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BLOOMINGTON -- It's the story of a generation: Despite an improving economy, fewer people in their 20s consider themselves financially independent, and many have worries about ever getting there.
A national survey by PNC Financial Services Group released this month found fewer millennials, those aged 20-29, feel financially secure than did in 2011. Only 17 percent of those surveyed felt financially independent, down from 23 percent in 2011.
"The combination of a tough job market, plus lower income, is really what's getting in the way for these 20-something-year-olds," said Mekael Teshome, economist with PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.
The survey polled 3,288 millennials. Most in the age group considered paying their own living expenses, getting a full-time job in a chosen field and living on their own as the most important indicators of financial security. Less than half identified milestones like home ownership, paying off student loans, or living without roommates as being essential to their independence.
Some can't reach those goals without help from mom and dad.
Shari Lauer's 26-year-old son Chase is living at home after college to save money as he plans to pursue a career promoting musicians. Lauer, membership services manager at the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, said other parents she knows are in similar situations.
"I've had some friends in other areas whose kids have come home to live with them because the first job they started out of college wasn't enough for them to make ends meet, but also because they can't live the way they're accustomed to," Lauer said.
Difficulties in becoming independent could have a troubling effect later in life, Teshome said, as those under 30 delay important milestones.
"If these young adults are not where they want to be in their mid-to-late 20s, that's a good chunk of time that's taken away from retirement planning," Teshome said. "It does have implications for down the road."
David Stokes, financial adviser with Edward Jones in Bloomington, has noticed young people delaying things like starting long-term savings accounts.
"Ten years ago, we probably saw more 20-to-30-year-olds coming in starting Roth IRAs, and you just don't see quite as many (anymore)," Stokes said. "The recession really pushed them back. Now, finally, I've met with a couple of those clients who are just now in the job they wanted five years ago."
While the survey also showed those with college degrees were more likely to consider themselves financially independent, the debt that accompanies that education can be a double-edged sword, said Ken Springer, director of research and client services for the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council.
"High debt burdens may prevent what up until now was the typical progression of life milestones: marriage, home ownership, having kids, etc.," Springer said. "All of those milestones that used to happen in a person's 20s may be pushed back a decade or more."
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