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Recession has hit Generation Y harder than other groups

By MARCELLA S. KREITER   |   Aug. 22, 2010 at 4:20 AM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- If timing is everything, Generation Y appears to be in big trouble: The combination of inexperience among the group's members coupled with a shaky economy has put Gen Y into a deep economic hole.

"A lot of what they're experiencing all of us went through," said Steve Kramer, vice president of electronic payments for Western Union Global systems. "They just hit at the wrong time: They're just getting started, just getting established. They're learning the rules just as the rules are changing. Everything is up for grabs and everyone is rethinking the economy."

The oldest of the Gen Y'ers were born in 1979; the youngest, in 1999. So those hitting their 30s now were babies during the recession of the early '80s and still were too young to grapple with the economy in the early '90s downturn. And their elders -- members of the baby boom and Generation X -- did their best to put these youngsters behind the economic eight ball by providing easy credit.

A recent Western Union online survey of 3,007 respondents indicated 17 percent of Gen Y'ers lost their primary jobs in the most recent recession, with 56 percent looking for new jobs and 37 percent looking for a second job. Eight percent declared bankruptcy.

"When we track Generation Y against others, we're seeing them feeling it harder," Kramer said. "Looking for a new job? They're leading it. We expect that. When we talk about other things -- borrowing money, paying bills -- they're feeling the brunt a little more. There's a lack of knowledge. The rest of us know how to handle recession."

The one advantage Gen Y has over previous generations is its ability to embrace technology, Kramer said.

"They grew up with technology," he said. "They are comfortable with the use of the Internet, mobile, tools financial institutions are starting to offer. It's second nature."

The Western Union survey indicated 49 percent of Gen Y feels the need to draw up a budget. There are online tools for that.

"Then there are mobile payments, mobile alerts to make sure they pay on time -- if the tools are out there, this generation is going to start using them and use them to their advantage. It's a real opportunity for large-scale billers and financial institutions to offer them. Generation Y is going to use them and going to expect them," Kramer said.

Overall, Americans are still pretty concerned about their personal finances. The latest Country Index by Country Financial indicates only 54 percent are confident they will be able to send their children to college or set money aside and only 39 percent express confidence in their financial security.

"The slow recovery is definitely affecting Americans' mindsets when it comes to money matters," Keith Brannan, vice president of financial security planning for Country Financial, said in a release. "Keeping up with monthly financial obligations, like debt, is an important part of any financial security plan. When the economy puts pressure on our plans and finances, we sometimes focus only on the short-term items. It's important not to lose sight of our long-term goals as well."

But, Kramer said, things are about to turn the corner for Gen Y.

"One of the big things we'll see, there's going to be a big change, a major change in wealth. Studies talk about a very large transfer of wealth from baby boomers to this generation. That's going to cause them to become money managers and get a better handle on their full financial situation. They'll have the buying power previous generations had and are tech savvy to be able to put all that together," Kramer said.

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