They struggle to get on the housing ladder and complain they’ll never be able to save towards a decent pension. Many say they can’t afford to get married and start a family so are forced to live at home with their parents.
Barely a day passes without hearing that the millennial generation (that’s those aged between 22 and 37) have it so much harder than their baby boomer parents did.
But do they really? Recent financial predictions have certainly painted a gloomy picture for them.
Households are spending more than they earn for the first time in 30 years, taking out £80 billion in loans last year.
Now interest rates are beginning to creep up, financial analysts are warning that a decade of historically low interest rates, which have favoured borrowers over savers, could leave Britons without enough money to cover their escalating debt.
So, was life really easier a generation ago, or just simpler? And are spoiled millennials in part responsible for their predicament?
Here, Kathy Cakebread, 30, who is single and works in customer services, and her mum Karen, 60, a housewife from Chatham, Kent, give a fascinating insight into the real differences between the two generations . . .
KATHY says: I can’t afford to leave home, which is awful. Renting a one-bedroom flat in our area costs £600 a month. If I was spending that sort of money, I would never be able to save a deposit to buy my own place.
Living at home means I have managed to put away £25,000 towards buying a flat of my own. I’ve saved £400 a month for more than five years.
I’m aiming to save around £60,000, leaving me with a mortgage of about £100,000 on a two-bedroom flat.
I don’t have a boyfriend, but if I did it would be awkward. How could I bring someone back to my parents’ house? It’s just embarrassing!
KAREN says: My husband Ian, now 64, and I bought our first home, a £25,000 two-bedroom terrace, as newlyweds when I was 24 after saving a £5,000 deposit. When we were Kathy’s age, we bought our current home, a three-bedroom end terrace, with a mortgage of £30,000.
It was a new-build and a bit of a struggle getting the money together to carpet and furnish it, so it was pretty bare for the first couple of years. We went without luxuries. We never had takeaways or ready meals — we couldn’t afford it.
Back then, in 1988, interest rates reached 12.8 per cent, compared with 0.75 per cent today, so the repayments were around £330 a month — a substantial chunk of our income.
My husband earned around £900 a month and I stayed at home to raise our children, Kathy and Andrew.
There was never much left over, so if the washing machine or fridge packed up, it meant months of repayments. The houses around us now sell for more than £250,000, which is way out of Kathy’s price range, or even for a couple with two salaries. When it comes to gaining independence, Kathy’s generation has it very hard.
KATHY says: After doing well in my A-levels — a mix of A and B grades — I went to the University of Canterbury and kept living at home. I did a degree in media and film studies and came out with a 2:1.
People told me I should make the most of my qualifications by going to university, and I listened to them. I thought it would be a good route to a lucrative career.
However, lots of companies want young people to do internships for free, which I couldn’t afford to do — so I never got a job in my field.
My degree feels like it was a waste of my time. In fact, if I could go back to being 18, I probably wouldn’t bother going to university.
I ran up debts of £10,000, which I’ll probably be repaying until I retire.
KAREN says: I left school aged 15 in 1974, a year before the Sex Discrimination Act — which made it illegal to favour men over women in the workplace and elsewhere — was introduced.
It never occurred to me or any of my friends to keep studying. It wasn’t something many women did back then.
Only about five per cent of school leavers did degrees, compared with around a third today.
Do I feel I missed out by not going? Not really. I don’t see any huge advantages in studying until you’re 21, other than the freedom to do as you please more.
WORK & WAGES
KATHY says: My first job after leaving university was as a receptionist, earning £18,000 a year, followed by a few administrative roles, paying a bit less. Now I work in customer services for a debt purchase company and earn £19,000, taking home £1,360 a month.
It’s enough for me to live on and to save £400 every month. I pay £40 a month into a pension scheme, and invest about £25 in stocks and shares, which I know isn’t enough.
Sometimes I envy Mum’s lifestyle when she was 30, because things seemed so straightforward back then. She had a three-bedroom house, a husband, two children and no need to worry about making money.
Things are very different for me. As well as my job, I also have a blog, which doesn’t earn me money but means I get to write, which I love — and get free things, like meals in restaurants, to review.
Mum finds this world of sharing things online, which didn’t exist when she was my age, completely baffling.
KAREN says: I was an administrative support worker in an advertising agency from leaving school until my mid-20s.
My husband didn’t want me to work after the kids came along. Like a lot of people back then, he believed they needed their mother at home.
I didn’t mind because around 60 per cent of mums with pre-schoolers were housewives in those days. We survived quite well on Ian’s wage, which rose steadily over the years until he retired recently with a good pension.
However, once the kids had started secondary school, it was difficult getting back into the workplace.
I did courses in computing and childcare in the hope of starting a new career, but it didn’t happen and I eventually felt too old to keep trying.
I don’t have many friends, which may be partly because I never had a career and the colleagues that would have come with that, so I now spend most of my time pottering around at home.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, by HELEN CARROLL