two couples having a picnic on the beach

“OK, boomer.”

That succinct rejoinder blew up on social media in 2019, serving as a relief valve for younger generations’ frustrations. For advisors aiming to serve younger clients, the phrase can also serve as as reminder to explore millennials’ unique financial challenges.

A report from RBC Economics provides insight on those challenges by considering the financial effects of entering the workforce from 2009–2011, in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

For example, the unemployment rate for those aged 20–24 rose to 12% in 2009, up from 9% in 2008. The rate was even greater for young men, at 15%. (Young women with a bachelor’s degree are potentially more likely to be employed in careers less affected by economic downturns, such as healthcare, the report said.)

Further, high unemployment rates for this age group persisted long after things improved for older workers. And, if they were employed, young people’s wages grew more slowly over their first decade of employment than those of peers who entered the workforce before the recession, the report said.

Graduates of the Great Recession had average wage growth of about 60% over the first decade of their working lives, compared to 71% for those who entered the workforce between 2006 and 2008, the report said. A particular challenge facing graduates of the recession is that about one-half of the total increase in earnings over a career occurs in the first decade.

Today, at ages 30–34, these clients are less likely to occupy a skilled position than their pre-recession cohorts, and are less likely to be in management than they were before the recession.

In effect, when a young person graduates into a recession, their careers get derailed before they begin.

“Periods of joblessness or underemployment can allow skills acquired in school to deteriorate, hamper the acquisition of important new skills, and delay opportunities for moving into specialized or management roles,” the report said. “It can take years to catch up.”

As as result, serving these clients might look different than it did for other generations. For example, the report notes that repaying student loans or saving for a home down payment might take longer — and might require advisors to showcase their creativity and motivational skills.

For full details, read the RBC Economics report.