Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report
If you want to understand what the U.S. economy may look like in the future, take a look at what millennials – now the largest living generation in the United States – are doing and not doing.
This generationloves technology, and quick, handheld access to the internet has conditioned millennials to value instant gratification. Thanks to smartphones, virtually any question can be answered with a few taps and swipes. Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Twitter, and other businesses succeed by providing instant access to content and information.
Moreover, millennials are embracing technology in a way that is changing how goods and services are bought and sold. Grocery delivery services like Instacart, rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft, and designer apparel leasing company Rent-the-Runway are just a few examples of innovative business models that have been built to cater to the millennial affinity for convenience and preference to borrow rather than own. Millennials aren't just owning fewer cars, it's homes and wedding rings too.
A 2014 Gallup study noted that 59 percent of millennials are single and have never been married. In 2000, that figure was 34 percent. It seems many millennials do not want to be tied down or are nervous about the financial commitment – one explanation being that many carry the burden of high levels of student loan debt.
As millennials marry less, own fewer homes, and embrace the sharing economy, legacy industries that fail to respond to millennials' buying habits could be at risk. Five of the top 14 largest employers in the U.S. are grocery and drug stores – Wal-Mart, Kroger, Target, Albertsons, and Walgreens. The grocery store industry is ripe for millennial abandonment as going to the grocery store hardly plays into the instant gratification and convenience factors millennials value so highly. Online grocery delivery and even the growing popularity of online meal-kit delivery services such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron suggest as much.
As impactful as the millennial generation will be to our economy over the next 30 years, its impact is being hampered by burdensome student loan debt. The statistics are staggering: According to StudentLoanHero.com, Americans have more than $1.45 trillion in outstanding student loan debt – 75 percent more in aggregate than the nation's total outstanding credit card debt. In 2016 the average college graduate walked the stage with more than $37,000 in student loan debt. This is not the “head start” that higher education used to be.
Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of PayPal, has advocated for young people to consider if a four-year college degree is worth the large debt load and lost opportunity costs. Putting his money where his mouth is, Thiel provided 24 college students with $100,000 grants to drop out of college and pursue their business ideas through a Silicon Valley mentorship program.
For those stuck with student loan debt, there are some great resources available. Gradifi is a student loan repayment service provider that allows employers to help employees pay down student loan debt. The company provides an online benefits platform that enables employer contributions to be put toward select employees' student loans as a form of benefits.
SoFi is another innovative online financial solutions provider. With services extending beyond student loan refinancing and into mortgage refinancing, parent loans, and a wealth of personal finance resources, SoFi is positioned as a broad-based financial solutions provider.
In many respects, the millennial generation has the wind in its sails. Rich with time, creativity, and immediate access to information, this generation stands to reshape the economy despite that pesky anchor of student debt offsetting its tailwinds.