At the Helm: The Millennial conundrum

We spend a lot of time talking about Millennials in this industry and it’s no mystery why, with an estimated 75.3 million of them in the United States.

That makes them the largest living generation, and by the time they peak at an estimated 81.1 million in 2036, they’ll be the largest ever.

At the same time, they’ve been one of the most confounding as they are making very different decisions than their Baby Boomer parents and the Gen Xers that precede them.

I was recently struck by that again with a new Pew Research study that highlighted an interesting conundrum: despite improving unemployment, Millennials are still, as a whole, not moving out on their own. In 2010, at the height of the recession, 69 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds were living independently. Now, that number stands at 67 percent. During that same time, the unemployment rate for that group has dropped from 12.4 percent to 7.7 percent.

In 2015, 42.2 million 18 to 34-year-olds were living independently. In the heady pre-recession days of 2007, that number was 42.7 million. Since then, 3 million more people have joined the age group. To borrow an overused cliché, they’re living in their parents’ basements.

Unemployment rates can be a hazy number as those who drop out of the labor force no longer show up in the numbers, so another way of looking at it is that only 70 percent of 18- to 34-year-old employees worked full-time in 2009. By 2015, that number was 74 percent.

Average wages have increased for that group as well, with an increase of about 5 percent in median weekly earnings since 2012 (which puts them ahead of the general population, incidentally).

The study authors don’t really offer much in the way of explanation, but it’s logical to assume we’re seeing the impact of increasing debt from college and other expenditures, especially as Millennials racked up the bills following graduation.

To swing us back to the topic, what does it mean for boating? For the vast majority of Millennials, purchasing a new boat is out of reach, but on the other hand, we’ve seen research that shows a great interest in boating.

So that brings us back to finding those alternative ways to getting people on the water, whether it be boat clubs (less likely because of the expense) or the new peer-to-peer economy companies like Boatbound, Cruzin’ and a wealth of others.

Because let’s be honest – most basements don’t have room for a boat.


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