When you’re living in the United States, it’s pretty difficult to avoid debt. College is too expensive for most to pay for out of pocket these days, necessitating student loans. More and more millennials plan on renting forever, rather than paying into a mortgage, because… who among us without generational wealth can actually afford a mortgage? Even the lucky ones who can… really can’t, living with an average of over $200,000 worth of mortgage debt, according to a 2020 analysis of millennial homeowners.

It hasn’t always been this hard—people born between 1981 and 1996 entered adulthood at a more precarious moment for the economy than past generations. There was the 2008 Great Recession, the US’ largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. TLDR; the job market fell apart and millennials graduated with exorbitant student debt. The crisis led to the normalization of gig work, ushering in an increase in exploitative freelance and part-time employment, which often leave workers without access to affordable health insurance, paid time off, or fair working conditions. Millennials were also told that higher education was necessary when tuition costs were at their highest, only to watch the generation that followed increasingly succeed without the traditional college path—and benefit from finally declining tuition costs should they choose the four-year-college route.

These factors and more have made it hard for many to juggle their debt while saving for the future. That’s why we hit up certified financial planner Lauryn Williams, the founder of Worth Winning, to hear more about the first steps people can take to get out of debt.