Archive for February, 2012

Who Moved My Life?

The generation  raised to change the world finds the game changed on them

Primarily the children of Boomers, Gen Y inherited the Great Expectations gene. Then, just as they were stepping up to the major markers of adult life, they got the old switcheroo. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic describes their deal gone bad: “With education comes opportunity. That’s the deal, as this generation understood it. Now, they’re the highest-educated generation in American history, and they’ve graduated into…this.”

“This” is, of course, the Great Recession, and all the economic and social change that came with it is felt most fundamentally by the generation just launching into adult life. It’s a stunning irony that the generation that grew up in one of the longest, broadest periods of economic expansion graduated into the deepest recession since the 30s. They went from the “psychology of affluence” to the “psychology of broke” with head-spinning swiftness.

So, how is this hardwired-for-optimism generation doing?

Flickr image: Scarleth White

The short answer: they’re hitting the pause button but remaining positive.

A recent Pew study highlights the strategies and attitudes of America’s 18- to 34-year-olds:

Signs of slow-mo strategies…% of adults 18-34 saying they have done the following:
35% have gone back to school
24% have taken an unpaid job
24% moved back in with parents
22% postponed having a baby
20% postponed getting married

And in a nod to reduced expectations…
49% have taken a job just to pay the bills

Despite it all, Gen Y is upbeat about tomorrow. Most young adults – 68% – don’t feel they have the resources to live the life they want now.  But among those employed, 89% say they will have enough income in the future. Even among the unemployed, 75% see enough resources to match their idea of the good life down the road. (Pew Research Feb 2012)

SCAN findings confirm Gen Y’s optimism in the face of altered realities. They may be the generation hit hardest by the Great Recession, but they are also the most confident.

% strongly agree: “No matter what comes my way, I’m sure I can handle it.”

Gen Y 76%
Gen X 71%
Boomers 70%
Total Adults 70%

(DYG SCAN® 2011. DYG Gen Y definition: adults ages 24-35)

Business Implications: For marketers, the delay – or rejection – of adulthood milestones such as marriage, home ownership, or having children means the evaporation of consumer spending that goes along with them. Fortunately, confident, ever-resourceful Gen Y is creating work-arounds to find ways of experiencing a good life now. Gen Y might be delaying traditional signs of adulthood, but life goes on. As does spending and dreaming – even if in a new framework with different needs and opportunities.

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