I’m the perfect age (let’s just say in my 50s) and profession (CPA and credit counselor) to insult millennials. They’re idealistic. They don’t work hard. They need constant care and feeding to do their jobs. On and on.
Except I don’t believe any of that. While my parents were the Greatest Generation, I believe my children will eclipse them. Yes, that’s my opinion, but it’s based on research – specifically, research about money.
The latest poll to back up my rosy prediction is from Allstate and the National Journal, which quizzed both millennials and older generations like mine and my parents’. The headlines so far focus on millennial idealism like this:
In identifying priorities for their careers, younger Americans rank “doing something enjoyable” (32 percent) as the most important priority, compared to older respondents who, looking back, ranked earning money (33 percent) as their top priority.
Then there’s the millennials’ naivete, as in, “54 percent believe they will be able to retire before age 65, compared to just 41 percent of the current, older non-retirees.” It’s seems well-known to everyone but millennials that there’s a retirement crisis in this country.
Then again, another millennial survey a few months ago revealed 63 percent were saving for retirement already. They certainly weren’t saving a lot – “less than a third are saving at least 10 percent of their salary through their employer-sponsored retirement plan,” pollsters sneered – but at that age, my generation wasn’t socking it away for retirement, either. In fact, it’s my generation that’s facing the brunt of the retirement crisis.
I argue that Millennials who grew up in the Great Recession will be smarter about money as they age than any generation since the one that grew up in the Great Depression. Indeed, further down that first study I cited is this fascinating nugget:
The younger group is more likely than the older group to say that people should wait until they are financially secure to get married (73 percent vs. 55 percent) and also to have children (86 percent vs. 67 percent).
I think it’s time we ease up on millennials, let them grow up just a little bit more, and see if they’ll better their elders on the money front. I think they will.
Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of Debt.com, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.