Overwhelming student debt. Lack of savings. The housing market crash. Saving for college. No formal financial education. These sentiments are heard time and again regarding millennials and their financial habits.
Like the members of every generation before them, millennials feel the financial burden of and have many concerns about their financial futures. Although millennials are going to college in record numbers, they are making significantly less than past generations and are dealing with record amounts of student debt.
Millennials’ biggest financial concerns are the following.
• Loans, especially student debt
• Saving for retirement
• Job and housing market
• Losing their job
• Paying for college for their children
Despite what you may hear about “kids these days,” millennials are outsaving older generations. Revere Bank’s 2016 study of millennials and their financial habits revealed that, in response to the question, “What would you do if someone handed you a large sum of money?” almost all participants said they would save all or a majority of the money (or use it to pay off bills).
The participants were first asked what they would do with an unexpected $5,000, which triggered the save response for the majority of respondents. Even when it was followed up with a question about $15,000, almost all of the respondents’ answers stayed the same. Some claimed they would plan a small night out or a nice dinner, but nearly all said they’d put the money into a savings or investment account or use it to pay bills.
During the study, participants were also questioned about impending big purchases — cars, houses, vacations, etc.— and how they were saving for those eventualities. Almost all participants had a big investment on the horizon, which the study found to be the biggest savings motivator for millennials. A majority of respondents claimed they were saving or budgeting to prepare for big spends, but admitted they were struggling to stick to their budgets.
The Revere Bank study found that millennials are budget-conscious. Only 12% of respondents (who could choose multiple answers to this question) do not track spending in any way. More than half of respondents (61%) use their bank’s online features to track spending, and another quarter (26%) use other online methods like Mint or YNAB. Almost 27% of respondents, however, claim to use an offline method to track.
When budgeting for future expenses (as opposed to day-to-day spending), the survey found that the majority (75%) of millennials use an offline method (like a spreadsheet) to plan ahead. Twenty-one percent use online applications like Mint or YNAB to budget, and 36% do not have a determined method of budgeting.
Future Financial Preparation
When planning for their financial future, millennials are starting to save more than older generations. The Revere Bank study found that nearly all (90%) of millennials are saving in at least one way. The majority of respondents (72%) participate in their employers’ 401(k) plans and an additional 30% contribute to a private 401(k), IRA or other retirement plan (respondents were allowed to choose multiple options in response to this question).
Even those who aren’t saving know they should be — 14% of those who do not save now plan to do so. Only 10% of respondents claimed to save no money at all.
As the millennial generation matures, it will soon have the greatest investing power of any generation. However, the survey found millennials are more conservative about investing than might be expected. While a very large majority of respondents invest in traditionally “safe” ways (like employer-sponsored retirement plans), 40% do not invest at all on top of that. Another 36% invest in typically lower-risk ways (like mutual funds or other managed funds).
Whether millennials will be super-savers, entrepreneurs or big investors is yet to be cast in stone. From the initial findings of the Revere Bank survey and others that mirrored the results, millennials appear — at least for now — to be saving more at a younger age and requiring more flexibility from their banking products and services than previous generations. They are more conservative with their money — investing less and budgeting more — less likely to start their own business, and are most concerned with student debt, the housing and job markets and saving for retirement.
To read the full report, visit RevereBank.com.
Andrew F. Flott is co-president and CEO of Revere Bank. He can be reached at [email protected].