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Sorry, Millennials: You Probably Can’t Afford To Be An Entrepreneur, Says Survey

As millennials, we’ve been told all our lives that we should “follow our dreams,” and for many of us, that means becoming an entrepreneur.

However, no matter how easy it might seem to ditch the 9-5 for the freedom startup culture, the reality is this: you probably can’t afford it.

Sure, in an ideal, debt-free world, it might be a viable option, but entrepreneurship is simply not in the cards for most when there are rent and Uber bills to pay – not to mention those pesky student loan payments that just won’t go away.

So, many grudgingly join the corporate workforce, trading autonomy and making your own vacation time for (relative) stability, benefits and the possibility of a promotion.


A new survey of 1,200 18- to 34-year-olds commissioned by EY (formerly Ernst & Young LLP) and the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) of America’s millennial workforce reveals how accurately this is the case.

Not surprisingly, as Bloomberg reports, it found that more than 55 per cent of millennials think their generation is more entrepreneurial than Generation X and even baby boomers. In reality, though, the study – called The Millennial Economy – found that not only are there fewer entrepreneurs among millennials, they’re gaining success by taking the opposite route.

More millennials view rising through the ranks of existing companies the good old-fashioned way as the best route to success.

Committing to a company and climbing the corporate ladder was seen as “the best way to advance their career” by 44 per cent of the millennials surveyed.

Confirming what we told you in July about job loyalty, despite the millennials’ reputation as restless job hoppers, only a quarter of those surveyed saw switching jobs frequently as the road to success.

Image: EY, Economic Innovation Group

While sixty-two percent of millennials have considered starting their own businesses, and 72 per cent think startups are “essential for new innovation and jobs,” a total of 42 per cent said that they don’t have the means to be entrepreneurs.

This is in part thanks to student debt – something that 48 per cent of respondents believe has limited their career prospects.

“The perception is one (and not just among millennials), but a lot of people think startups have never been hotter—and particularly that young people are more engaged in startups as a generation than previous generations,” said John Lettieri, who heads EIG’s policy development, economic research, and legislative efforts.

“None of those things are true. Numbers show a long-term economic shift away from entrepreneurship and new business formation. We have a declining rate of new business formation, and that accelerated dramatically after the great recession,” he says.


Indeed, while respondents view people associated with start-ups as successful, only 22 percent felt that “starting one’s own company offers the greatest chance of success.”

Of course, the uncertain job climate in which many of us began our careers doesn’t exactly help. Nor – according to 59 per cent of our friends South of the Border – does the lack of help from the government when it comes to the creation and building of small businesses.

The survey reveals that financial security remains a huge concern for millennials.

Almost 80 per cent of those surveyed worry about “having good-paying job opportunities in the future,” and 74 per cent said they worry about not having enough money to pay health-care bills.


Unlike our American counterparts, at least we don’t have to worry about paying medical bills if we were to get sick (bonus).

But many young Canadians are met with the same fears concerning financial security.

From what I see, the successful Canadian business owners I know under the age of 35 either had wealthy parents (just calling it like I see it), lived at home for longer than their friends to save money, or began their careers in the corporate world and built experience, contacts and finances until they were able to quit and finally do their own thing.

Whatever the case, being a business owner is never easy, and it definitely takes a certain type of personality – and a certain amount of overhead – to launch and maintain.

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Notable Life

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