Millennials are saving cash like no other generation still ahead of them. They are skeptical of playing the stock market. And they are already making plans to work longer and save more for retirement.
Entering the job market under the cloud of a recession may have actually helped this next generation get smart about finances, concludes one study from Hartford Funds and another from Merrill Edge that track the fallout from the financial crisis which struck a decade ago.
That’s good, because as a whole, Americans haven’t taken the lessons to heart.
According to the Hartford Funds study, some 40 percent of Americans want to gloss over the hardships they endured even though a quarter say they had to change jobs or take on an additional one, 46 percent have changed the way they spend, and 42 percent say they’re avoiding the markets.
Millennials appear to be the exception. This generation whose oldest members are now hitting their mid-30s is up front that the Great Recession looms large when they consider getting a degree, buying a home, or having kids. This is probably because 80 percent say they expect another recession in their lifetime — and three in 10 think it will happen in the next five years.
So what are they doing about it?
They’re saving more. Two in five are willing to save more than half of their paycheck to have more money in the long run. They’re also ready to go out less (54 percent), skip vacation for a year (42 percent), put off buying a home (36 percent) or delay marriage or kids (33 percent).
Anticipating another financial crisis down the road, 26 percent have taken money out of the market to build cash savings, Hartford Funds reports.
A majority of millennials see themselves financially more conservative than their friends, siblings or parents — more than a third consider themselves stingier than grandma or granddad, too. They say they’re more likely to “play it safe” with their money and their jobs than they are when it comes to romance and travel.
The Hartford Funds research found millennials to be the generation with the least trust in the stock market, with almost half avoiding the market altogether.
Of course, more than a third of millennials report money is tight. A quarter of them face student loan debt. And while 80 percent say they are caught up on bills and have money left over, building a large portfolio may be taking a backseat to saving for a home or building emergency reserves.
Regardless of their money challenges, millennials have not lost sight of the end game: retirement.
Even in this planning, millennials are blazing their own path.
“Uniquely shaped by their coming of age during the Great Recession, millennials appear determined to achieve their future goals with their ‘do-it-myself’ attitude,” writes Aron Levine, head of Merrill Edge. “In stark contrast to older generations who are relying on outside sources for their future financial security, millennials are looking to their self-created savings years down the line.”
While baby boomers pinned their retirement plans on pensions and Gen-Xers look toward their 401(k)s, 66 percent of millennials say they are depending on their savings account — a self-created and self-funded source, according to Merrill Edge.
This is less surprising when you consider that more than a third of this generation’s youngest members didn’t even know what a 401(k) was in one recent survey.
Still, don’t believe that millennials will be foregoing this retirement convention altogether.
More than 85 percent listed a 401(k) as a “must have” work benefit in a survey out earlier this year. Millennials also opened more retirement plans in the last five years than their older counterparts.
In their conservative calculations, a quarter of millennials have already pushed back their retirement dates and 38 percent are paying more into retirement savings. There’s nothing like a recession to make you want to brace for another recession.
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