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Millennials and debt — a shift in mindset

Millennials and debt — a shift in mindset - TaxAct Blog

Millennials are special – and not just because we were all raised getting gold stars. The generation is refusing to adhere to the American society’s traditional checklist of life events. This is partly thanks to the average graduate’s $30,000 of student loans.

It’s also due to a shift in mindset towards debt and how to live life.

Debt isn’t necessary

It sounds peculiar to say – but student loans have turned this generation against the idea of debt. Putting such a huge burden on the shoulders of 18 to 22 year olds before they even earn a real paycheck creates quite the backlash when they get out into the “real world.”

The dreaded feeling of paying down student loans has led many to begin thinking it doesn’t have to be this way. Tweet this

It’s soured many millennials against debt, which in turn delays other life milestones.

Sure, some are going to take the mindset that debt is inevitable and the only way to afford a car or a house or even a wedding is to take on more loans.

The enlightened millennial – if you will – recognizes there are ways to get out of debt fast and leave it behind for good. Tweet this

The rise in side hustles

The days of working one 9-to-5 job are slowly fading away. Millennials are taking on more than one job in order to get aggressive with paying off loans or simply because they can’t afford life with just one paycheck.

Side hustles are jobs done in addition to a regular paycheck. These jobs also help recession proof a generation that feels job security is a historic relic, never to return.

If you lose one stream of income, at least there is another to help you get by until you find a new job.

Generation freelancers

Gone is the era of being a company man (or woman) and dedicating your career to rising the ranks in a particular organization.

Millennials know that companies aren’t loyal to them, so why should they be loyal to companies? The thought that even working a desk job won’t keep you financially safe has created a generation of freelancers and entrepreneurs.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that the need for a second job in order to pay down debt, or simply get by, often turns into a secondary career that then leads to becoming your own boss.

With studies estimating 40 percent of the workforce will be freelance by 2020, it’s not a bad idea to get a jump-start on building your niche.

Why millennials aren’t married (for now)

Not too long ago it was completely taboo for unmarried couples to share the same address. These days, the generation phasing into the “marrying age” are likely to be co-habitating with a partner (or several different ones) before settling down.

This freedom to live with another person without a marriage certificate delays a need to get married. It also helps couples address potential issues in a marriage – like their finances.

With the average millennial carrying student loan debt, it’s increasingly uncommon that a millennial couple can avoid the shackles of creditors.

Delaying marriage can also be a reaction to the feeling of needing to get your financial house in order.

In a survey conducted by All State and National Journal Heartland Monitor, 69 percent of Americans aged 18 – 24 and 68 percent of Americans aged 25 – 29 felt consumer and non-mortgage debt impacted their decisions about major life milestones like marriage and home ownership.

It’s understandable that millennial couples would want to feel their finances, especially debts, are under control before being legally linked to one another.

According to Pew Research Center, millennials are also going to set a generational record with 25 percent never getting married at all.

The rationale behind avoiding a mortgage

It’s Generation Rent.

Millennials are not wildly interested in home ownership as early in life as previous generations because it just doesn’t feel possible to make a mortgage payment with a few hundred dollars a month already going to toward student loans.

But it isn’t just about the affordability factor.

Renting provides the ability to easily move for job opportunities and makes it more affordable to live in desirable big cities where home ownership is cost prohibitive.

That’s not to say the generation will never buy homes. Studies have shown many millennials still believe homeownership is the right move, but debt loads and non-traditional jobs like freelancing make it harder to get approved for an affordable mortgage.

Debt isn’t holding millennials back

Debt, while a massive pain, isn’t holding the millennial generation back. Instead, it’s changing the way 20-somethings think about the future and are electing to try and control their fates in a new way.

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About Erin Lowry

Erin is a millennial personal finance expert and the founder of BrokeMillennial.com. She's also the author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together. Lowry and her work have been featured on CBS Sunday morning, CNBC, Fox & Friends, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan and NBC News. Connect with Erin on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.