It’s a good thing that Americans are living longer. But it can be a bad thing if it creates unprecedented financial insecurity. That’s the warning presented in a new report from the Stanford Center for Longevity. The study, which draws upon several surveys, explores generational trends in US home ownership…retirement contributions…and savings vs. debt, among other trends.
And there’s some scary news for the younger generations. These trends are putting young adults “at enormous risk for lifetimes of financial insecurity,” the study notes, because the trends tend to slow the ability to grow wealth by building home equity.
Every generation continues to think that owning a home is a desirable goal. But amid financial shocks in the mid-2000s, the rate of homeownership fell to a 50-year low. People born in the early 1980s are less likely to have owned a home by age 30 than people born around 1960—and those who did manage to achieve that goal faced a higher mortgage debt burden.
Among younger people, buying a home is being delayed longer than before to get the potential home owners past certain other milestones. Although for older generations, marriage was the strongest predictor of whether someone would own a home by age 30, for younger generations, three more milestones have become increasingly powerful factors—parenthood…tackling student debt…and saving for retirement.
And newer generations are tending to wait longer before reaching these milestones, especially getting married and having children. In addition, record levels of student debt have contributed to the fact that for people born in the early 1980s, their average net worth was less than $10,000 when turning age 30. That severely restricted their ability to be able to scrape together a down payment on a home.
Owning a home has always been part of the American dream not only for the lifestyle it provides, but for the financial security it can provide in later years when retirement comes and income drops. That part of the dream could be fading.