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Americans don’t feel they make enough money to plot out how to save and invest it.

The youngest generation in the workforce is also the wisest when it comes to planning their future finances.

Thirty-one percent of millennials have a written financial plan, compared to 20 percent of Gen Xers and 22 percent of baby boomers, says a study from investment firm Charles Schwab.

“Millennials are the least likely generation in our survey to think the amount of money they have doesn’t merit a plan,” says Charles Schwab VP Joe Vietri. “We can all learn something from them.”

What Americans can learn

Only one in four Americans have a written financial plan, the study finds. But the Americans who have one score higher (68 percent) on a financial behavior test than those who don’t (44 percent). The test asks them if they…

Have a financial plan

  • Pay bills and still save each month: 75 percent
  • Have an emergency fund: 65 percent
  • Have life insurance: 62 percent
  • Feel financially stable: 62 percent
  • Do not have credit card or loan debt: 42 percent
  • Live paycheck to paycheck: 38 percent

Don’t have a financial plan

  • Pay bills and still save each month: 33 percent
  • Have an emergency fund:24 percent
  • Have life insurance: 39 percent
  • Feel financially stable: 32 percent
  • Do not have credit card or loan debt: 26 percent
  • Live paycheck to paycheck: 68 percent

“Planning is critical to achieving any goal,” says Charles Schwab VP Terri Kallsen. “It’s like establishing an exercise regimen to get in shape — we need to take the same approach to keep our finances in good health and on track.”

Of those who don’t have a plan, 45 percent say it’s because they don’t have enough money that they would need one. Twenty percent say they never thought to and another 20 percent say they wouldn’t know how to put together a plan if they wanted to.

“The idea that financial planning and wealth management are just for millionaires is one of the biggest misconceptions among Americans, and one of the most damaging,” Vietri says. “Whether people think they don’t have enough money, believe it would be too expensive, or just find the whole concept too complicated, the longer they wait, the harder it is to achieve long-term success.”

But as noted before, younger Americans who typically earn less are more likely to plan their future finances.

Millennials financial planning

Millennials aren’t just planning their finances more, they’re putting those plans into action, according to the study. Nearly three-quarters of millennials review and rebalance their investment portfolios, more than Gen Xers (66 percent) and baby boomers (64 percent).

Further, 36 percent of millennials have savings goals, but only 25 percent of Gen Xers, and 17 percent of baby boomers have them. However, the number of millennials (22 percent) and baby boomers (25 percent) who work with a financial adviser is similar. Both are higher than Gen X (16 percent).

“What we see with younger investors is they aren’t just saving and investing for retirement, which has been the primary focus of previous generations,” Vietri says. “They know they need to save for longer-term goals, but they also save and invest to fund near-term passions like travel and life experiences. This focus on nurturing themselves as they age might be one explanation of why they are so engaged with their money.”

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Meet the Author

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Associate editor

Pye is the associate editor of

Budgeting & Saving

millennials, money management

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