By Erica Quinn

Many millennials struggle to achieve and maintain subsistence-level income. This has resulted in some unfortunate assumptions regarding work ethic and competency. These widely accepted assumptions may be true of certain individuals, as they would about certain individuals in any generation, but overall, the data simply doesn’t support the stereotypes.

Millennials now comprise the largest percentage of the workforce of any generation. In spite of this, the median degree-holding millennial salary compares almost directly with the salary of a non-degree-holder in 1980, accounting for inflation. This means that the average millennial starts their professional life with significantly higher student loan debt, in exchange for a wage far lower than that of their educated Gen-X or Baby Boomer counterparts.

Additionally, cost of living has grown at rates much faster than rates of income, leaving many millennials in degree-holding professional positions still unable to pay the rent in a livable apartment. Purchasing a home in many markets has become completely cost-prohibitive to any but the absolute highest income earners among the young millennials. As a result of all of this, millennials must cope with a much slower financial start than earlier generations of the same age.

They represent the most well educated generation in American history, and manage to save far more of their modest incomes than their predecessors do. Making any significant contributions to investments becomes painfully difficult, however, when student loan and other debt interest rates have risen to record-breaking highs, while savings account returns have plummeted to all-time lows. Unable to make ends meet even with Masters-level degrees, many millennials still live with or get assistance from their parents, further perpetuating the negative assumptions about their work ethic and competence.

The infographic below outlines the millennial financial state, clearly showing the distinct disadvantage our highly educated young workers struggle against.