-Negligible stock market returns in the past decade
True only if by "the past decade" you're measuring from the peak of the dotcom bubble
. If you mean "the last ten years", you're looking at a 64% return
, which is 5% annualized. And in the long run, what matters for investors isn't just the price but also the value the companies produce and the income they earn. There's been a large increase in earnings, masked by a plummeting market P/E ratio
. I understand that the prices have psychological importance, and certainly can cause disillusionment with the market, which I think was your point, but it certainly hasn't been a lost decade.
-Two wars that have killed some of their friends and helped create massive amounts of debt that their generation will likely shoulder
The wars aren't nearly as expensive as the senior entitlements (see here
, for example. Warning, big image.). I do remember how dramatic and powerful it was when a recent graduate of my high school was killed in Iraq, though I was probably 10 at the time. Given how rare US deaths in the War on Terror (and Iraq) have been, though, it's hard for me to imagine this having nearly as much psychic weight as Vietnam, Korea, or the World Wars.
-The worst recession since the "big one" in '29
Yeah, you've got me there. I don't think it's caused human suffering to the degree that the two are even comparable, though.
-Crushing unemployment and student loan debt (which cannot be discharged even in bankruptcy!) for their cohorts who are not smart/skilled/lucky enough to land a good job
Unemployment is high for my generation (the highest in 60 years), but it's still under 20%. If you manage to be more skilled than the least-skilled fifth of your classmates and colleauges, you'll end up with a job. Even here in the Ohio rust belt, after underemployment is added in, the rate only rises from one in four to one in five. As for student loans being nondischargeable in bankruptcy: if they were dischargeable, what would stop you from discharging them the second you graduated? They're not secured by a reposessible asset, so if they're going to be priced cheaply (like other secured loans are), they need to have something guaranteeing their repayment. They only way that they can meaningfully tied to your earning potential is if they're tied to you, and not able to be discarded. Finally, that's a good thing! It makes them cheaper to borrow, which increases educational accessibility.
Perhaps the millenials will "look" financially more like the generation who lived through the great depression, rather than generation x or the baby boomers.
We can only hope.