Millennials Are Terrible With Money…

at least that is what recent studies by various big banks and economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.  

Eventhough I call myself the Middle Age Money Man (I am of the Gen X era), I don’t really like to put people into categories and compartments.  Unfortunately society, and sometimes even Millennials themselves, force themselves into these boxes.  Also realize that you can’t define an entire group of people with a study.  There are exceptions for both generations, so read the rests of this article with an open mind and untwist your underwear.

Let’s define the terms Millennial and Gen Xer.  A Millennial would be any person ages 23-37.  A Gen Xer would be any person born in the 1970’s.  

These staff members of these studies went out and questioned Millennials about their finances, their views on finance, and their money mindset.  Some of the results of these studies surprised me.  

What Did They Find?

It turns out that Millennials today are financially worse off than Gen Xers at their age, but it is for different reasons.  When we Gen Xers were in our 20’s and 30’s, the housing market pretty much busted.  Our net worths took a huge dive along with our home values and we were up to our eyeballs in mortgage debt.  The saving grace is that home values recovered, so our financial situation recovered along with it.

Millennials, on the other hand, missed the housing market bust and are burdened more with debt like student loans, credit card, vehicle loans, etc.  The studies have shown that less than half of Millennials actually own homes and relatively few hold assets like stocks.

Millennial Mindset

One of the studies that dealt with the financial mindset of Millennials showed that they are actually very critical of themselves when it comes to money.

The study found that:

One-in-Four millennials worry about their finances on a regular basis.  They also claim that not having enough money is one of their top stressors.

73% of millennials say that their generation overspends.

63% of millennials believe that their generation is bad at managing money.

These are some of the facts that I find weird because the study also found that, in reality, millennials are actually saving.  In fact, 63% of millennials say they save money and 67% of millennials that have a savings goal say they meet that goal.

Some other figures from the report include:

67% of millennials who have a savings goal stick to it every month.

73% of millennials who have a budget, stick to it every month or most months.

47% of millennials have $15,000 or more in savings

16% of millennials have $100,000 or more in savings

To me, that contradicts the view that millennials have about themselves and the thoughts that a lot of people, including Gen Xers and Boomers have about them as well.  For a generation of so-called slackers, those are pretty impressive numbers.

Don’t Forget About Generation X

In doing my due diligence reading studies about millennials, I had to look at some statistics on Gen Xers when it comes to finances.  You notice that I used the phrase “so-called slackers” referring to millennials in the last paragraph.  Maybe that phrase should be used for Gen Xers.

In reports done by U.S. News about Gen Xers, “Reality Still Bites”.

Gen Xers are not immune to credit card and student loan debt.  In fact, credit card debt for Gen Xers has increased by 15%  since 2014.  Seeing that most Gen Xers are entering or already in their 40’s, this debt is concerning, because the report also shows that 50% of Gen Xers believe that they can’t start saving for retirement until they pay off their credit card and student loan debt.

Coming back to the “slacker” mentality, the report also finds that Gen Xers don’t seem to be too worried their financial future.  As a Gen Xer, the following numbers scare me and if you are squeamish turn your head:

63% of Gen Xers believe “everything will just work out” when it comes to retirement, up from 53% in 2014.

53% of Gen Xers believe they’ll just “figure it out” when they get to retirement, up from 46% in 2014.

Did I Read That Right?

What in the world is this mindset going to lead to?  Is this really the generation that is sitting here calling millennials lazy and self-absorbed?  

In my line of work, I have interacted with many millennials, both as colleagues and clients.  I honestly don’t categorize them unless they categorize themselves and are proud of the fact that they are millennials, but they have been some of the hardest working, most interesting people I have ever met.  They have been energetic, intelligent, financially knowledgeable, and socially extroverted people in my life.  

To be completely honest, I see more Gen Xers and Boomers than millennials calling into these financial shows with problems and questions as to how to get out of debt.  A majority of millennials that call in to these shows actually have their crap together and are already out of debt or almost out of debt and just wondering if they are on track or how they can maximize their financial plan.


Are millennials really terrible with money?  Sure they are.  So are Gen Xers and Boomers.  Are mllennials good with money?  Sure they are.  So are Gen Xers and Boomers.  

You can’t define everyone in an entire age range and say they are all good or bad with money.  Some will be great and some will be terrible.  They will all have different circumstances to overcome.

Every generation will claim that the generation after them are slackers.  The generation before yours claimed you were slackers, and the generation before them claimed they were slackers, and so on.  It will come full-circle and views and attitudes will change accordingly.

What are your thoughts and views?

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