Concentrated adult carrying cardboard boxes

When you think about major milestones in life, what comes to mind? Things like starting school, learning to drive, and turning 21 have been at the top of the list for a long time. 

Now, however, the attitudes behind some typical milestones have changed. Many people don’t look at certain “achievements” the way previous generations did. 

Instead of focusing on things like graduating college, getting married by a certain age, or having a retirement plan, younger generations are shifting the narrative. Given the events of the last few years, that makes sense. People are more focused on even the small, trivial moments of their lives. They’re recognizing that career goals and establishing a nuclear family may not be as important as they once were. 

So, how have milestones evolved? How are traditional life events looked at differently today than in previous generations? 

Buying a Home

Flying the nest and finding a place to live will probably always be an important life event. But, the millennial generation has changed the way people are starting to look at home buying. A 2019 Fannie Mae survey found that 55% of Millennials and Generation Z believe buying a home is financially out of reach. Other factors that turn them away from buying include: 

  • They’re carrying higher levels of debt
  • Tighter lending standards
  • They may not need the space

One report found that 18.2% of Millennials who don’t own homes expect they will always rent. So, while it might seem like the American dream has always included homeownership, that tide is changing. Renting allows for more flexibility, the freedom to move more often, and fewer demanding responsibilities when it comes to maintenance. 

Marriage & Starting a Family

Another “typical” milestone could have something to do with why younger generations aren’t buying homes. People are changing the way they think about marriage and families. 

Today, the average marriage age is 32 years old. In 1950, the average age was 22.9 for men and 20.3 for women. Even just 12 years ago, the average age was 27 years old. There’s an obvious trend here as this generation is waiting longer to get married and start families – if they do, at all. 

Big weddings are also becoming less important. In 2020, that seemed to be out of necessity. Couples who wanted to get married couldn’t hold large receptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, many weddings were held via video conferencing. Some were put on in small, intimate backyard ceremonies. Elopement is becoming more popular with Millennials thanks to the financial benefits and less stress

Because people are waiting longer to get married, ideas about family are changing. Studies have shown that Millennial women are waiting longer to have kids. This allows them to focus on their careers, but it’s also due to the state of the world

From a fluctuating economy to global warming and crises around the globe, some people are making the conscious decision to delay having children right now. That became an even more important conversation for “potential parents” during the pandemic. 

Certain milestones will always be important. But, the way we think about them is changing. Things will undoubtedly continue to evolve as priorities shift. For now, it makes sense that people are “holding back” on things that may have once seemed so important. We’re living in uncertain times. 

Changing mindsets about milestones might seem strange, at first. In today’s world, however, many of these shifts are better for people and can provide a sense of control and comfort. The decisions today’s younger generations are making will impact the future for years to come. And, because many of those decisions are for the good of the planet, the economy, and other people, that future could be a brighter one for the next generation.