If you think the generations coming into power during the next decade are different, you’re on target.
Millennials will be in the 25 to 45 age range by 2025, and that will be the time frame during which they will get their hands on the steering wheel of life for which they’ve been yearning since they got their hands on actual automotive steering wheels in their mid-teens. Those following them are entering full-force adulthood, a front-row passenger seat, but the Millennials are in the driver’s seat.
These folks, generally born in the 1980s (Generation X) and 1990s (Generation Y), are a pre-9/11 group whose world looks much different than it does to someone born well before 1980. Millennials, and those who follow them as well, know war without borders, college without assured job prospects, high school without learning, grade school without parents due to two-job households or divorce, and most of all that money is ephemeral.
Oddly, or perhaps not so much, they’ve learned to cope in such an upside down and inside out world. Many young adults rent rather than buy, date around longer, understand if they have a job it won’t be permanent, know they may test multiple career paths before life begins at 40, and are more judgmental about the efficacy of straight marriage than they are put off by gay marriage.
They’ve learned life is risk and debt is risky. So it didn’t surprise me when an ABC News online article said a survey of 1,000 adults, which included 142 Millennials among them, showed more than a third of the small ages 19-29 sample had never had a credit card. The online article guessed perhaps they’re spooked by poor employment prospects or high student debt, and noted some prefer debit cards.
There’s little doubt people in such squishy surveys haven’t always been honest and the sample size was tiny, but the 36 percent total for non-credit card preference among Millennials is still a startling figure. The survey — which had a 3.6 plus/minus margin of error for the 1,000 adult participants — was commissioned by a credit card-related website. It was done by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on behalf of CreditCards.com.
So what does it mean? Nobody knows for sure. Anyone claiming such knowledge is blowing smoke. But I’ll hazard a guess and caution Carson City merchants, or anyone else reading this, to ponder whether there’s logic in my take.
Credit won’t go away, but cards and the obscene interest rates associated with them slowly will fade as the marketplace morphs. Mobile technology will take over the chore and the Millennials or post-Millennials (for fun, call ‘em Generation Z) will pay the freight for the tech but not buy wholeheartedly into the time/loan scenario.
One massive reaction in the lessons learned by this next group closing in on 40 — a group keyed to the “next big thing” — is likely to be a waning interest in trading long-term commitment for short-term reward. They’ve learned to rent before they buy, test drive partners before they marry, dabble job-wise before signing on for a career gig, and avoid their predecessors’ habits in the ready-fire-aim era that pre-dated them.
They won’t abandon buy now, pay later. But more are foregoing the buy-everything, pay-forever syndrome that fuels credit cards and helped cause the not-so-great Great Recession a few years back.
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at email@example.com.