Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • June 2018
Written by 

How optimistic are you?

Are you optimistic about your health and wellness? How optimistic are you about life in general?

A recent article has surprising news about the optimism of millennials. According to, “For the first time, young Americans have less optimism than those aged 55 and older.” That’s a big change from past history. According to the article, this is the first time in the last six decades that Americans younger than 35 have scored so low.

What is Behind Millennial Misgivings?

One of the common challenges facing millennials is student loan debt. Nationally, the average 2017 college graduate had more than $37,000 in student loan debt.

Why so much? College costs have risen dramatically. For example, in-state tuition, fees, room, board and expenses are pegged at about $25,000 annually for UW-Madison. In-state tuition, fees, room and board at nearby UW-Oshkosh costs about $15,000.

According to the Pew Research Center, for the first time in more than 130 years, more millennials are living with their parents than with a spouse or partner in their own household. Why aren’t adults ages 18-34 moving out and buying a home? A 2018 online survey conducted by Harris Poll for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) indicates that 38 percent of adults who tried to purchase a home in the past year faced barriers to homeownership. The top five barriers:

  1. Rising home prices
  2. Lack of funding for down payment/closing costs
  3. Existing debt
  4. Limited housing options within budget
  5. Poor credit history/low credit score

A big part of the “existing debt” is student loan debt. Given these barriers, it’s not surprising that many young adults have postponed buying a home. Many millennials have also delayed getting married and having kids.

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

While consumer confidence for young Americans is generally down, not all millennials are struggling. Some are living the dream, managing their finances well, paying off their student loans and building assets. According to the NFCC survey, 47 percent of millennials have a budget and keep close track of how much they spend.

Developing a budget or spending plan can help people get a clear picture of their financial situation and identify options to improve it. A spending plan gives us accurate information, so we can make wise choices, meet our needs, have money for some wants and attain our goals.

Money and Emotions are Connected

I teach workshops about money and sometimes ask people how it feels to find money on the street or in a pocket of their clothes. People will smile and say that finding money feels great. When asked how it feels to receive a large unexpected bill, they say things like frustrated, sad and discouraged.

The stress of dealing with student loans and barriers to home ownership can be frustrating and optimism can decline. If someone you know is experiencing stress about money, maybe it’s time for them to take charge of their money and develop a budget or spending plan. A good plan can help restore hope and optimism. 

Alan Prahl

Alan Prahl is the Education Leader with FISC, the Financial Information & Service Center. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and law degree from Hamline University. A nonprofit program of Goodwill NCW, FISC provides financial counseling and coaching, including a no-cost, no obligation 30-minute consultation with the “counselor on call.” To learn more, call 920-886-1000 or visit

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