Millennial Burnout


I don’t have anything meaningful to contribute to this thread. I just want you all to know that it’s fascinating to read. I appreciate the perspectives.


I’d like to see healthcare divorced entirely from employment.

Retirement is’t as big. It’s a bigger issue when dealing with pensions, but those are rarer now, and getting your 401k contributions into a private account you control is just a few forms.


No, healthcare is a much bigger issue. But I would like all none work related life issues divorced from work.

I would be out of job than though. Since I would in the 401(k) industry.


Make people work in jobs they don’t want to work for heartache because we don’t have the healthcare change you want yet makes no sense. If healthcare was easier to get without ties to a specific employer, we would see more choices and maybe even more entrepreneurs.


I think the pending retirement crisis is overlooked.


This looks focused on pensions. What percentage of Millenials even have a pension? I think this pension thing is going to affect the older generations more than this group.


We’ll have to foot the bill for it.


I pasted the wrong link (although Frontline also covered 401ks in a 2013 episode.) This link piggy banks Frontline’s latest on pensions to discuss the wider problem.

I appreciate a mainstream media effort to raise awareness about the fact that pensions are extinct, 401K’s are a crappy replacement, and average retirement savings are putrid – but most of the 52 minutes of the documentary was not groundbreaking material. Good, just not mind-blowing news.

I don’t see that there’s any way to avoid a U.S. retirement crisis (quite possibly leading to a zombie apocalypse of seniors roaming the streets for meds). This documentary re-affirmed how imminent that possibility is, with many of the same points I’ve highlighted previously:

  • the retirement gamblePensions were the perfect retirement system for everyone, but employers wanted to shift risk from company to employee.
  • 401K’s started as a tax loophole for high income employees, but became a means for employers to shift retirement responsibility risk.
  • For a while, 401K’s as the go-to was fine. Stocks boomed through the 80’s and 90’s. Everyone was watching their balances explode. Things were great. Then the dot-com bubble hit. And then the housing bubble. And most still have not recovered.
  • One-half of Americans say they don’t have enough money to save for retirement.
  • One-third have no retirement savings at all.
  • For those who do have retirement savings, most of those savings are being eaten up by 401K fees and expense ratios from actively managed mutual funds.


I wonder about that - I doubt anyone who primarily worked in the era of 401ks really care about bailing out failed pensions no matter who it is. They’ll happily convert it to some equivalent 401k outcome and leave it at that.


Okay I see what you’re saying. John Oliver covered this too.

He talks about financial advisers early and then shifts to fees at about the 6:20 mark.


I think a lot of FAs are expansive, but starting a new 401(k) is pretty pricey. You should see how pays those fees though. Some times it’s the participants, sometimes it’s the employer.


That was more an expectation of “we (probably) won’t let all the old people/our parents die in the streets”. I don’t see any pensions being bailed out directly.


Debts fail upwards, so when a company enters bankruptcy, the feds likely will come in a take over the pension plan ( When cities fail, they appeal to the state for bailout, and I assume states or territories up to the federal govt too. It all ultimately rests on the full faith and credit of the American taxpayer.




This is a late reply to @Kyrios but for the entire time my children went to school the summer break was 2 months. End at the end of May, start by August 1st.


Interesting insights. I am not a millennial (born 1961) but for the past twenty years or so I’ve been a college professor, teaching students from a succession of generational cohorts (and working with colleagues from a wide variety of age groups as well). A lot of what folks are saying here is fascinating, and even when seemingly contradictory a lot of it rings true. Your comments about 9/11 and its impact are intriguing. I lived and worked in Germany over the years, as a child and as an adult, all during the Cold War; I was working in Berlin when the wall came down, even. I’d agree that the post-9/11 security situation is far, far more scary and intrusive than pretty much anything other than the absolute height of the Cold War scares. I worked in a place literally feet from the Wall, where East Germans with machine guns watched me eat lunch outside and helos prowled just their side of the border, also watching us and tracking us with machine guns. None of that was even remotely as scary as the stuff we do now to “protect” things like high schools and court houses, in my opinion.

As to economics, I’d just toss in a couple of thoughts. On expectations, my generation was raised on expectations that were based largely on memories of the post-WWII “magic economy,” a fairy land situation of high wage blue collar employment, stable corporate white collar employment, little to no foreign competition, cheap energy, and a rather ruthless if undeclared willful ignorance of any part of the polity that wasn’t white, male, and “normal.” It wasn’t until I graduated college in 1982 that I started to realize the worm had turned, and that the promised (or at least expected) “graduate, get a job, work 25 years, get the gold watch, retire” scenario was bunk. I’m now well into my third career, all in different areas (defense contracting, journalism, academia), and doing well, but not in my wildest dreams would I have scripted out this path when I was 30.

The folks raising millennials may not have passed on the myths of the magic economy, but they weren’t able to process what the economy had turned into, either (not their fault, really, as I’m not sure anyone really processed that change well). Whereas my generation was guided by a myth that turned out to be, well, mythical, I wonder if the millenials had their expectations set by, I dunno, inertia? Speculation? Wishful thinking? Whatever it was, it seemed to have done them even more of a disservice than what we got. Even my newest, youngest students were gifted a more realistic and useful set of expectations, as grim as they may be. It’s not surprising to me that many millenials feel sort of disconnected and unsatisfied. In many ways, they were screwed over by a system that really wasn’t even a system by that point, but which didn’t have the systemic self-awareness to point that out to people so they could use their considerable talents to chart a better course.

tl;dr I agree that there are characteristics of each age cohort that are unique to them, and that we really can’t compare each other’s experiences in a competitive sense. All the challenges discussed here are real, though different individuals experience them differently. For my generation, it was the shock of realizing that our fathers’ world was well and truly dead, and later on, that the Cold War wasn’t going to last forever and provide us the sort of contextual stability we expected.


This is an interesting take. I’m a younger Gen Xer (1976). The 90’s were a high-expectation decade: military drawdown, no major conflicts (Kosova and Rwanda obviously were horrible, but cast very little shadow over American public life), and a booming economy. But, my cohort graduated college right into the dot-com crash. Almost every one of my classmates lost their jobs within the first two years after graduation. And then 9/11. And the GWB presidency and endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we bought houses in the years right before the housing crisis. But, oddly, I don’t get the same sense of shattered expectations and burnout from my peers that is described in this thread. Maybe it’s because we’ve been able to weather those crises ok (though we haven’t done as well, on average, as our parents.) Maybe it’s just that we didn’t have as much college debt. Maybe it’s because there was kind of an air of ennui that permeated the 90’s that has mellowed into a kind of nonchalance. Maybe we just had better music and were kind of the last generation with cohesive cultural touchpoints (i.e. MTV, radio, broadcast television) before the splintering that came with digital distribution schemes. Maybe it’s because we are somewhat distrustful of social media. Maybe it’s because MMO’s weren’t a thing when we were in high school and college. I don’t know.


Well, I vote College Debt for one.

Especially since we’re all told from the very start that College is the only way to get ahead in this world.


I got outta college right before the prices went bonkers. I had $30k I debt that I had paid off in 5 years.

Honestly that’s probably one the biggest factors in why I’m financially stable today. I was able to get out of debt fast and then save to get a house after the market collapse. I got lucky purely because I was born in the right window. If I were 5 years younger I think I’d be fucked.


I know I am one of the lucky ones. I got out with 20k in debt, paid off in 10 years. My parents had a college fund that helped, I worked 20 hours or so a week to help pay for food/books/etc. So it was just tuition, and I got some academic scholarships that helped. Went to a private college too, but they offered a lot of scholarship money. Made it almost identical tuition-wise to a state school.