The New York Federal Reserve report recently shared a chart that does not bode well for young millennials. It showed a trend of 18-29 year-olds who are more than 90 days delinquent on credit card payments.
This can be concerning for a few reasons; one, because the millennial generation has been traditionally known up to this point as being debt-averse and critical of banks and creditors. The millennial generation grew up watching their parents struggle during the Great Recession that ravaged the US economy during the late 2000s.
Economists believe that this was the genesis for the millennial generations’ distrust in banks and reluctance to take on credit card debt. In fact, between 2008 and 2012, only 41% of adults in their twenties even had a credit card.
The point is that up until very recently millennials have been cautious with their money and typically responsible with credit card debt if they even had any. But that is not the only concerning factor to this growing trend.
Having credit card debt is one thing but not having any means to pay it back is a much more alarming notion, but that is the reality that many millennials are facing. Just a few years ago, the millennial unemployment rate was at a staggering 12.8%. It is even grimmer when you compare that number to the 4.9% of other eligible age groups that were unemployed at the same time.
The US economy has put the Great Recession behind it and has been experiencing growth for the last decade, so the jobs are out there. The problem is that millennials tend to have higher expectations when it comes to getting a job.
Millennials often get looked at as a remarkably entitled generation of people, and this reflects in the way they select jobs. Many job offers are turned down by members of this generation because they were expecting a higher pay rate even in comparison to their lack of experience.
Education may have something to do with the millennial unemployment rate as well. Many companies are reporting that the upcoming workforce is lacking in real-world skills like critical thinking and basic communication. Millennials are also more likely to have gravitated towards theoretical studies in their college educations, which doesn’t help the situation much.
This lull in employment could not have come at a worse time for millennials either. It is generally agreed by people of the previous generation that it is much harder to get started in life financially these days than it was for their age. Part of this has to do with the increasing cost of higher education, so student loan debts are higher than ever.
This creates a vicious cycle for millennials in terms of job prospects. For example, a fresh-faced college graduate may open a line of credit to help furnish a new apartment with the hopes of landing a job soon. Maybe he also has a significant amount of student loan debt. Things are shaky as he or she is first entering the job market, and a combination of high expectations, mounting debt and lack of real-world skills are making it difficult to land a job.
So their credit scores are taking a nosedive and guess what: some companies will actually look at a candidate’s credit score and factor that into their decision to hire or not.
What is Contributing to Millennial Credit Delinquency?
Seeing a generation traditionally wary of credit card debt and realizing that it is harder for them to get a job are both bad omens but there what is causing the actual rise in delinquency among millennials?
One of the most immediate contributors to the increasing amount of millennial credit card debt is raising rates. In 2018 interest rates were at a staggeringly low level but they are beginning to rise again, meaning that even people with good credit are facing interest rates of 18-25%.
Student loans are another factor in this trend. The prior generation had the benefit of much more lenient crediting when it came to student loans with significant banks offering specialized student credit cards. These student credit cards were relatively easy to come by, but the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (also known as the CARD Act) of 2009 changes all that.
Now students have to show proof that they will be able to pay back student loans or at least evidence that their parents would help them. This has resulted in millennial students taking high-interest loans for their education, which can be challenging to claw one’s way out of.
This all sounds like a financial emergency, but it is crucial to keep things in perspective. Even with a rise in millennial credit card delinquency the debt-to-income ratio as reported by the Federal Reserve is the lowest it’s been since 1980. Delinquency rates have also been at a record low in the past year, so we are nowhere near a financial crisis even with this uptick in millennial payment delinquency.
Many millennials are just starting to build their credit and hit the job market, so this is not necessarily a trend that will continue. While all young adults should be careful and responsible with credit card debt, the recent Fed report should be more of a precautionary tale than the harbinger of an all-out crisis.