Gen-Y consumers shaped by events of the past decade

The Millennial generation - young people currently aged 20-29 - is set to outnumber every other population segment by 2017.

The Millennial generation - young people currently aged 20-29 - is set to outnumber every other population segment by 2017. For that reason, they are an extremely important demographic from not only a marketing perspective, but social and financial ones as well.

In many ways, the age group is two-sided. On one hand, they've grown up surrounded by technological miracles such as mobile phones and the internet, but they also came of age in a war-torn and chaos-strewn decade that ended with the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Not surprisingly, the financial difficulties of late have taken a toll on Gen-Y's confidence. According to a recent survey by PNC Financial Services, only 23 percent of 20-somethings rate themselves as financially independent, and nearly half see themselves as behind expectations of personal financial success. Another 40 percent of respondents reported they rely on two sources of income, likely reflecting the dismal state of the job market, which is even worse among young people. But there is hope.

"At a young age, time is on your side," said Todd Barnhart, senior vice president at PNC Bank, "and you can take full advantage if you manage your spending, start saving and chip away at any debt."