I’m a millennial who bought a Brooklyn apartment this year, and I was only able to because of the pandemic

Moving, milennial home ownership
Moving: It’s no fun at all.

  • Late last year, in the middle of the pandemic lockdown, my wife and I bought a Brooklyn apartment.
  • After graduating college into the financial crisis, the odds of homeownership were not in our favor.
  • The pandemic forced banks to offer historically low mortgage interest rates and allowed us to buy an apartment.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

For the last decade, as friends and relatives bought homes, my wife and I paid rent.

More specifically, we paid rent in New York City – which is to say we paid a lot of money in rent. So, so much. I try not to think about it, honestly.

We did it because we love living here, and Brooklyn is home. I considered it a necessary evil of living in the greatest city in the world.

But this January, just after the most uneventful New Year’s Eve in New York City history, we closed on a one bedroom Brooklyn co-op apartment. If you’d asked me in January 2020, “Will you ever buy a home in New York City?” the answer would’ve been simple: “No, not unless we win the lottery.”

Real estate prices in New York are notoriously high, of course, but that’s just one of several issues facing potential buyers. Not only is it expensive, but it’s extremely competitive. Before the pandemic hit, just going to see an available place in Brooklyn meant competing against people with, frankly, a lot more money than me. I am never going to outbid someone who makes $500,000 annually.

So, how did a couple of avocado toast-eating, cold brew-swilling, MacBook-using millennials manage to buy a home in Brooklyn?

Millennial homeowners
The avocado toast tastes so much better when you make it in the kitchen of the home you own.

It boils down to several key factors:

1. We are immensely lucky and privileged.

My wife and I graduated from college directly into the 2008/2009 subprime mortgage-spurred market collapse that led to a massive recession. Unlike so many of our peers, we were both tremendously lucky to get jobs directly out of college doing what we went to college to do: I am a journalist and my wife is an environmental scientist. I consider myself particularly lucky in this respect, as the media business isn’t known for its stability.

We are also both white Americans, which confers a variety of privileges throughout our lives. Literally everything was easier because of these factors, and must be acknowledged up front.

Because we were lucky enough to have steady employment for years after college, we had good credit scores from years of paying bills on time. That steady employment history coupled with good credit scores meant we were easily pre-qualified for home loans at low rates.

Notably, we don’t have kids, and we saved money steadily for several years before beginning this process.

2. The pandemic.

QUEENS, NEW YORK - MARCH 30: Two members of the Fire Department of New York"u2019s Emergency Medical Team wheel in a patient with potentially fatal coronavirus to the Elmhurst Hospital Center in the Queens borough of New York City on March 30, 2020. New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, putting historic pressure on a world-renowned healthcare system as the number of confirmed cases in the area grows. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Two members of the Fire Department of New York Emergency Medical Team wheel in a patient with potentially fatal coronavirus to the Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, New York City on March 30, 2020. New York City was the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak.

Above all else, the global pandemic was the most immediate reason we were able to buy an apartment.

If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, the housing market wouldn’t have been in the gutter. If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, we would’ve had to compete with crowds of interested buyers. If it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic, mortgage rates would’ve priced us out of the market.

It’s horrifically sad that this is the case, but it’s very much the truth. We locked in a 30-year fixed-rate home loan at a 2.75% interest rate. That is a historically low rate, and enables us to afford the monthly payments. In fact, our monthly payment is just a touch higher than our last rent price.

Unlike rent, though, our mortgage price doesn’t increase over time. If we choose to move, we can sell the place and are likely to earn some money on the sale thanks to Brooklyn’s already rebounding real estate market. The benefits of homeownership over renting, at least in this respect, are so profound that they’re almost comical. In 10 years, when our mortgage is the same but average NYC rent prices have increased dramatically, we’ll really feel the difference.

3. Timing was critical.

In mid-August 2020, about five months into pandemic lockdowns, a really obnoxious piece was published in the New York Post where a former hedge fund manager Manhattanite declared New York City “dead forever” because he saw a video of Black Lives Matter protesters trying to break into his skyscraper. It was part of a gaggle of trend pieces that summer in which panicked rich people speculated that the pandemic would be the end of New York City.

That struck me as the perfect time to start looking for apartments: If the rich are fleeing, and the home loan rate is low, I figured, maybe there would be a chance for us.

It turns out that was more or less accurate: We only saw five, maybe six places, and we saw them at our leisure. Because of the pandemic, all showings were by appointment only, so there was no pressure to outbid other buyers on the spot.

Also because of the pandemic, a lot of people in our situation – married millennials in their mid-30s – were fleeing to the suburbs. It was as close as Brooklyn gets to a buyer’s market for a young-ish couple.

In the end, our offer was accepted for (slightly) below the listing price. For what we paid for a one bedroom apartment, we could own a pretty nice suburban home. But we don’t want a pretty nice suburban home, and we didn’t have to settle for one.

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Women are taking a ‘rain check’ on babies, and it could change the shape of the economy

millennialskids_ Alexi Rosenfeld
The number of births have been declining during the pandemic.

  • America is seeing a “baby bust” as women put off having kids during the pandemic.
  • The drop in births intensifies a pre-pandemic trend of decreasing birth rates and fertility rates.
  • It could slow down the economy in the long term, but it could also result in a delayed baby boom.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The predicted baby boom is looking more like a baby bust.

While many thought a year locked up would lead to some serious babymaking, Brookings Institute economists Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine forecasted the opposite last June: The pandemic would lead to 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births in 2021, they said.

So far, their predictions are on track.

Nine months after the first lockdowns began in the US, the number of births in the country had declined by 7%, according to data provided to CBS News by health departments across more than 24 states. And fertility rates – the number of live births a woman is expected to have over her lifetime – are already lower in the first few months of 2021, said Christine Percheski, associate professor of sociology at Northwestern University.

“We’re going to see many fewer babies in 2021,” she told Insider.

The drop continues a pre-pandemic trend of declining birth rates and fertility rates, as childbearing women, many of whom are millennials, delay having children. Both of these rates decreased by 2% from 2017 to 2018, per the latest CDC data, with the birth rate hitting its lowest in 32 years. As of January 2020, the US fertility rate sat at 1.73 births per mother – a stark contrast from the peak in 1957 at 3.77 births per women.

Demographers have expressed concerns over what this means for the future of America, as the fertility rate is below the replacement rate – producing as many births each year as deaths – of 2.1 births per woman.

The decline in births over time is the result of both economic distress as well as progress for women in the workplace, with potential long-term implications, such as a smaller workforce and higher cost of caring for the aging. It’s too soon to say whether we should be concerned about these economic effects, but it’s already clear the economy is in for a big change based off what happens to the American birthrate.

Catching up to a global shift

American women are having babies later. While US birth rates have declined for nearly all age groups of women under 35, per latest CDC data, they rose for women in their late 30s and early 40s.

But this is actually bringing the US in line with worldwide trends – or helping it catch up, depending on your perspective. High-income countries, and increasingly middle-income ones, have long seen women delaying their first child until later ages compared to American women, Percheski said.

It’s a sign of better access to education and employment opportunities, a rise in individualism and women’s autonomy, better sex education, and a shift from religious-based to more secular values, she said. But on a more individual level, having kids at a later age is also a result of women choosing to stay in school longer, waiting until later to marry, and paying off student debt first.

mother baby
American women delaying childbearing is bringing the US in line with worldwide trends.

To be sure, macroeconomic forces are another major factor in the decision to postpone having kids. Millennials have grappled with several of these, from the lingering effects of the Great Recession to soaring living costs for things like housing and, of course, childcare.

Finances are one of the top reasons why American millennials aren’t having kids or are having fewer kids than they considered ideal, Insider’s Shana Lebowitz reported, citing a survey by The New York Times. To raise a child to age 18 in America, it’ll cost parents an average of $230,000.

A ‘rain check’ on babies

Recessions typically have the strongest economic influence on birth and fertility rates. “People tend to wait during periods of political and social and rest,” Percheski said.

The Great Recession saw a 9% decline in births, per Brookings, about 400,000 babies fewer than there would have been otherwise. And while the Spanish Flu only resulted in an economic contraction, that public health crisis also led to a drop in births. A pandemic lumps together economic and health turmoil, which Brookings says could result in a greater impact on births.

parents pandemic
Sara Adelman became a working-from-home mom during the pandemic. Birth rates typically decline during periods of economic crisis.

But whether the current lapse in babymaking will translate to fewer babies overall or just a childbirth postponement, Percheski said. She said she thinks we’ll see a reduction in the number of women having two or three kids, as happened during the financial crisis.

Mauro Guillén, Wharton professor and author of “2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future” told Insider that the decline in births is a “temporary blip,” likely to last one to two years.

“Young couples have said, ‘Give me a rain check, I don’t want the baby now because there’s too much uncertainty,'” he said. “But they will have those babies later. They don’t cancel their plans to have babies for life.”

A ‘demographic time bomb?’

A decline in birth rates has sparked worries that the US may be headed for what’s known as a “demographic time bomb,” in which an aging population isn’t replaced by enough young workers.

This could slow the economy in the long term by creating higher government costs and a smaller workforce, who will have to front the care costs for aging populations. It could also create a shortage of pension and social security-type funds and impact things like school enrollment and college demand.

Japan is a famous example of just such a time bomb, long ticking demographically. Experts in that country are now worried that a pandemic-fueled baby bust could worsen the country’s aging crisis that strains the working population. Like Japan, Italy is facing an aging population and dropping fertility rates, to the point where the government has begun issuing fertility ads. So far, high levels of immigration have kept the US from seeing the same economic impact that has hit these other countries.

But Percheski said a decline in births isn’t necessarily bad – it will just require structural adjustments, like creating new public policies that respond to changes in population size.

family child tax credit mothers
Today’s baby bust could end up being tomorrow’s baby boom.

In some ways, fewer classmates for those born in 2021 could be good, she added.”If there are fewer people competing for jobs when they hit the job market, that’s not bad from their perspective, but it does require us to make adjustments.”

America can also change now to avoid having to do it later, such as making childcare more affordable. “Raising children is one of the great joys of life, but it’s also one of the great burdens,” economist Tyler Cowen said in a recent panel with the American Enterprise Institute. “If we don’t have innovations to make raising children either easier or more fun or less costly, we’re in big trouble.”

But if the pandemic-fueled birth decline just results in women bearing children at a later age rather than having fewer kids or none at all, per Brookings, the fertility rate may be underestimated. It could even result in a delayed baby boom.

Guillen said he thinks we’ll see a higher number of births in 2022 and 2023, which could make preschools fuller. He said he’s more concerned with the mortality rate than the birth rate, but in any case the full effects of the birth decline won’t truly be seen until 20 to 30 years later.

“Generally, it would be better to have a smoother evolution of pace, but recessions always have their effect,” he said.

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Gen Z is going to have a hard time getting rich

gen z
Gen Z is set to make less money on stocks and bonds.

  • Gen Z will earn a third less on stock and bond investments than past generations, Credit Suisse found.
  • They can expect average annualized returns of just 2%, according to the bank’s investment returns yearbook.
  • Another obstacle for Gen Z: they’ve been the most unemployed during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gen Z is walking a rocky road to getting rich.

They’re set to earn less than previous generations on stocks and bonds, according to Credit Suisse’s global investment returns yearbook.

In fact, the generation can expect average annual real returns of just 2% on their investment portfolios – a third less than the 5%-plus real returns that millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers have seen. Credit Suisse’s analysis took in average investment returns since 1900 and forecasted them going forward for Gen Z.

The yearbook acknowledges that marked deflation could increase bond returns, The Economist reported, but it said inflation is more of a concern. What the report calls a “low-return world” is yet another another financial obstacle for the generation, who may be on track to repeat millennials’ money problems.

A December Bank of America Research report called “OK Zoomer” found that the pandemic will impact Gen Z’s financial and professional future in the same way that the Great Recession did for millennials.

“Like the financial crisis in 2008 to 2009 for millennials, Covid will challenge and impede Gen Z’s career and earning potential,” the report reads, adding that a significant portion of Gen Z is entering adulthood in the midst of a recession, just as a cohort of millennials did. “Like a decade ago, the economic cost of this recession is likely to hit the youngest and least experienced generation the most.”

Gen Z was hit hardest in the workforce

Gen Z been been impacted the most in the workforce, facing the highest unemployment rates.

They entered a job market crippled by a 14.7% unemployment rate in May – greater than the 10% unemployment rate the Great Recession saw at its 2009 peak. Those ages 20 to 24 had an unemployment rate of nearly 27% when the unemployment peaked last April according to data from the St. Louis Fed, more than any other generation.

Recessions typically hit younger workers hardest in the short-term, but can reap long-term consequences.

“The way a recession can really hurt people just starting out can have lasting effects,” Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, previously told Insider. “There’s a lot of evidence that the first postgrad job you get sets the stage in some important way for later.”

Recession graduates typically see stagnated wages that can last up to 15 years, Stanford research shows. That was the case for the oldest millennials graduating into the Great Recession, who in 2016 saw wealth levels 34% lower than that of previous generations at the same age, per the St. Louis Fed.

A follow-up study showed that by 2019, this cohort had narrowed that wealth deficit down to 11%. Such financial catch-up could be an optimistic sign for Gen Z in terms of regaining any ground lost building wealth during the pandemic.

However, millennials have had a 5%-plus annualized investment return on their side. With a projected 2% annual return for Gen Z, building wealth may be even harder to do.

There’s more to building wealth

Of course, stocks and bonds are just two asset classes. There are other ways Gen Z can build wealth, such as investing in real estate or by becoming successful entrepreneurs. Many Gen Zers have already embarked on an entrepreneurial path as early as their teen years, which could go a long way in wealth creation.

But the pandemic has caused a housing frenzy that led to depleted inventory and inflated housing prices, making it more difficult to buy real estate – and build wealth through it. And while more prospective new businesses were formed in 2020 than ever before, almost a third of existing small businesses were wiped out by the pandemic. Altogether, the pandemic could ultimately cause Gen Z to potentially lose $10 trillion in earnings.

Within the next decade, Gen Z’s income will rise to such a point that they’ll effectively take over the economy, but their wealth could well be far behind previous generations by the time they get there.

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Bloomington, Illinois, is the best market for first-time home buyers – here are the 9 other US cities that made the list

suburbs
  • Bloomington, Illinois, tops Realtor.com’s list of the best markets for first-time home buyers.
  • The ranking was based on factors like affordability, inventory, and the number of millennials there.
  • The pandemic has led to a frenzied real estate market, resulting in low inventory and bidding wars.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The real estate market is on fire, meaning first-time home buyers could face a daunting task. But according to new data from Realtor.com, there are a handful of US cities well-suited to welcome hopeful buyers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged a real-estate rush, with desperate home buyers snatching up homes nationwide in an effort to take advantage of low mortgage rates. The surge has led to outlandish bidding wars and, sometimes, regret among buyers who made snap decisions in their hurry to put down roots.

Plus, housing inventory has hit record lows as those who already own homes are opting not to sell, and new home construction has dipped over the years.

Read more: It’s actually a horrible time to buy a house

The frenzied market has also made it challenging for first-time buyers who are competing against existing home-owners or investors, according to Realtor.com’s Sabrina Speianu.

To find the markets where first-time buyers might have the best luck, Realtor.com looked at 774 cities, each with a population of more than 50,000. The regions were ranked on a number of criteria, including available inventory, affordability, job opportunities, commute time, local amenities like restaurants and bars, and the number of 25- to 34-year-olds who live there.

Here are the best locations for first-time home buyers:

  1. Bloomington, Illinois
  2. Iowa City, Iowa
  3. Kalamazoo, Michigan
  4. Great Falls, Montana
  5. Eau Claire, Wisconsin
  6. Savannah, Georgia
  7. Schenectady, New York
  8. Taylorsville, Utah
  9. Harrisonburg, Virginia
  10. Rapid City, South Dakota

Speianu noted that Bloomington ranked higher than the national benchmark for all six of the metrics measured. In the case of the other nine cities, Speianu said, buyers will likely have to make some trade-offs when it comes to factors like available inventory or amenities.

As a group, the top markets have a larger share of millennials than the national average – 14.3% vs. 13.5% – more active listings, more affordable homes, lower unemployment rates, shorter commutes, and a higher count of bars and restaurants than the national average.

While it remains to be seen if any of these markets will lure millennial homebuyers, particularly as vaccinations rise and society gradually returns to normal, there has been a noticeable migration among young people during the pandemic, according to research from investment management firm Cowen and Company published late last year. Among the 2,700 people Cowen surveyed, 48% of millennials reported living in the suburbs compared with 44% in 2019.

“This suburbanization trend has been slowly occurring since 2017, and we expect it to accelerate with the COVID-19 disruption,” Cowen analyst John Kernan wrote. “These results are also corroborated by a shift in home ownership.”

Those who reported living in cities fell to 35%, down from 38% last year, likely driven by a desire for access to outdoor space, larger square footage, or a more comfortable work-from-home arrangement.

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Avocado toast will save the economy

avocado toast
Millennials are set to drive restaurant spending during the economic reopening.

  • Restaurants are making a comeback.
  • March’s jobs report smashed expectations, adding 916,000 against a 660,000 estimate, and dining led the way.
  • Led by dining, leisure and hospitality added 280,000 jobs, so avocado toast and the like should lead to a lot more hiring.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The economy really began to reopen in March, and restaurants led the way.

The US economy added 916,000 jobs in March, trouncing economic forecasts that predicted that number would look more like 660,000 jobs. The leisure and hospitality industry not only drove nearly all of February’s jobs gains, it accounted for roughly one-third of March’s upswing. With 280,000 payroll additions last month, it added more jobs than any other sector.

Leisure and hospitality consists of arts, entertainment, and recreation, ranging from performing arts and museums to amusement parks. It also includes accommodation and food services, which contributed to 215,000 of the sector’s added payrolls in March. Food services and drinking places fueled most of these additions, with 175,000 new jobs alone. It’s becoming clear that eating out will be very important for the economic recovery.

While restaurants made huge job gains last month, the sector will also need Americans willing to spend on dining out for its recovery – along with that of the wider American economy.

Americans seem to have already started doing that. For the seven days ending March 27, spending on restaurants and bars was up a whopping 200% year-over-year, per Bank of America card data. The more representative two-year change still showed an 11.9% increase. Overall, BofA found total card spending up 82% year-over-year and up 20% over two years for the period, signaling that trillions of federal stimulus are working.

Of course, with restaurants come things like avocado toast, a luxury long used as a metaphorical stick to beat the millennial generation with, perpetuating the narrative that this frivolous generation isn’t focused on the right things financially. While that’s not quite true, it is the case that millennials ate out more and spent more eating out than any other generation prior to the pandemic. They’re on track to be the biggest food and beverage spenders by 2030.

High-earning millennials saw a lot of excess cash build up in their savings accounts during the pandemic. That puts them in prime position to cash out on a favorite experience they’ve been deprived of for a year.

They’ve already begun fueling New York City’s indoor dining scene when restrictions were lifted and splurged while doing so. Millennials shelled out for high-priced items like steak, wine, and tasting menus, sending check averages and tips on the climb, Bloomberg’s Kate Krader reported.

It turns out the economic reopening – and recovery – will taste like avocado.

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The typical older Black millennial has 17 times less wealth than white peers, and student debt may be why

Millennial
The millennial racial wealth gap persists.

Older millennials born in the 1980s are making a wealth comeback, but there’s a vast racial wealth gap lurking underneath this progress.

In 2016, older millennials’ wealth levels were 34% below where they should be if the Great Recession hadn’t occured, per a 2018 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Within three years, the first part of a new St. Louis Fed study found, they had narrowed that wealth deficit down to 11%.

However, the second installment of the Fed’s study reveals that these strides look quite different when broken down by race. While white and Hispanic families saw improvement in building wealth, the study states, Black families experienced the reverse as they fell further below wealth expectations between 2007 and 2019.

From 2016 to 2019, white families of this older millennial cohort saw wealth levels go from 40% to 5% below where they should be. That wealth deficit doubles to 10% for Hispanic families, but that is still less than their 2016 wealth deficit of 15%. The deficit soars for Black families, who were 52% below wealth expectations in 2019 – a significant increase from 39% three years prior.

These differences look just as staggering when framed as median wealth for the same year. For older white millennial families, that’s $88,000 – four times the $22,000 median wealth for Hispanic families and roughly 17 times the $5,000 median wealth for Black families.

The report doesn’t take into consideration effects from coronavirus recession, as full data for that period isn’t yet available.

Black millennials bear a bigger student debt burden

Despite these wealth differences, the St. Louis Fed found that all three groups had income levels that aligned with expectations, indicating that earnings weren’t preventing wealth accumulation.

The report suggests that one reason older Black millennials are increasingly falling below wealth expectations is because of their staggering student-loan debt.

Black students shoulder a heavier debt burden than their white peers: About 87% of Black students attending four-year colleges take out student loans compared to about 60% of white students. They also owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers after graduating, per the Brookings Institute.

Black borrowers under the age of 40 were also more likely to be behind on payments in 2019 than white or Hispanic borrowers, according to the Federal Reserve. Black graduates are nearly five times as likely to default on their loans than their white peers.

The racial wealth gap is why some politicians and lawmakers are advocating for student-debt cancellation. Several experts previously told Insider that communities of color would be one of the groups that will gain the most from student-debt cancellation plans.

Right now, it looks like this socieconomic divide isn’t close to narrowing any time soon. As the St. Louis Fed report’s authors, Ana Hernández Kent and Lowell Ricketts, wrote, “Given the large wealth deficit and negative trend, the disparities among older Black millennials may persist as these families age, inhibiting their full participation in the economy.”

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The pandemic helped some millennials finally grow up

millennial
Economic forces have made adulthood seem long out of reach for many millennials.

  • For some millennials, a sense of adulthood has become more attainable during the pandemic.
  • Economic forces have long kept millennials from doing the things that used to define growing up.
  • Some took on more responsibilities in 2020, from buying houses to nesting to dealing with adult-sized stress.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It wasn’t until the pandemic that I started making my bed every day.

It seemed like a counterintuitive act before 2020. My bed was trapped by three walls in the tiny bedroom of my rented apartment, which meant I had to climb onto it to smooth out the sheets and duvet, creating as many new wrinkles as I erased. It was too much of a hassle in a world where getting ready for and commuting to work was still a thing. And what was the point, anyway, when I would just climb back into it at the end of the day?

But when my bedroom turned into my office and all my meetings moved to Zoom, I couldn’t bear the sight of unprofessional disarray, one more stressful stimulus that would crowd my already cluttered brain.

It was a new beginning.

I also created a Sunday cleaning schedule, traded in box mac-n-cheese for chicken marsala recipes, and began purging my stuff in hopes of a more minimalist space.

“We’re all thrown out of our normal way of doing things,” psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, who coined the term “emerging adulthood,” told me. He explained that some people could benefit from the creation of a routine that helps them feel that not everything is in chaos.

My effort to exert some semblance of control in an unraveling world also elicited, I came to realize, my first real taste of feeling like an “adult.”

Millennials’ struggles with “adulting” have been long documented, but their journey into adulthood has been a challenging one thanks to a relentless affordability crisis – a macroeconomic trend more compelling than one person’s laziness when it comes to bed-making. (Or maybe not – exhaustion with such domestic tasks is at least partially symptomatic of burnout, another issue afflicting the millennial generation).

The definition for adulthood is subjective, especially for such a diverse group that spans the ages of 25 to 40. But the pandemic has, ironically, brought the traditional view of adulthood – think independence and responsibility – within sight for some millennials, particularly the smaller cohort on the wealthier side of the millennial wealth gap.

Many have taken the next step in their living situation, whether as first-time homeowners or venturing into living on their own. Like me, some have turned to “nesting” activities like organizing and cooking for the first time. And most are grappling with adult-level stress that ages them both mentally and physically.

The pandemic created a new world and a new economy, and maybe also a newly “adult” generation.

Suburban and solo living scream independence

Some millennials who weren’t hit by job losses or salary cuts in 2020 were able to play catch-up by tucking away disposable income during the pandemic.

For this group of well-off millennials, adulthood has become more attainable, said Clare Mehta, an associate professor of psychology at Emmanuel College who has been studying established adults ages 30 to 45 during the pandemic. “If you have a partner and you’re thinking about having a family, now there’s a real impetus to move out of the city,” she told Insider.

Many have fled big cities for the suburbs, as historically low interest rates and the option to work remotely made more types of homes viable for the generation. Mehta cited one 30-something married father in her study who had previously told her he wouldn’t feel like an adult until he owned property – he just bought his first house.

House for sale, Texas
The pandemic pushed homeownership within reach of some millennials.

Millennials led all generations in homebuying last year, according to Apartment List’s Homeownership report, accelerating a five-year trend in millennial homeownership rates rising the fastest. And 30% of millennials said in a recent survey by Clever Real Estate that the pandemic pushed them to house-hunting earlier than planned.

US Census Data found that homeownership rates increased by 4 percentage points from the second quarters of 2019 to 2020, and younger generations saw the greatest the leaps. Those under age 35 saw a 4.2 percentage point increase and those ages 35 to 44 saw a 4.9 percentage point increase, compared to older age groups who all hovered around an increase of 2 percentage points.

Even for urban renters, those who stayed in cities are embarking on solo living for the first time amid rent drops, finding new lifestyles and a new sense of independence. These urban and suburban upgrades are both a sign of financial independence, which many young adults deem a marker of true adulthood.

The turn to nesting

The onset of social distancing sidelined the experience economy and birthed the solitary leisure economy, in which Americans spent more time entertaining themselves, well, alone. Among other things, it has pushed many Americans into a nesting mindset.

That would explain my sudden desire to organize and clean, and I may be solitary in doing this, but I’m not alone. A life relegated indoors and Netflix organizing shows like “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and “The Home Edit” have provided a foundation for a decluttering boom in America.

“People are feeling their spaces right now,” Gretchen Rubin, author of “Outer Order, Inner Calm” told Jura Koncius of The Washington Post. “Some people feel like nesting and just want to paint everything. Others feel claustrophobic. Many have figured out they need more elbow room.”

For many millennials, such nesting activities are new. Consider cooking. Many Americans began cooking at home more as restaurants temporarily shuttered, but it was the first time doing so for many millennials, Krishnakumar Davey, president of strategic analytics at IRI, told CNBC.

millennial cooking
Some millennials turned to nesting activities like cooking for the first time in quarantine.

Millennials also happen to be leading the way in some nesting activities, such as home improvement projects. More than 80% of millennials tackled a home renovation during the pandemic, according to a OnePoll survey, more than any other generation. Spending on home improvement overall increased by 7% in the latter half of 2020 and early 2021, per a February Bank of America note.

Many of these DIY renovators are young females trading in travel and dining for at-home experiences, The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull wrote on the rise of nesting among shut-in Americans back in November. These renovations have been both a coping mechanism for the unemployed, a means to control one’s space, and a way to wile away quarantine days.

As Mull wrote, “What else is there to do?”

The toll of stress

There’s also the emotional burden of dealing with an unprecedented crisis. Research shows that abnormally stressful events not only physically age your brain, but make emerging adults feel at least a year older.

Mental health was generally worse for younger generations pre-pandemic, when diagnoses for major depression in the US were rising at a faster rate for millennials and teens than for any other age group. Since 2013, millennials have seen a 47% increase in major-depression diagnoses. A more recent study by Blue Cross Blue Shield finds that the pandemic has further accelerated the decline of millennial health, including a 12% increase in major depression.

Given the wide age range of millennials, the emotional burden is coming in different forms. For millennials living alone, Mehta said, the stress comes in having to manage their own isolation. Meanwhile, women in their 30s are dealing with increased stress as they juggle working from with unusual childcare arrangements.

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The pandemic showed millennials their parents are aging.

Millennials responsible for others and the emotional wellbeing of their family “have a huge emotional burden, trying to keep everything and everyone together,” Mehta said.

The pandemic also showed many millennials how old their parents are. They’ve had to reckon with the fact that their parents are aging and could be considered at-risk individuals, some having adopted the role of adult themselves in an attempt to convince their parents to take precautions early on in the pandemic.

A little bit older

Now, this isn’t all to say millennials are an immature bunch, unable to get their act together until a world crisis hits. Some millennials had achieved typical adult milestones like buying a house and having kids pre-pandemic, and those who didn’t may have felt like adults regardless.

And not every millennial now feels more adult-like. The pandemic is the latest in a series of economic challenges millennials have faced. Arnett said it has really scrambled and delayed things for the younger cohort, the most likely to have lost their jobs. A halted career and no income stream, which makes goals like homebuying seem out of reach, likely pushed any sense of adulthood further away for those affected.

There’s also the 52% of young adults who were quarantining with their parents as of July, which could lead to feelings of regression. “Most people expect to be able to stay on their own,” Arnett said. “They get used to paying their own bills and doing their own laundry and buying their own groceries. And then to come home, it feels like a defeat.”

Much like the growing millennial wealth gap, the pandemic may therefore be exacerbating a millennial adulthood gap, as some move into the trappings of adulthood with all its responsibilities and stresses, and others stand still in extended adolescence or even move backwards. It’s another manifestation of the K-shaped recovery, which has benefited those with means and hurt nearly everyone else.

And, when it comes to nesting, a married woman with kids probably feels a lot differently about picking up chores at home than a single woman like me does, considering it’s setting back gains in gender equality.

Because the pandemic is ongoing, it’s too soon to exactly determine its long-term effects on millennials. But there’s something to be said about the strides made and burdens faced during the pandemic for a generation in the precarious stage that straddles emerging and established adulthood.

Now that the US is readying for a booming “roaring 20s” economy, some millennials are set to come out of the pandemic a little bit older and wiser, both literally and metaphorically.

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Pajama sets are the new 2-piece suit. A millennial brand explains the wild pandemic year when sales spiked 400% .

Desmond & Dempsey
Joel Jeffery (L) and Molly Goddard (

There are two types of people in the world: those who wear old T-shirts to bed, and those who don’t.

Joel Jeffery, 33, and Molly Goddard, 29, the millennial duo behind the London-based luxury pajama brand Desmond & Dempsey, don’t mind if you’re part of the former.

Eventually, Jeffery said, people come around. Some of the investors they first pitched claimed to not wear two-piece pajamas, forcing the duo to revise their presentation, calling pajamas “something you wear to the breakfast table.”

Goddard’s old boss also wasn’t a believer. Then, they gave him a pair. “Now he’s on our VIP customer list,” she said.

Desmond & Dempsey, which sells pajama sets for about $150, saw sales skyrocket during the pandemic. It sits in a privileged position at the intersection of two multi-billion-dollar industries. First, the $10 billion self care industry. Second, high-end sleepwear, or as Brandi Neal wrote for Bustle the “fancy pajamas you usually only see in movies.” This category also encompasses nightgowns, robes, and slippers, and market researcher Technavio expects the market to grow by $19.5 billion between 2020 and 2024.

And Jeffrey doesn’t expect the momentum to stop anytime soon.

The brand was in the right place, at the right time

It’s hard to pinpoint how many people actually sleep in pajamas.

A 2017 survey in the UK found about 40% of people sleep in pajamas, while another one found 90% of people wear them to lounge around the house.

In the United States, meanwhile, a 2018 report stated nearly 69% of people sleep partially clothed, while 31% sleep fully clothed. Then there are those, of course, who sleep naked. What is known, however, is that luxury sleep and loungewear are associated with comfort. And the idea of comfort (including meditation apps, organic diets, and face masks) is especially popular among millennials.

Desmond & Dempsey

It’s this comfort, Jeffrey says, that people sought during the pandemic as the world fell into precariousness. Last year, the Washington Post, citing the Adobe Digital Economy Index, reported pajama sales increased over 140% in April 2020, compared to the month prior.

Last March and April, Desmond & Dempsey saw a 400% increase in sales. Its best-selling items were the two-piece pajama set. The company was able to deal with an increase in consumer demand because it decided to still place the orders that wholesalers canceled, restocking its top items and then selling direct-to-consumer.

Launched in 2014, the brand was named after Jeffery’s and Goddard’s grandparents, respectively. In its early days, Goddard used to personally email each customer asking for feedback, then send a code that would give them free monogramming if they told their friends about the company.

That referral program helped generate interest in the company at the start, and a similar strategy helped it get through the pandemic. It started an initiative that allowed people to nominate a friend to receive a pair of Desmond & Dempsey pajamas. All the person had to do was explain why their friend deserved it.

“People needed comfort and that’s what those pajamas provided,” Goddard said. “People were vulnerable and really suffering, and it gave them something to make them feel a little more creative.”

The market is expected to grow, Desmond & Dempsey is ready

The pandemic, in a sense, has helped accelerate the normalization of self-care and comfort.

Andreas Lenzhofer, cofounder of the Zurich-based sleepwear company Dagsmejan, told Insider he expects interest in the category to rise, and the focuses on personal health, wellness, and comfort are here to stay.

Desmond & Dempsey

Adobe Analytics found that November pajama sales were up 200% compared to the year prior. NPD Group told Insider last year’s sales for pajamas costing $50 or more increased 3 times faster than average-priced pajamas, accounting for 17% of the pajama market.

Meanwhile, social media is helping these niche brands build an audience. Desmond & Dempsey has over 80,000 followers on Instagram alone. Other luxury sleepwear brands such as Lunya (whose sleep set goes for $232) and Olivia Von Halle (whose pajamas can cost nearly $600) have over 233,000 and 102,000 followers on the platform, respectively.

Dagsmejan told Insider it also ended 2020 with massive sales growth, seeing over three-times what it saw in 2019.

“People realized there was life to have,” he said. “[They] readjusted their spending patterns, and focused on where they could make a positive impact on their personal wellbeing.”

Now, with an influx of customers, Desmond & Dempsey’s next mission is now fighting out how to make the consumer demand stay, Goddard said.

But that might not be too hard. As the remote work trend continues, rumors have been swirling that office life will never be the same. Even designer Misha Nonoo previously told Insider she was preparing to make comfort dressing the new power dressing, as Zoom meetings slowly becoming part of everyday life.

Already, Desmond & Dempsey has collaborated with H&M and has expanded into slippers, nightgowns, robes, eye masks, and even diapers. To date, it has partnered with over 30 wholesale retailers, including Bergdorf Goodman, Selfridges, and online retailer FarFetched, and in October it will officially launch a kids collection.

Jeffrey and Goddard even want to open a store one day, and further expand their presence into the United States. The market might be crowded but if anything, but they are ready.

“We just have to change the spelling of pyjamas,” Goddard said.

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Indian millennials are taking to the stock market, as the bored and young start driving markets worldwide

india stock trading
Young investors in India are turning to the country’s stock market.

  • Millennials in India are driving the country’s stock market, Bloomberg reported.
  • They are likelier to take risks than their elders, departing from the asset investments typical in India.
  • Worldwide, young investors are shifting investing trends – and economies along with them.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Millennials in India might be changing the country’s stock market.

Driven by quarantine boredom, many 20- and 30-something Indians have turned to stock trading during the pandemic, reported Bloomberg. The stock market rally and rise of trading apps and social media has lured these young investors, Bloomberg wrote, many of whom are day trading for the first time.

The influx of young investors is a similar story around the world, but an especially positive sign for India’s economic development, as active investor accounts increased to a record 10.4 million in 2020. Only 3.7% of the country’s 1.36 billion people invest in equities, per Bloomberg, compared to 12.7% in China and 55% in the US.

“India could easily equal China’s market cap in the next five to 10 years because going forward, growth in India’s market will probably be faster,” emerging-market investor Mark Mobius told Bloomberg. “China, because of its size, will probably grow more slowly.”

It also signals that internet adoption is extending to areas of the country beyond the big cities of Mumbai and New Delhi. Securities firm Angel Broking told Bloomberg that more than 50% of its new customers in its fourth quarter were from “smaller cities and towns.”

Indian millennials are more likely to take market risks, a departure from other investors’ traditional investments in bank deposits and physical assets like real estate and gold, the latter of which served as an “insurance policy and a retirement plan in a country that lacks robust social welfare systems or widespread access to formal credit,” Bloomberg wrote.

This appetite for risk-taking is common in other markets’ experience of millennial investing, though, pointing to a more volatile economy as younger participants join the stock market.

Millennials are driving big investing trends

Worldwide, the bored and young fueled a big shift in investing in 2020.

Bitcoin was buzzing, surpassing its previous peak from December 2017, a year when it had a “wild run,” rising by more than 1,300% and going mainstream before tumbling the next year as it and other cryptocurrencies slumped.

But substantial millennial interest brought the hype alive again. The conditions of the pandemic and resulting search for an investing hedge against potential inflation, more widespread availability on PayPal and Square, and new Wall Street regulators, could be contributing to its rally.

Stock-trading startup Robinhood also saw explosive growth during the pandemic thanks to a new generation of novice traders flocking to the stock, options, and cryptocurrency platform, Insider’s Graham Rapier reported. The free-trading investing app, whose average user is 33 years old, added 3 million users to its current total of 13 million this year alone. The company even raised $200 million in funding in December.

But the boom hasn’t been entirely positive: It’s triggered outages and angry customers, and amateur traders have lost thousands of dollars through high-volume day trades.

More recently, a group of day-trading Redditors from The WallStreetBets forum used the platform to incite frenzied trading in the shares of GameStop in response to hedge funds “shorting” the stock. Their trades sent GameStop soaring, causing an estimated $19 billion of losses for short sellers in the company as of January 29.

As the young come into both money and access to day trading, their investment trends are ultimately shaping economies across the globe, from the US to India.

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Millennials need a lot more than a $1.9 stimulus package to heal their economic wounds

millennial
The stimulus will help millennials, but they also need longer-term solutions.

Are financially burdened millennials finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel?

The House of Representatives passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package on Wednesday, and President Joe Biden just signed it into law.

Designed to boost the economy during the worst crisis seen in generations, the law provides everything from additional funding for small businesses and vaccine distribution to housing and rental benefits, and a pot of money for state and local governments. An early analysis of the rescue plan indicates the vast majority of its benefits are squarely directed at middle and low-income households.

But it also has the potential to be a stepping stone that millennials need to help climb their way out of the affordability crisis they’ve been facing for most of their adulthoods, marked by two recessions before the age of 40.

Beefing up unemployment benefits to $300 a week will help many Americans, but especially the younger workers who have been hardest hit in terms of income loss during the pandemic. The older cohort of millennials in prime child-rearing years stand to benefit from a beefed-up child tax credit that will put up to $3,600 in the pockets of parents. And $1,400 checks will help cover the things millennials struggle with most: living costs like rent and debt.

While critics say the final American Rescue Plan is missing some key initiatives like a federal minimum wage hike and student-loan debt relief, it has overall received widespread support. A new Morning Consult poll found that 75% of voters support the package, including 59% of Republicans.

While it’s a good start, millennials need more to heal their economic wounds; they need solutions to restructure the broken economy they inherited.

Millennials have been facing an affordability crisis

Millennials are a generation of optimistic, hard-working people who have been dealt a bad hand, according to Jill Filipovic, author of “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk,” which explores how boomers created an economic crisis that will leave millennials the first generation worse off than their parents.

“None of this was an accident,” she told Insider back in August. “If we understand where millennials are and how we got here, we can have a better idea of how to fix things going forward.”

The oldest millennials came limping out of the Great Recession with crippled finances, and they were still dealing with its lingering effects a dozen years later, when the coronavirus recession hit.

The financial crisis left the oldest millennials with wealth levels 34% below where they would be if it didn’t occur, and it could have led to stagnant wages for the generation up to 15 years after graduation. Coupled with student-loan debt, soaring costs for things like houses and health care, and now, income loss due to the pandemic, it’s been a grim wealth-building journey.

millennial job loss
Many millennials have struggled with everything from rent to student-loan debt.

But these aren’t the only economic forces behind millennials’ economic plight.

A November Deutsche Bank Research report stated that younger generations have been hit hard while older generations have reaped benefits from the economy. Boomers, it said, saw an increased value in assets thanks to low interest rates and inflated housing prices. They didn’t have to pay as much for education as millennials have, nor will they face the cost for environmental damage caused by the carbon emission-releasing companies in which they’ve invested.

Boomers have been questioned by authors like Filipovic and news outlets ranging from Vox to the Guardian for their role in bankrupting the rich economy they inherited, leaving millennials to pick up the pieces. And they’re not actively setting up a framework to fix this.

Neil Howe, the economist, historian, and demographer who coined the term “millennial,” told Insider that boomers refuse to pay for institutional upkeep, preferring to spend money on things that change people’s lives now. He said this is a result of their coming-of-age experience, in which their parents, the GI generation, cared about building strong institutions and looking into the future. Boomers took that for granted and developed a “live-for-today attitude,” he said.

Consider when boomers entered the same life stage millennials are in now, in the 1980s. They supported the increasing financialization of the economy and a massive reduction of taxes, causing financial asset speculation to become both disconnected from and controlling of the real economy, Kurt Andersen, author of “Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America,” told Insider in February.

Millennials need a game plan and room at the table

Biden promised to “go big” on a stimulus package, and he delivered with a progressive historic bill that some have likened to FDR’s “New Deal” agenda of the 1930s. As Insider’s Juliana Kaplan wrote, it has the potential to inject the government into American life in unprecedented ways, while Insider’s Ben Winck reported that’s part of $5 trillion in stimulus going back to the early days of the pandemic during the Trump administration.

Putting cash in pockets and fattening unemployment benefits will inevitably be a leg up for many millennials suffering from economic hardships. But it needs to be followed up with longer-term action.

“Millennials would like to see a real game plan,” Howe said, adding that they ideally want to see society move in a more constructive way that ensures their future. The older generation, he said, is more focused on getting through the next six months than investing in a structural solution for the future.

Joe Biden
Biden needs to follow up the stimulus package with long-term action.

Take the question of student-loan debt, for example. Biden has advocated for canceling up to $10,000 of it while resisting the more progressive agenda to cancel up to $50,000. Biden claims he lacks the legal authority to do it.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren disagrees, and she was a cosponsor of a tax exemption in the stimulus on student-loan forgiveness through 2025. She argues it sets the stage for student loan forgiveness. While this would wipe out debt for 15.3 million Americans, it doesn’t solve the problem of the rising cost of tuition that leads to such massive student-debt burdens.

But millennials are by and large waiting for a political class from another generation to make these decisions.

Boomers have held tremendous political, cultural, and economic power for the past several decades, Filipovic said. “What millennials need is not just boomers imparting their wisdom and experience, but really making room at the table for us,” she added.

While the number of millennials in Congress rose slightly this year by 1%, they still only make up 7% of Congress with 31 out of 532 voting members, per the Pew Research Center.

“Unless millennials are at the table, we’re really not going to see the issues that are most important to us addressed,” Filipovic said. “You need people who are actually going to live in the future, who have a stake in the future, at the decision making table.”

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