Who Are the Millennials?

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Hear the voices of three members of the Millennial generation — Americans born roughly between 1978 and 2000, saddled with record levels of student debt, entering the workforce at a time of high unemployment, struggling to afford rent, and only dreaming of owning homes… yet, still hopeful.

We invite Millennials and other young Americans to share below personal stories about how the economy has affected or challenged your choices, your education, and your hope for the future. Please include your age.

For more profiles of Millennials, see Demos’ State of Young America report, as well as the website for Young Invincibles.



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  • Jimmary

    & NOW AT 85 THIS IS SO SHOCKING. B  BLESS IN HIS NAME!    http://www.jimpraisethelord.com

  • Lizandmikeandsimon

    I was born in 1978, my husband was born in 1979. We have been happily married for 12 years.
    I helped put my husband through college while we both raised a son together. We took out student loans, in the expectation of a good paying job at the other side of graduation. I planned on having my turn at finishing my degree when he could support us, on that promised good salary. My husband graduated, and got a job working for the county government. We saved while living with my in-laws. Then we bought a home with the help of family and a first time homebuyer grant. I found work as a pastry chef.
    Then Wells Fargo that our home mortgage is through did some dirty dealings.First with out our knowledge, they purchased flood insurance for us from one of their subsidiaries for $3,000/year(we got our own for $300). Then a refinancing that reset our 30 year mortgage, wiping out any equity we had in our home, not applying the “good faith” money which we actually thought was our mortgage payment, and saddling us with a higher payment than we had prevously. We would not have acceped the deal, but they sent us papers warning us to sign or be forclosed on. They gave us a day to look them over. We ended up with Wells Fargo getting $28,000 more from us.
    After about 3 years my husband topped out his salary grade. With a hiring and raise freeze, our income was stagnant, worse, cost of health insurance rose and coverage was diminished. He found deepening discontent with his job, and further frustration over raising costs of everything. Then the student loans began demanding a payment scedule we could not afford, $500 a month. When we told
    them that we could not afford the high payment, the money was garnished from my husbands
    paycheck.We live a very modest life, still it wasn’t working out well financially. My husband took another job in a different field in the hopes of upward mobility that was being denied to him at his old job. I had to leave my job as I was expecting another child.
    My husbands new job is not as lucrative as promised. We do a variety of odd jobs; dog sitting, private catering service, music lessons, cake decorating, sewing alterations, and what ever comes our way. We have never bought a tv, we get 90% of our clothing second hand, I cut out family’s hair, we use cloth diapers and make all my babies food. We do not have credit cards, we do not go on vacation. We have cut so many corners we are going round in circles. I never got to finish my degree.
    I could work more if I did not have kids.I sometimes feel guilty for having children.
    Children should not be a privilege of the wealthy.
    I have always been told I was smart and as long as I was also hard working, I would be successful.
    I was lied to.
    We still are not solvent.
    I don’t know what we will do.
    I don’t know what we will do.

  • Anonymous

    While I’m sorry to hear about your situation I’m a little perplexed on the mortgage issue.
    Are you implying that Wells Fargo tricked you into refinancing? Because I also have mortgage and for a while my mortgage company was doing the hard sell to refinance but I just said no. It seems to me that you could have done the same. As to your husbands job, well that’s all based on personal choices. So is having a second child, was this a planed choice? If so seems to me that you did not sit down and figure out how much this was going to cost. Now you blame the system, which is messed up I do agree, but you seemed to have used it more as an excuse than anything else. The students loan thing is a complete rip off scheme, I do believe that this is a set up made and delivered by the banks and a willing congress who were lobbied to make the laws favorable to them.

    However part of your story seems like you both made some bad decisions and that now you seem to be blaming all of your problems on a something that seems to be a mixture of a messed up system and those decisions.

  • 38 in Philadelphia PA

    The American Dream has been grossly deformed. It was once a beautiful promise and achievement that  could be reached by a simple path for dedicated, hard working people. At some point, that path was closed down and those seeking the America Dream had to try harder and carve out a new path. Honesty and hard work was no longer the route, so many became lost. As the common people searched and suffered for the American Dream, it was secretly being stolen. This is why once anyone gets there, having traveled through the desolate American system, they do not notice that it is no longer a beautiful  promised fulfilled, or a wonderful success. No one notices that it is no longer a vast oasis because they are just thankful for a small glass of water at that point. The American Dream is no longer a journey or quest, it has become a game, or worse; a battle. It is no longer about earning your share, it’s about finding your share and stealing it back. 
    Yes, if a thief takes away all of our belongings and savings but leaves us with a roof over our heads and a food to eat we are indeed thankful. It does not mean, however, that we do not want our belongings returned. The middle class are led to believe they are “wealthy” because they have nice cars and iPhones. They forget to remember that they have worked for and earned, so much more. We have become serfs in a Kingdom; thankful that we are not the beggar in the street, and ignorant to the extreme wealth in the castle to which we unknowingly support. Best of luck to the Millennials. 

  • Pware

    So happy Bill Moyers in back on pbs.  The best discussions, questions, answers anywhere for those of us trying to figure out the world.  

    I’m a widow and to all of you younger folks my advice is keep your debt to a minimum.  I still work but have a very small income.  However I do own my house and car and live simply.  Live within your means is still a good way to go.

  • Calhoun Paul

    In 1983,  I received a Masters Degree from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. While one year was payed for by a fellowship,  my total cost for two years of school was $1,500. Was I lucky or have we gotten way off the track in terms of the cost of a 1st rate education? Given that the income of most people has remained stagnant for 30 years, how is it that these schools and this society  justify these increased costs, and at the same time have the general expectation for this country to move forward? Perhaps these are silly questions and I should just come to the realization that education,  like most things in this country,  is just another way for the rich to pad their already bloated bank accounts.

  • Dudley Varner

    Just watched Bill with Bruce Bartlett.  Very informative program.  Welcome back, Bill.

  • Cynthia S.

    So very glad Bill Moyers is on Public TV once again; a voice of reason and sanity, asking questions of guests that most would ask! Welcome back! And having as guests people  that are so knowledgable and articulate.  I would encourage those who only watch and listen to the  FOX network mantra to experience Bill Moyer & Company with an open mind.

  • h. odum

    I’m a Millenial, graduated college in 2009 with an engineering degree, currently in graduate school expecting a masters degree in engineering in 2012. I consider myself extremely lucky to have paid off the modest amount of debt I had from college already, with some help from scholarships, parents, a stipend from a year with AmeriCorps and working during my time in school. I’m also lucky in that I have been mostly successful at finding a job when I went looking for one. 
    The thing that gives me pause is my first job in college paid $8/hr, the second jumped up to $17/hr which had me salivating over the American Dream. The two subsequent jobs’ paid $15/hr, then $10/hr, respectively. No benefits with those. Since I wasn’t getting multiple offers, I couldn’t be picky. So I find myself with decreasing wages as I get more education. My pay rate is nearly back to what I was earning as a freshman in college, and I’ve almost finished my masters degree… I can’t make sense of this. And as I submit more resumes I feel like I get fewer responses from potential employers too.Judging by the statistics in Bill Moyers’ program I am probably among the Millenials that are better off. That’s frightening. I’m sorry to say that I’m very pessimistic about where quality of life will be going for the average American in the future. I look at the riots going on in Greece today and wonder when, not if, it will happen here.

  • DPinMI

    The real deal is the American dream and way of life went (or
    is going) overseas with our manufacturing jobs. How can anyone deny this fact?
    This is the root cause of all of our economic problems…if in America there
    are  no well-paying  middle class jobs how can the capitalist system
    work. Simply put it cannot.

  • MSD/pathbuilder.com

    As a retired college professor, I know the problem these young people face. Colleges have failed miserably in  providing students with the tools they need to connect the content of the curriculum they study to their realistic job prospects. Many majors, including the ones offered in my former academic home (communication), would better serve as minors to ones in which there is both current and future demand in the marketplace.

    I have no problem with students pursuing their passions. However, they need to do so in tandem with honest academic advice about their chances of success. As parodied on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, we are doing no service to young people by blindly claiming, “You can do anything.” They cannot and we should be honest about it.

    UCLA’s national survey of incoming freshmen demonstrates that getting ahead financially takes precedent over the kind of holistic literacy colleges are designed to deliver. That said, should we not tell them that many of the majors they are pursuing, inherently worthwhile as they may be, put this superordinate goal at risk?

  • Dev C.

    I am a 24 year old student living in NY.  Although I came out of undergrad in 2009 with $12,000 in student loans, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had parents willing and able to pick up the remainder of my $90,000+ tuition.  Now, I find myself an additional $30,000/year in debt for a private graduate education.  I will never forget the moment when I realized what a huge financial undertaking this would be, and I continue to question whether or not it is all worth it in the end.  

    Shouldn’t getting INTO school and performing well be the difficult part, not trying to calculate how it’s going to be paid off?  I imagine there was a time when the primary limitation of excelling in school was one’s intellect, not one’s bank balance.  Unfortunately, our generation will never know this luxury.    

  • Anonymous

    I graduated with a degree in communication in 2010 and will be receiving my masters in the fall of 2012. Like H. Odum, I went into the Americorps to get some work experience and the education stipend that is now paying for graduate school. I work part time as an intern and I technically make enough money to pay for my apt., food, bills but i still have to ask for help from my parents from time to time. There’s not a whole lot I can do about it and my situation is technically better than most millenials so I am grateful for the things I have. I went into my education and financial situation trying to find something I was passionate about that was practical at the same time in the job market. It hasn’t been easy and I see a lot of pessimism among my fellow millenials. The American Dream has (temporarily, I hope) failed us and we’re starting to learn from the gluttonous mistakes of previous generations. We are more secular and progressive than previous ones and I hope that it will contribute towards fair and objective policies that benefit as many people as possible within our communities. I see the quest for money and and material things that my parent’s generation were encouraged to pursue as a one of the reasons for the economic slump. We placed our priorities into short-term investments and quick schemes that are beginning to back fire because they’re not sustainable. I know my generation has a lot of work to do but I remain optimistic that we will be able to tackle the future, some way, some how. 

  • Lizandmikeadsimon

    Our local bank that originally gave us our mortgage said we did not need flood insurance. When Wells Fargo bought our mortgage and purchased flood insurance putting our escrow in negative we were required to bring our account back into the positive. We were then one month behind on our mortgage. They offered us a three month “trial period” of a lower payment to get caught up. They told us that in order to take advantage of the refinancing offers made by the government, we needed to go through this trial period. After making the timely agreed upon payments, for three months, we were told it would go to the review boadr. We were told we needed another three month trial period. The 6 months that we made those payments were not applied to our principal. We had also accrued additional intrest and “late payments” on the original payment. We were paying into, nothing. We were then told we were several months behind, and that we HAD to sign the refinancing agreement, or face the possibility of foreclosure.
    Also, my children are both very planned and wanted. They are 7.5 years apart. Family is very important to us. We provide well for them, but there are sacrifices. I believe that it should be a choice to be a two income family,not a requirement. It is morally wrong to judge one’s fitness as a parent, based on one’s bank account.
    I do however accept that I hold accountability to my situation. I was not prepared to put myself, or ask my husband, in the situation of sacrificing a lifetime, for a paycheck. Eighty hour weeks are
    the norm for some. We are both have jobs. We both are lucky enough to be in our children’s lives in a meaningful way. We are now, and always have been thoughtful of the long term out look. It is
    just much harder to get there successfully, today than it was yesterday.

  • Anonymous

    I graduated with a bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2009 and I’m finishing up a masters degree in ME as well.

    Thankfully i was able to take advantage of my states lottery scholarship and pell grants to get through by BS without accumulating debt. My school also offers free tuition for research assistants, so i won’t have to go into debt to get my MS. If it weren’t for those opportunities, i wouldn’t been able to go to collage at all.

    Unfortunately  both my parents didn’t finish their collage educations. Right now i am taking care of my mother who has been out of work for around 2 years. My father recently fell ill and can no longer work. If my father isn’t able to get on disability i’ll have to take care of him financially as well.

    It’s a really strange roll reversal that is the opposite of some of my peers who have had to move back in with their parents for financial support.

    I’m already living month to month on my stipend from the University.

    If some other financial disaster creeps into my life, I’ll either have to take out some huge loans or drop out of grad school and try to get a job in my field.  

  • Alan Vodicka

    I am 32 and am *LOVING!* Moyers and Co.!  I began the path of the “American Dream” (college -> career) but had an epiphany my last year of college. A few years after digesting the movie “Office Space.” I realized I needed to step off the path of what you were “supposed” to do(college -> career).

    I dropped out of college and went on a mission to figure out how I could best to contribute to society. How could I be a meaningful contribution to my fellow humans.(We don’t learn these concepts in the modern classroom)  Though years of many serendipitous events and encounters, I found myself on the path of Human Touch and direct connection through Massage Therapy and Bodywork. 

    I find the most important things for me is Contribution and Human Connection.  It is our generation who is beginning to actualize, growing up int the midst of globalization, that we truly are all in this together.  We are all on the same little ship in the ocean of the universe. I work with people of all walks of life from the upper echelons of the 1% to the lower 99.99% and what I had to learn early one is that *We are all first and foremost human*.  Every One Of US! Everything else is just details.

    Race, Gender, Sexual orientation, economic class, what ever way we want to separate ourselves is meaningless. We all want basic civil liberties and civil rights for ALL humans.

    I am fortunate enough to be debt free. I had much debt and have just freed myself from the indentured servitude of modern American Life!!!  My wife(32) and I have decided from here on out to do everything in our power to play the game of Life according to different set of rules. 

    No Credit cards, no mortgage, no car loans, etc. We are just about to close on a house on Friday! With no debt to any bank!  Yes this means we have no credit, In the system, but we are OK with that.  Because of this crash in our economy, we are paying less than the price my parents paid for their first home over 50 years ago.

    Insurance?  Not for 10 years…  My wife and I have been very healthy and I haven’t been to any doctor or dentist or anything for over 10 yrs.  This summer My wife went in to have her leg looked at and came back 20 min later with a $700 bill………   $1400+/hr is excessive for no labwork, just an opinion.  With the thought of having children, and thinking of the associated medical bills…

    Then finding out that because of our choice to be debt free, we pay higher insurance rates than our indebted neighbors. It shows how our current system rewards those who are indebted and punishes those who make an effort to be free of debt. 

    We also make a conscious choice to spend our money on CLEAN food.  We don’t have TV/Cable/Sat. We don’t have toys or spend our money on ‘normal’ things.  What we don’t spend on living expenses we spend on clean food, literally.  No GMO, Organic, Local, Homegrown, Clean Food.  Clean food is much more expensive than the Subsidized, GMO, Chemical Infested foods that the FDA approves. Why our Tax dollars go to support that S#!$ is beyond me. (Definitely not free market capitalism)  And America wonders why we have such obesity, degenerative disease, and mental conditions… YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!

    All In All, a Big Thank You  Bill Moyers!!! I found your show online! I have grown up with you from your work with Joseph Campbell.  I love your style of presentation. Clean, Calm, Gentle reporting.   A refreshing change from modern media noise.

    Thank You!

  • http://twitter.com/palsimon Palsimon

    Young people should be encouraged to get a free education on the internet whenever it is possible to get a license for jobs they want by simply passing a test. In fact, there is no reason any profession or job should require anything more than passing the appropriate exam. In this way a person can become self-educated in any field of their choice. I think we waste too much money in our educational system, which has become corrupted in many instances and deprives millennials of education in the humanities.

  • UrsNY

    A good amount of the student loan debt is tied to the cost of private schools. A state university education has been seriously undervalued. There are excellent state schools that provide the same quality of education for a much lower tuition. The reason people bypass them for ivys and private schools is “networking”. Many are buried under six-figure debt in order to meet “the right people”. Damning evidence that not only has the idea of meritocracy been bankrupted, but that people so fear the consequences of living outside the protection of upper middle class entitlements that they will take on obscene debt as an act of compliance. It smells like feudalism, and it’s horrifying.

  • Elg

    Ur cool!

  • LordFanny

    Funny, that “networking” is exactly what lands a job these days.  

  • Guest

    I work swing shift for minimum wage, with student loans and recent psychiatric diagnoses from the stress.  It is just hard to see the friggin point.

  • Guest

    We stand here, abandoned and vengeful against ruling-class Americans and those who continue to steal all that we have ever wanted. This will be forever, as our darkness and as our light. Something they will never know and something they will never have.

  • Oanne

    I get less hopeful every year as the prospect of getting out from under my crushing student loan debt seems less and less realistic. Paying the government such high interest on student loans makes no sense… They’ve turned a lot of us into indentured servants! Just let us pay our principles back and we’ll keep up the good fight of trying to find decent work in this economy.

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  • Anonymous

    As a Boomer, I want every millennial to know that I tear up thinking about your ghastly situation. The implied is true, every generation before you had a life cushioned by a bed of roses and was spoon fed Swiss chocolate and crystal speed. What can I say, except us Boomers had it easy so you could have it hard. I also want you to know that some of this pile of money that I have, given to me by the government — they of course got it from taxing you — will go toward buying your abused generation a truck load of crying towels.
    In sympathy,
    Boomer Stewart

  • Anonymous

    need a movie to tell you what to do? oh, you;re in fine shape. if you think “all of us” are in this together while you are getting royalty screwed by the greedy wealthy hogs then — ha ha. you didn’t drop out of college, you dropped your brain.