MetLife Study Says Gen Y Faces Debt, Job Woes with Upbeat Spirits

Optimism remains as young adults adjust to the new reality of faltering economic recovery

While the vast majority of Generation Y'ers believe it's possible to achieve the American dream in their lifetime, only 34% feel that they have an adequate safety net and 38% say that they have credit card debt, according to a recent MetLife study.

The 2010 MetLife "Study of the American Dream" shows that 95% of Gen Y believe it's possible for them to achieve the American dream in their lifetime, and 51% believe their work ethic will help them get there.

Surprisingly, over the course of the recession, more than a quarter (26%) of Gen Y'ers surveyed said they have already achieved the dream--up from 17% in 2006, the first year MetLife conducted the survey. While 47% of those in the 18- to 34-year-old Gen Y demographic say that the pressure to buy more and better material possessions is greater than ever, that number is a significant drop from the two-thirds (66%) who felt that way in 2006.

In contrast, according to the study released July 26, the recession has hit Boomers hard: nearly three-quarters (74%) said they do not feel they have an adequate personal safety net, and nearly all (97%) are somewhat or very concerned by this uncertainty, particularly the 17% of Boomers who are currently jobless.

Boomers have experienced an identity crisis thanks to the recession, the study shows.

"They seem to have lost the optimism and idealism that have been their generation's hallmarks," according to the company's news release. Only 53% believe they will be able to achieve the American dream in their lifetime, and one-third (35%) don't think they'll ever be able to achieve an adequate personal safety net.

"For the first time since MetLife polled the study, Americans perceive their situation to be worse off than that of the U.S. economy in general," said Beth Hirschhorn, MetLife's senior vice president of Global Brand and Marketing Services, in a statement. "In fact, many Americans report they continue to dig themselves out of a deep financial hole that they have been in since before the economic downturn."

Youthful Gen Y'ers, on the other hand, remain hopeful--even those who are jobless. Among those who are unemployed, 73% are very or somewhat optimistic about their future job prospects and fewer (56%) are concerned about job loss, down from 60% in 2009.

Marketing research consultants Strategy First Partners and Penn Schoen Berland conducted 2,201 online surveys from April 14 through 21 among the general U.S. population to collect the MetLife study's data.

Read a story about Western Union's survey of Generation Y from the archives of InvestmentAdvisor.com.

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