In addition to identifying millennials in age sub-categories, it is important to identify the millennial’s role within historical context.
Millennials are children of mainly two different generations: baby boomers (born 1946-1964) and tweeners (born 1964-1971). A smaller section of "late millennials” were born to early Gen X-er's (born 1971-1982). This is significant because our parent generations have completely different spending habits and world views from each other, which impacts parenting style and lifestyle choices. Take a look at the early century generation categories: the greatest generation (born 1900-1928), the depression generation (born 1928-1939), and war babies (born 1939-1946).
For the most part, these three generations had similar behaviors and world views. There were some obvious differences due to the circumstances of history (e.g. depression, wars), but mostly they all existed at times where systems weren't in place. Public health policies, infrastructure mandates, consolidated public education, fast food restaurants, tax codes and regulated stock markets were all in juvenile stages or non-existent. The medical industry, science research, and medical standards were wishy-washy. Psychology and mental health research was stigmatized. News was not immediate. Presidential candidates campaigned on train tours. The family unit was the foundation of society. Indoor plumbing was rare. Television didn’t exist.
And then World War II came and went, and our country changed. Systems changed and became woven into our nation’s cultural tapestry and mindset. The war (WWII) helped to modernize industry, health care, transportation and food production all while stabilizing our economy and growing our family units.
Economically, the early generations did not expect retirement stability.
Until the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 passed, retirement planning was more or less what the employee could save on his own. Thanks to the creation of Social Security in 1935, Americans became more aware of retirement planning and private companies started providing pension plans for tenured workers. By 1950, Ford Motors implemented a pension plan, which inspired other auto manufacturers and large industries to do the same. The problem is that employees still couldn’t rely on those pensions panning out. For instance, Studebaker’s pension plan disappeared along with the company, leaving many employees without jobs and without pensions. Pensions and retirements were combustible until the 1970s.
Thus, baby boomers were the first generation to practically expect a good retirement plan as long as they worked for a 25-30 years.