About 28 percent of young adults in a University of Arizona survey say that marriage is not an important life goal, while 27 percent say that having children is not.
Once upon a time, a spouse, children and a home were typical hallmarks of adulthood. Today, the federal government mandates that young people are not even mature enough to buy their own health insurance until they are 26 and young people embrace it - over 50 percent of young adults ages 23 to 26 still rely on their parents for financial support.
The Arizona Pathways to Life Success for University Students project - APLUS – began following University of Arizone college freshmen in 2007, with the goal of better understanding the financial knowledge and behaviors of young adults. It finds that young adults are engaging in the workforce and in retirement planning differently than their parents might have, Serido said.
Only 49 percent of study participants reported that they work full time, while 20 percent said they work part time or are self-employed. Eighteen percent reported being enrolled in graduate studies, while 7 percent were not looking for employment and 6 percent reported unemployment.
Credit: University of Arizona
With less than half of those surveyed working in traditional jobs with 401(k) options, it leaves one to wonder what the majority of them are doing, if anything, to prepare for retirement at the ideal age to begin doing so, said principal investigator Joyce Serido, now of the University of Minnesota.
The study findings inspire new questions about what adulthood will look like for the millennial generation, Serido says.
"Is this generation really just getting started later? It's possible," she said. "Or are we seeing a generation of people who are actually splitting into two different groups of people: the kind of people who are going to have the same type of life that their parents had and another half who are going to have a different kind of life?"
And if the traditional measures of adulthood – marriage, kids, house, full-time job – are fading in importance for today's young adults, what do they value most as they tiptoe into adulthood?
Flexibility, balance and quality of life are big factors, Serido says. "They want to enjoy life."
It is easy to enjoy life when you have someone else paying for it, of course.
This seeming shift in values might be due in part to the fact that so many millennials watched their parents struggle, Serido suggests, though every generation has watched their parents struggle. Baby Boomers saw their parents endure war and did so themselves, millennials and parents got to watch war on TV and protest by clicking a button on the Internet. America is more obese than ever because food is plentiful for the first time.
The research team also includes investigators from a variety of fields – including finance, psychology, gender and women's studies, and Mexican American studies – in an effort to provide a holistic understanding of young adults' financial behaviors and lifestyles.
Source: University of Arizona