Last month, Forbes — which I write for — published what I hope becomes a viral column.
In it, Arielle O’Shea implores, Don’t Believe The Hype About Millennials And Money. What’s that hype? Just that this most publicized generation of all time can’t “save for retirement, control their spending and keep their grubby young hands off luxuries like coffee and avocados.”
O’Shea concludes, “millennial stereotypes make good headlines, but they’re often just that.” She then destroys some millennial myths. Interestingly, Debt.com destroyed those myths many months or even years ago, but this isn’t about arguing who came first. It’s about confirming some important facts that will determine the financial destiny of not only one generation (now between the ages of 22 and 37)…
Myth 1: Millennials don’t save for retirement
Back in July, Debt.com was one of the first media outlets to report on a J.D. Power study that showed, “51 percent of millennials have specific savings goals set for retirement, compared to 44 percent of Gen Xers and baby boomers. Of the millennials with retirement savings goals, 83 percent say they’re on track to meet them.”
O’Shea collects a couple of other studies that paint an even rosier picture and posits, “They’re not doing significantly worse than their parents or grandparents did.”
Myth 2: Millennials blow their money on frivolous things
O’Shea points to data showing millennials spend less on “clothing, entertainment and alcohol” than other generations. I go in a different direction to prove the same thing. Also this summer, Debt.com reported that millennials are better financial planners: “36 percent have savings goals, but only 25 percent of Gen Xers, and 17 percent of baby boomers have them.” That’s the opposite of being frivolous.
Myth 3: Millennials are job hoppers
Again, O’Shea cites studies showing millennials move around about as much as previous generations. When they do, Debt.com has found it’s for a darn good reason. They have a goal of being their own boss someday: “40 percent plan to leave their 9-5 jobs to work as freelancers within the next five years.” As an entrepreneur myself, I admire that drive. I wish more of my generation had done the same.
Myth 4: Millennials are unambitious
I could cite statistics that show millennials are more responsible than their parents with credit cards, or that they talk about money among themselves more often than you might think, or that they out-save their elders. However, the most convincing news Debt.com has reported on this topic comes from a poll of senior citizens. The headline? Senior Citizens Admit Millennials Have It Hard Financially. If they must grudgingly concede this fact, it goes a long way to proving millennials aren’t unambitious. They’re simply trying to catch up.
Myth 5: Millennials don’t want to buy houses
O’Shea hedges here and says, “it’s not entirely true.” I can say without a doubt: millennials want to by a home, they just can’t afford it. Numerous Debt.com reports confirm it can take up to 10 years for millennials to scrape together a down payment, depending what state they live in. Part of the reason? Student loans are eating up their cash.
So it has nothing to with desire. It has everything to do with dollars.
Back in 2015, I wrote, “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.” I’ve asked Debt.com’s researchers to uncover any and all studies that address millennials and money. Certainly, it’s not all good news. Millennials are human, and they misspend and overspend just like their predecessors.
Yet we do them a disservice when we underestimate and malign them. We hurt ourselves, too, because they’ll soon become the economic engine of this country, and we’ll all thrive or suffer based on their productivity. It’s in all of our interests to make sure we support and teach them. I’ve believed this for years, and it’s nice to see Forbes doing the same.