Cost pressures have also made it difficult or impossible for Millennials to save or invest. The share of Americans under the age of 35 who own stocks has meandered down from 55 percent in 2001 to 37 percent in 2018, in part because employers are less likely to offer retirement-savings plans and in part because Millennials have nothing left over at the end of the month to put away. Virtually all members of the cohort are "not saving adequately," experts warn, and two-thirds of Millennials have zero retirement savings. This means that Millennials have benefited not a bit from the decade-long boom in stock prices, as their parents and grandparents have.


The next recession--this year, next year, whenever it comes--will likely make that Millennial disadvantage even worse. Already, Millennials have put off saving and buying homes, as well as getting married and having babies, because of their crummy jobs and weighty student loans. A downturn that leads to higher unemployment and lower wages will force Millennials to wait even longer to start accumulating wealth, making it far harder for them to accumulate any wealth at all. (Compound interest is magic, after all.) Their trajectory, already terrible, might get even worse.

And Millennial suffering won't just hurt Millennials. There is accumulating evidence that the economy is more sclerotic and slower-growing than it might be if the Millennials were able to buy homes, have families, start businesses, and spend like other generations--if the young were not existing just to pump up asset values for the old. Which reminds me--there's one generation that might fare even worse than Millennials: Generation Z.

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