Millennials Work Harder and Longer than Their Parents for Less Rewards

By Julie Kooser

Lindsey Palmer is so mired in school debt that she scoffed at the notion that she should be saving four percent of every paycheck for retirement.

While Christopher Greene understands the need to save money, he barely slides by while still living at home.

“Counting in student loans, about 100 percent of my paycheck goes to bills,” said Palmer, a recent Point Park graduate.

These two millennials know all too well the harsh reality found in a recent study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which states that today’s youth will work longer and harder than their parents, only to retire with less money, if they are able to retire at all.

OECD also found that more economically sound countries are planning to push the retirement age to 70 in the next 30-40 years, spelling out bad news for millennials. Pensions will drop to 35 percent of pre-retirement salaries. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, since 1968 the value of the minimum wage (using 2012 dollar values) plummeted from $10.34 to 2009’s $7.25.

When speaking to ABC News about the study, a representative of OECD said many of the people retiring today worked for most of their lives in stable careers. However, millennials find that getting life-long careers are “not the norm.”

Working in the fast food industry while pursuing her career in photography, Palmer has been saving all of her tips since the end of her college career. When money gets tight, this buffer is what she uses to keep afloat. She finds it difficult to maintain a savings account because her finances “are not exactly saveable.”

Saving four percent, as suggested by PNC Bank Financial Advisor David Gregory, also seems to be out of her reach.

“I also do not believe I will be retiring for a very long time, if ever,” she stated.

She currently resides in one part of a duplex with three roommates because she cannot afford to live alone.

Greene balances his studies at Beaver County Community College while working as a manager at a local restaurant. He lives at home with his mother because he can’t afford to live on his own.

Greene and his mother, who also attends college, tag team the financial situation.

“At least 80 percent of my paycheck goes to bills that I help my mother pay,” he said.

Greene said he does not have a savings account in place, but monitors his budget closely. Though most of his income goes toward paying bills, he will not be worrying about school debt in the future.

“I gratefully do not have any debt thanks to the scholarships and state grants that I receive, and neither does my mother,” he said.

He makes between $600-$800 a month. He said he pays for both his and his mother’s textbooks and gas, as well as other necessities.

Tim Krieser said he basically works two full-time positions while his partner also works full-time. He said he still finds it impossible to put money away towards his retirement.

Krieser left the nest when he was just a teenager.

“I moved out on my own when I was 17,” he said. “I had a good paying job early in life, luckily.”

Being on his own was easy for the most part, since he had no debt. However, he now has a newborn baby boy. He said his financial state has changed, but thanks to his hardworking girlfriend splitting the responsibilities, he thinks he will be able to slide by just fine.

Because he is working two jobs, Krieser says that he puts away ten percent of every paycheck he earns for buffer room in case of emergencies. He said he has had to delve into it several times since starting this system.

Dylan Buchanan, a current Pittsburgh resident, said he thinks saving four percent has potential, even though he finds himself knee deep in debt from college and overdue credit cards.

“Four percent is a very small number in my case and wouldn’t significantly detract from my standard of living,” Buchanan stated.

Buchanan finds that most of his paycheck goes towards all of his bills including rent, car insurance and credit cards. He shares a one-bedroom apartment with two roommates, barely scraping by with a management position. At 24-years-old, his parents were living alone, raising two children and getting by just fine.

“My student loans total over $50,000,” he said. “I also have three credit cards that are all maxed out, averaging $2,000 each.”


Julie Kooser is a photojournalism major, originally from Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, but now heils from Pittsburgh. She is expected to graduate in 2018 from Point Park University.