Millennials had barely recovered from the Great Recession. Then came the pandemic.

A generation of young adults who came of age during the Great Recession — in what was then the worst economy and job market since the Depression — are now finding that their wobbly recession-era start is compounding the financial woes the pandemic is inflicting.

Credit counselors say there has been a perfect storm of stagnant wages, soaring student debt and — because of those hindrances — a lack of wealth-building through home equity and stock market investment that previous generations were able to achieve.

“The combination of two recessions and a student loan crisis make it really hard to make ends meet in America,” said Rohan Pavuluri, who in 2016 co-founded Upsolve, a nonprofit, app-based platform that helps people who can’t afford the legal fees file for bankruptcy.

Since mid-March, Pavuluri said that 40 percent of the people citing job loss as the reason for a bankruptcy filing say the pandemic was the tipping point — and the average age of his users is 39. “All the millennials we help have less than $10,000 in assets,” Pavuluri said. For the most part, “They’re renting their homes, and they’re living paycheck to paycheck.”

The fractured nature of the economy into which younger adults entered the workforce has had a multiplier effect on their inability to gain financial traction. “If they’ve been in the gig economy and have been working in the gig economy, it can be much harder,” said Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation.


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