Millennials would be blamed for the fall of Rome if it were possible.
Ruthless in their pursuit of collapsing whole industries, Gen Y has been held accountable for wiping out everything from napkins and Buffalo Wild Wings to cereal and bar hopping. They are deemed "spoiled" and "entitled" navel-gazers who would rather stare at their phones than work — even though research from Pew suggests that millennials aren't job hopping any more than Gen Xers did. (Possibly, in part, because they came of age in a highly uncertain economy.)
In truth, millennials aren't a uniform cohort of feckless young people. Ranging from ages 22-37 (not the bizarre forever 21 stereotype that gets tossed around), many are already parents themselves.
Plus, children aside, many people in this age demographic are increasingly responsible for their own parents — all while shouldering the high cost of living around the country, expensive medical bills, and the shadow of student loan debt. The number of people over the age of 65 is expected to reach 86 million in 2050, and many young people are already stepping up. A report from AARP found that about 25% of U.S. caregivers fall into the millennial age range and many have little support.
"Even though 73% of millennial caregivers are employed, more than any other generation of caregivers, they also spend on average 21 hours a week caring for loved ones — the equivalent of a part-time job," the organisation says. "About one-fifth of millennial caregivers devote 40 hours a week or more to such service, which amounts to a full-time job."
Journalist and public speaker Jean Chatzky says the double-responsibility can have a potentially overwhelming long-term effect. "The problem with providing more financial support than you can afford to provide is that it perpetuates this cycle. You end up robbing yourself of financial security to such a degree that eventually your own children are going to have to take care of you," she explains.
The choice isn't an easy one, of course, so Chatzky advises sharing the load with others as much as possible. Aside from helping with actual money, "there's also helping with information" — delegating to siblings and family members, contacting state and local agencies, assisting with benefits check-ups, and making sure parents' financial lives are organised so that nothing slips through the cracks.
That's on top of millennials ensuring their finances remain a priority: "You need to know what your own financial needs are and what resources you need to use to satisfy them, and then get a sense of your parents' needs as well," Chatzky adds.
None of this is easy. Ahead, we talk to four millennial women who are supporting their families about the impact it has had on their lives.