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Millennials and Their Money Habits

Millennials catch a lot of flak for… well, just about everything, from their clothing to their overall millennial philosophy on life, but just like every other age range, they have some good and bad habits when it comes to their financial outlook and approach.

Anyone born from 1981 to 1997 is considered a millennial. According to a recent survey, nearly 65 percent of millennials believe their generation is bad at managing money. In reality, about that same number of millennials (63 percent) are practicing healthy savings habits.

Let's dig into the money habits of millennials and answer some common questions about the generation with this guide:

What do millennials spend money on?

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Millennials' shopping habits have been scrutinized and stereotyped in the form of the latte-purchasing guy or gal still living at their parents' home, but they really aren't spending differently than anyone else. In fact, several major economic hardships have helped reduce their spending capability.

If you're wondering how millennials make money, they have jobs of course, but they are often lower paying, especially for people without a college degree. According to the US Census Bureau, the average salary for a millennial is $47,034. Generation X and baby boomers make more than millennials in every state in the US.

Do millennials want everything now?

There's an infamous Time magazine cover that refers to millennials as "The Me Me Me Generation," but that characteristic has been proven wrong. In many ways, millennials have had to overcome low wages, job crisis, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, student loan debt, increased housing costs and other issues. It's why millennials, on average, have less money to spend than other generations. In many ways, the stereotype should be that of the frugal millennial instead of the other way around.

Are millennials changing consumer behavior?

As the largest generational cohort, millennials do have an outsized influence on consumer trends and buying behavior. Simplicity and flexibility are among the primary concerns of the millennial shopper. Think about the rise of apps that make essential (and non-essential) services available with just a click of a button – food delivery, ride sharing, online ticketing.

Even financial institutions like credit unions and banks have evolved to take advantage of the millennial audience. Online banking apps, mobile check deposits, remote money transfers and more have shifted the way we all deal with our money.

These are the primary areas in which millennials spend their money:

  • Convenience
  • Debt/student loan payments
  • Online shopping
  • Dining out
  • Travel and other experiences
  • Social justice causes
  • Streaming services

What about baby boomer buying habits?

Baby boomers have plenty of spending power, but what they buy is slightly different from millennials. Boomers spend more money on groceries, pet supplies, health products and items from established brands rather than online stores.

What are millennials' retirement plans?

Due to a combination of factors, millennial retirement statistics often show a long-term approach. Many millennials are resigned to the fact that they may not be able to retire as early as previous generations – a recent study showed that 61 percent of millennials planned to work a second or part-time job during their retirement years.

What should millennials do to increase savings?

Millennials may want to turn to their neighborhood credit union to discuss savings strategies for now and retirement. Depositing into a savings account is a good first step, but a well-rounded financial approach is necessary to ensure you get the most out of your savings. Consider these steps:

  • Budgeting first: Everyone should have a budget for their household. Part of that plan, you should be paying yourself first. Carving out a specific dollar amount monthly for retirement will pay off in the long run.
  • Take advantage of matching: If your company is offering employees a 401(k) or pension plan where they will match what you deposit up to a certain limit, deposit the maximum to take advantage of "free" money. By doing this regularly, you will accumulate money that will be reserved for retirement.
  • Find the right IRA: For some millennials, a traditional IRA account will work well; for others, a ROTH IRA will be more effective. Make sure you keep up on the annual maximum donation limits and do everything possible to max that donation out on an annual basis. Keep in mind, your IRA accounts could offer you additional tax deductions or tax-free income later.
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