it this way: if the average person in their 20s and 30s is strapped with endless amounts of debt, how can they afford to invest in other areas of their lives, like homeownership, starting a family, or even changing careers?

The answer is that they can’t. And that’s problematic for a lot of reasons.

For one, it stunts economic growth.

If people can’t afford to buy their first home, venture into entrepreneurship, or even start investing in the stock market, the economy suffers, and so does society.

And secondly, it keeps them from investing in their own financial future.

For the first time in history, we’re seeing a generation forced to put their lives on hold because of debt. And for many, there’s no end in sight.

3) Job security

For years, people have lived in a world where education, a healthy work ethic, and a bit of luck could guarantee a person a job for life. But that’s no longer the case. The idea of job security is practically non-existent––especially for millennials. And it has nothing to do with a lack of effort.

Studies have shown that millennials are some of the most educated and dedicated workers. But they’re also the most likely to be unemployed or underemployed.

And even those who can secure full-time positions that pay a livable wage are often expected to work 24/7, with little to no room for advancement.

The truth is that 9-5 jobs are a thing of the past––especially when it’s become increasingly common for companies to downsize, outsource, or automate.

This is why, for many millennials, their only option is to freelance, start their own business, or take on multiple jobs to make ends meet.

But even then, there’s no guarantee of stability––which leads us to our next point.

4) Start-up culture

In the 80s, 90s, and even early 2000s, graduates followed the same path: they went to college, got a job, and worked their way up the corporate ladder. But that wasn’t the case for most millennials.

Some were grandfathered into the old system and found stability in traditional work environments. However, that reality was short-lived for many.

After the 2008 recession, the work landscape changed for all generations. And millennials were the most brutal hit.

But, instead of wallowing in self-pity, many packed their bags, set up shop in their parent’s basement, and figured out how to create their opportunities.

In short, their desperation led to innovation.

But that’s not to say that success happened overnight. It wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy to be a millennial entrepreneur. They had (and have) to hustle ten times as hard to get half the recognition. And that’s because they’re up against some serious odds, including:

  • The high costs of starting and running a business
  • Lack of access to funding and resources
  • Constant rejection
  • Economic recessions
  • Political instability

And the list goes on.

They’ve also had to deal with the negative stereotypes and assumptions of being a millennial.

For years, the media perpetuated the false narrative that millennials are lazy, entitled, and narcissistic. And while a small percentage of people fit that description (like in any generation), most millennials are far from it––which leads to the last point.

5) Caregiving

The term “sandwich generation” is often used to describe millennials who care in the position of caregiver to their children and parents. And this is a reality for many millennials.

In fact, according to a recent study by AARP, more than 10 million millennials act as caregivers.

This role often comes with a lot of responsibility, little support, and heavy financial strain. Plus, it also demands a lot of time of sacrifice.

Millennials often have to put their own lives on hold to care for their loved ones.

And not only is this setting them back professionally, but it’s also preventing them from starting their own families or starting their own retirement funds.

It’s no secret that millennials are faced with a lot of challenges. But, as the data shows, they’re not giving up. They’re fighting back and creating their own opportunities––despite the odds being stacked against them.

So, the next time you hear someone say that millennials are lazy or entitled, hand them this article and set the record straight.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments below! And, if you’re a millennial living in an intergenerational household, let us know your experience. We’d love to hear your story.

Here are three other articles to help you understand millennials:

Dr. Colleen Batchelder
As a Leadership Strategist, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, Executive Coach, and National Speaker, I help leaders create companies where Millennials and Generation Z want to work. My doctoral background in leadership and global perspectives also gives me an added edge because I approach generational dissonance from all directions, including from an anthropological, theological, sociological, and ethnographic lens.