Financial news reports are buzzing about the Millennial generation. The same is true of the general press as well.
You can’t turn on the TV; read a newspaper, blog or magazine; or listen to talk radio, without hearing someone opine about the rise of Millennials, also known as Generation Y.
This year alone, I’ve received no less than a dozen research studies about the Millennial crowd – mostly from financial services firms, retailers and think tanks.
Why is there such a massive interest in Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 years old? It’s because financial companies, corporations of all stripes, and other organizations recognize the enormous impact that Millennials will have on America – in the near future and over the long haul.
Here’s my two cents on Millennials and six interesting financial facts about the Millennial generation that just might surprise you.
Fact #1: Millennials are extremely credit averse
When I was a young adult attending college, it was practically considered a rite of passage to apply for – and get – a credit card.
Things are way different today.
Federal legislation, in the form of credit card reform, has put major limits on banks’ ability to market on college campuses and supply credit cards to individuals under the age of 21. That’s led to a big decline in young adults seeking plastic.
In fact, it’s not often these days that you find someone in his or her 20s who actually has a credit card in his or her wallet. One recent study from Bankrate found that more than 60% of Millennials don’t have a credit card.
Instead of credit cards, Millennials are often using cash, debit cards, services like PayPal, and a host of other mobile and emerging payments systems.
Another study from CreditCards.com found that 36% of Millennials have NEVER had a credit card.
Legislative changes like credit card reform aren’t the only thing at play.
Millennials have also seen a lot. They’re witnessed the lingering effects of the 2008 mortgage meltdown. They’ve watched their neighbors – or their own parents – go through the foreclosure crisis. They’ve experienced the great recession.
So frankly, they’re not too interested in taking part in the massive credit and debt cycle into which so many people of previous generations got caught.
That has its pros and cons, of course, when it comes to things like not having a credit card. One downside: low credit scores (see Fact #3 below). But for Millennials, they’re willing to bet that staying debt‑free is the better financial way to go.
Fact #2: Millennials are more indebted than ever
Another thing about Millennials though is that, even though they are highly credit averse, they do have debt.
It just comes in the form of massive student loan debt. In fact, student loan debt is the number one financial concern of Millennials, according to a recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll.
This is hardly surprising, considering the fact that Americans now have more than $1.2 trillion dollars in student loan debt outstanding. The typical college grad now comes out of school with about $33,000 in college loans. That’s a big financial burden for many.
Millennials – much like their predecessors in Gen X, and like Baby Boomers before them – certainly want to get ahead. And they feel like education is a way to do so.
But the Millennial generation is increasingly growing weary of the massive college tuition rate hikes, the costly boarding, room and dorm charges, and all of the other cost that go along with getting that degree.
That’s why many Millennials are starting to ask: “Is college even worth it?”
As an indication of how desperate Millennials are to get rid of college debt: 30% of Millennials would sell an organ to get rid of their student loans.
Fact #3: Millennials Have the Worst Credit Of All Americans
A third fact about Millennials, from a financial perspective, is that this is a generation with the lowest credit scores of all Americans.
The typical Millennial has a 625 FICO credit score – which is worse than Baby Boomers, members of Gen X and anybody else you can think about.
Again, some of this relates back to the fact that many people in Generation Y are so credit‑averse, that they’re really not in the credit mainstream at all.
In fact, Millennials are taking out alternative loans, things like pay‑day loans, car title loans, et cetera, at unprecedented rates.
Those loans are toxic, since they typically carry triple‑digit interest rates, and can be hard to pay back. Anything that hurts your ability to repay a loan or other financial obligations is obviously not going be a good factor for one’s credit scores.
That will be an ongoing challenge for Millennials, because as they age and they do start to strive to get things like mortgages or auto loans, those low credit scores are going to hold them back until they figure out a solution to fix that problem.
Fact #4: Millennials couldn’t care less about marriage
To read women’s magazines or watch those over-the-top wedding shows, you’d think that all 20-somethings and early 30-somethings are pining away for a ring or a gorgeous white bridal gown. Not true.
The reality is that most Millennials are delaying marriage. But it goes deeper than waiting to get hitched.
Millennials aren’t simply NOT tying the knot, they’re often rejecting the very notion that marriage is a signal of the next phase of adult life.
The tendency to shy away from walking down the aisle has huge financial implications.
We all know that it’s a lot easier for a two‑income household to make ends meet, rather than one, as long has you have both people pulling together and working in the same direction.
But for a lot of Millennials, both men and women, they’re essentially saying: “Listen. Let me get my career going first. Let me get educated. Let me start a business.
Let me pursue other goals and bring something substantial to the table before I get married.”
Additionally, they’re not as bound by the same social norms, values, customs and mores that might have defined the behavior of previous generations. As a result, Millennials aren’t opposed to living together with a partner, someone that they’re in a romantic relationship with, or just saying, “Hey, I’m perfectly fine to live together with my boyfriend or girlfriend and just not get married at all.”
Pew research shows that 25% of them will never get married.
Again, that’s a big difference from other generations.
Fact #5: Millennials refuse to be put in a box
Try to label the Millennial generation? Fugghedaboutit!
They refuse to be put in a box. And really, can you blame them to a certain extent?
Who wants to be over-analyzed, dissected, labeled, and lumped into a whole set of categories when you feel like a unique individual?
The millennial generation certainly takes concept very, very seriously: whether it’s their employers, their parents, society, the government, corporations, outsiders or others who try to classify them. Millennials reject and refuse to be labeled with regard to things like race, gender, gender roles, gender identity, sexual identity and more.
For example, Millennials will often rile against somebody who tells them that because they happen to be born with a certain body part, they are automatically female or male.
They rile against a college application or government form that asks: “What is your race?” This is especially the case if they happen to be biracial or have a multitude of races in their heritage or ethnic background.
This strong rejection of hard-and-fast labels in favor of more fluid definitions of identity helps explain, in part, why we have Millennial celebrities like singer Miley Cyrus declaring herself as “pansexual” and saying she “doesn’t relate to being boy or girl.” Likewise, Millennial actress Raven Symone calls herself a “colorless person” and a “human who loves humans.”
For marketers — certainly for financial services companies, for employers and other — it’s smart to recognize the fact that Millennials refuse to be put in a box. Otherwise, you risk alienating them as employees, as customers and more.
And heaven help you if you use the “S” word! You’ll step into the ultimate Millennial Minefield. What’s the “S” word and the one thing you could do that will almost certainly tick off a Millennial faster than you can blink?
Please don’t call them a “Slacker.”
They are so tired of that old, stereotypical image. For many Millennials, most of them in fact, it’s simply not true. Which leads me to the last financial fact about Millennials.
Fact #7: Millennials are far more responsible than many people think
It may come as a surprise for you to learn that Millennials just because Millennials face unprecedented economic pressures and are financially on the hook for a lot, that doesn’t automatically make the any less responsible than other generations.
Consider this fact: about 20 percent of Millennials are even supporting their aging parents, providing financial assistance as are all adults in America.
That’s right. One out of five members of the Millennial generation is supporting a Mom or Dad, a study from TD Ameritrade found. Millennials spent, on average $18,000 helping their parents. Furthermore, one-third of Millennials offering financial support were also caregivers to aging parents.
But that’s not all.
Young Millennials around the age of 22 routinely offer their parents several forms of support, according to a little-known study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.
That support included:
- emotional support (as in, listening to their parents talk about their daily lives)
- practical support (such as helping out with chores around the house)
- financial support (in the form of direct monetary contributions); and
- technology support (such as helping parents figure out how to download an app, program the remote control or get started on Facebook and Twitter)
If these facts don’t blow up that whole outdated concept of the “Slacker” millennial, living in their parent’s basement, allegedly sponging off Mom and Dad, then I don’t know what does.
Do they have financial problems? Do some Millennials become boomerang kids, and come back to live with their parents after graduation from college, and so on? Yes, of course.
But there are certainly 40‑year‑old adults, who also go back to live with their parents after divorce, downsizing and other personal setbacks.
The rise of multi‑generational households in America isn’t just the phenomena of Millennials allegedly sponging off their parents or grandparents. It’s a wider trend, because of economic issues.
So don’t be fooled for a moment. Millennials want to carry their own weight personally and financially – and many are doing just that.