How Millennials Manage Their Money
It seems you can’t go a week without finding a new article about a new industry millennials are killing. But while they may not be fans of paper napkins or bar soap, they are actually better with their money than their reputation might lead you to believe. It turns out that millennials are not ignoring their money, their retirement or their financial future. Instead, they are very focused on money, but also cautious and conservative with their hard-earned dollars. Read on to learn how millennials are a generation of financial rock stars, and what they are doing right when it comes to their personal finances.
They are getting ready for retirement
As millennials’ baby boomer parents approach retirement, America is up for a big wake-up call on retirement. A recent survey of 1,200 American by Comet Financial Intelligence found that millennials and baby boomers are not all that far off when it comes to retirement readiness. Fifty-eight percent of baby boomers have started saving for retirement compared to 59 percent of Generation X and 48 percent of millennials. Considering they are two generations apart, it looks like millennials have a good head start on their parents when it comes to retirement. Even more surprising, Generation X is more prepared than baby boomers!
Among all surveyed, the peak age to begin stashing money away in a 401(k) or IRA is around 25 years old, which makes sense as that is within a few years of the typical college graduation age and the start of a new career. Millennials are still in their prime years to start investing, so you can expect this number to rise at a faster rate than older generations that should have been saving for decades already.
They are buying homes, just a little later
As a millennial myself, I started my career in banking in 2007, just as the real estate bubble in the United States came into focus. I spent the formative years of my career watching my peers on Wall Street go through massive layoffs at the same time a huge number of people defaulted on their mortgages. The 2008 subprime mortgage crisis led to lower home values, nine million lost jobs, a 20 percent decline in household net worths and millennials naturally became somewhat wary of buying homes. If you had just watched your parent or older sibling lose their life savings when their home mortgage went upside down, you would be cautious too.
The Comet survey found that 86 percent of baby boomers own or have ever owned a home, with Gen X coming in at 63 percent and millennials at 27 percent. But millennials are dealing with a different situation than prior generations. And not only have millennials lived through the mortgage crisis, they live in an era when housing prices have skyrocketed for decades compared to stagnant wages. A study at Fannie Mae shows that millennial homeownership accelerated during the economic recovery, and while some hot metro areas are making it tough for millennials to buy, millennials do want to buy homes.
The Comet survey shows an expected age of homeownership of 34.4 for millennials. Considering the age cohort currently encompasses those from 20-36 years old, most millennials have yet to hit their expected age to buy a home, and they will be buying heavily over the next decade.
Serious about student loans
As the millennial generation has or will be graduating from college, there is no surprise they are saddled with more student debt than older generations. Coupled with constantly rising college costs, millennials have been hammered with debt. Generation X and millennials are more likely than not to have student loans, where 60 percent of baby boomers never had them. But those loans are a financial focus, and something millennials should have wrapped up with better numbers than Generation X if things continue on the same path.
The Comet survey found that 18 percent of millennials have paid off their student loans and 44 percent are still paying. But the expected average payoff age is 36.7 for millennials, while Gen X has an expected average payoff age of 50.3. If those expectations come true, millennials will be in decent shape when it comes to student loans overall.
A bright spot in America’s money story
Every generation has new challenges and new opportunities when it comes to personal finance. The way things are going, millennials may turn out to be a bright spot in America’s money story. So if you know a millennial, don’t assume they are in dire straits when it comes to finance. They may be in better shape than you think.
(By Eric Rosenberg)