by Jim Harney
Critiques and defenses about Millennials abound. However, I think an overlooked aspect of the kerfuffle over Generation Y is the question “Why?” Although it is great to spur the generation on to great heights, it is crucial we understand some of the hurdles they are facing, economically and socially in order to anticipate how the market will have to change and adjust to accommodate a new generation’s capabilities and values.
Educational Debt & Credit
No big newsflash here: millennials are facing unprecedented levels of debt, between the various recessions, housing bubbles, and explosion of educational debt. New legislation in the works is attempting to help set up a more stable higher education financing system as well as relieve the staggering debt loads. Although debt forgiveness is the big buzzword these days, most students will still face shouldering a majority of their debt. Fortunately for the economic outlook, the legislation focuses on creating more income-based repayment plans that won’t put millennials on the street. However, the big question that remains is how will this affect their credit?
Public vs. Private Sector
With the specter of the 2008 housing bubble burst looming over everyone’s head, the situation is no longer about whether or not millennials are willing to take on more debt or have the income to cover minimum payments, it is about if lenders are willing to take on the risk. President Obama has rolled out plans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be gradually diminished, leaving the private sector to provide the backbone of risk management. With first-time buyers being edged out of the market due to new credit requirements, we could see a short-term slowdown in home-buying.
Surprisingly, the instability recently exhibited by the U.S. government shutdown and continued clamor over the debt ceiling may actually work in the market’s advantage. Millennials, wary of being overly reliant on vacillating government promises, might become increasingly inclined to use their savvy to explore home equity loans and carefully consider newly-revised reverse mortgages as part of their retirement plans. Having front-row seating for the recent economic meltdowns, the newest generation will be more inclined to do their research and not bite off more than they can chew, meaning they might, actually, leave a positive legacy for the housing industry.
Homeownership is still an important idea to many Americans. If the government and the private sector work together to slowly adjust the system and increase stability, which is already the direction we are driving in, we can expect to see homeownership continue to increase with this generation. However, we should expect to hold the memory of Desi and Lucy fondly in our hearts, and leave them there as the face of home buyers will be forever changed.
It is a pervasive misconception that millennials are thoroughly disenchanted with the concept of settling down. The revitalized home-making movement—as evidenced on social media platforms like Pinterest–within more progressive millennial circles would indicate that although it might take a bit longer for the birds to return from their explorations, they will inevitably nest.
Furthermore, the creativity and frugality of Generation Y will provide them fresh incentives to invest in housing as home ownership opens up new avenues hosting friends and international travelers. As this new group of home-buyers realizes that a mortgage doesn’t necessarily clip their wings, we should be able to anticipate a new, stronger, and invigorated market of responsible borrowers. These iPod-wearing, tweeting, bicycle-riding youngsters just might be the market we’ve been looking for.
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