You’re a Millennial who is finally starting to find your place in this crazy little world. Armed with your grownup job and ability to pay your bills on time, life is swell. Just when everything is falling into place, someone you know innocently asks the question you fear answering the most: “When are you going to settle down?” There is never an easy “one size fits all” answer, and more often than not, older generations have already postulated as to why the “me” generation is holding off on saying “I do”.
The general consensus of older generations is that they’re: lazy, immature, financially irresponsible children who are shirking the necessary responsibilities of life. Reality is that Gen Y has more on their minds than the pursuit of holy matrimony. There are more obstacles and avenues that 20-somethings face that vastly differ than that of their older counterparts. What is going on with Millennials that are keeping them so preoccupied? While no generation in its entirety is perfect, Gen Y has a few things stacked against them that contribute to the marriage debate.
Millennials are on target to have the highest attainment of undergraduate degrees than any other generation. Consequently, in conjunction with having that achievement, they have an egregious amount of student loans and debt to show for it. Dating is already a tough gig and monetary issues do not help in the quest to find “the one”. No one wants to bring a substantial amount of debt into a relationship. It’s true that Gen Y is holding off on going down the aisle, but with the average student loan debt at the end of 2013 being $29,400, can you blame them? These numbers were not even on the radar 30 years ago.
Most students today are facing 20 years repaying student debt whereas their Gen X counterparts only had a fraction of that debt. Of course, one can argue that they “dug ourselves into this hole”, but you can guarantee it wasn’t a Millennial who sold the “student loans are a good debt to have because a degree is a solid investment” line. They also have to deal with the reality that workforce is not in their favor.
The days of staying with one job for 30 years are dead and gone. According to Forbes the average worker stays at each of his/her job for 4.4 years. If you ask other generations it’s because they don’t want to stick it out, or want to be the CEO within the first year. The truth is that most Millennials are looking for jobs that can help them manage the unbearably high student loans they have to pay back. The average salary for recent 2013 graduates is $45,327. However, when you put that in context with the $29,400 student loan average and cost of living, it’s not an easy feat. So where are the decent paying jobs? They are still with the same people who applied to them decades before.
Since the average retirement age is jumping up from 57 in 1992 to 62 in 2013, Baby Boomers have not been making enough room for younger generations to fill in. This forces, Gen Y to work any job that comes their way to make ends meet. There are as many as 40 percent of recent graduates employed in jobs that do not require degrees. Gen X does not understand this hardship because they have the experience and degrees to go after higher paying jobs.
The Dating Game has changed for Millennials
The evolution of dating/mating ritual has taught Millennials that they have options. Since it is easier to connect with others via social media, true love is only a swipe or heart away. This has made 20-somethings more selective when choosing a partner. Many moons ago the criteria for a suitable mate was if they had a job, decent teeth, and was a solid person, and that was enough. Coupled with the “grass is always greener” filter that social media provides, it can often lead Generation Me in search of bigger and better things. In addition, with cohabitation growing, the need for marriage is also less in demand.
According to a study done by Arielle Kuperberg, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Sociology, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, cohabitation has increased by almost 900 percent since 1960. The stigma of keeping things informal has significantly lessened, thus giving Millennials the option to wait a bit longer before jumping into marriage. This leaves them free to get their ducks in a row so that they can focus on being fiscally responsible adults.
As you can see, there is much to think about that would give many reason to pause before signing on the dotted line. Many are looking for ways to manage their debt and establish themselves before settling down. Considering that divorce occurs in about 3.6 per 1000 people in the U.S., it appears to be a rational decision. So before you ask a millennial the dreaded question pertaining to their marital status, be aware of what you’re implying. There is no right or wrong lifestyle when it comes to being single or married. It is up to the individual to figure out what best suits their needs at the time being. Married or not as long as they’re happy, should be all that matters.