Millennials don't follow traditional financial trends

Millennials face unique challenges in personal finance and often buck traditional financial wisdom.

Millennials comprise a generation that come of age during the worst economic period in our country after the Great Depression. Growing up during and after the Great Recession gave has given them some unique perspectives on money. They saw their parents lose everything during the real estate collapse in 2008 and the subsequent 2009 stock market crash. The graduated from college with crushing student loan debt and limited employment opportunities in a weak job market. All of this changed how they view their financial world.

The articles in this section follow current financial trends with America’s youngest breadwinners. You can see how Millennials are faring with student debt, credit and homeownership. Below the articles, you can find more information on the overarching trends that impact what is now the biggest consumer segment in the U.S.

Americans paying for college

Billions of Free Money for College was Left Behind by New Students

November 14, 2017 | Dori Zinn

This year, 1.2 million high school grads didn’t fill out a FAFSA, leaving $2.3 billion of free money behind.

Baby boomers say to save long and prosper

Advice From Baby Boomers: Never Stop Saving

November 13, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Baby boomers say they are financially ready for retirement. Most say that living life on the cheap side will leave you more money in your later years.

Young millennial resting at his house and using laptop

Student Loans Are Stopping Millennials From Buying Homes

November 6, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

No savings, poor credit are adding up as problem for the generation.

Father and adult son enjoying coffee together

“Affluent” Parents Will Support Their Children — For Decades

November 3, 2017 | Deb Hipp

It seems the more money parents have, the more their children demand.

Millennial Happiness And Money

Millennials Don’t Connect Money With Happiness

November 2, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

Despite their joy, not putting importance in finances does hurt the generation.

A young black millennial woman fills out a job application

Black Millennial Women Can’t Get a Break in The Job Market

October 27, 2017 | Joe Pye

Unemployment rates of black women today are nearly double the national average of all women 10 years ago.

Americans Still Don’t Save

Americans Still Don’t Know How to Save

October 26, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

Older citizens are also doing better than younger ones.

Americans are buying homes to save money.

Americans Want To Buy A House So They Can Save Money

October 24, 2017 | Michelle Bryan

But many aren’t buying a house — because they can’t save the money.

Millennial woman using her credit card online

Are Millennials Better Than Their Parents When It Comes To Credit Cards?

October 16, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

They pay them off more often, but they have too darn many of them.

Money stress can be caused by an empty wallet

Millennials’ Financial Habits Are Making Them Ill

September 29, 2017 | Gregory Cox

And they’re more stressed about money than their parents and grandparents

This couple is not revealing debt on a first date, which is probably why they're smiling

How Far Should You Go (Revealing Debt) On Your First Date?

September 28, 2017 | Michelle Bryan

It could be vital to compatibility, but best not reveal too much too soon

Too many credit cards can be bad for your credit, even if they are as colorful as these

Are Millennials Opening Too Many Credit Cards?

September 25, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

The generation is looking for cards that offer more rewards

three women sit on a couch drinking and laughing about the costs of weddings (illustrated)

The Hangover You Didn’t Expect From The Bachelor Party

September 22, 2017 | Michelle Bryan

Or how too many wedding invitations can sideline home ownership

Millennial man hides his face because he has is afraid of credit cards

Millennials Are Afraid of Their Credit Cards

September 22, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

The generation is afraid of debt, creating a vicious cycle of bad spending

Three millennial guys at a bar talking about money in relationships

Millennials Talk About Money More Than You’d Think

September 18, 2017 | Joe Pye

And the more they talk, the happier they are

A man carefully holds a tiny house in his hands because he knows housing is a good long-term investment

Housing is Still Americans’ Favorite Long-Term Investment

September 13, 2017 | Gregory Cox

People say sinking money into the housing market is the safest way to shore up cash, but is it?

A millennial who is broke shows off his empty pockets

Stuck in a Rut: Some Millennials Will Always Be Broke

September 12, 2017 | Joe Pye

Millennials with lower credit scores struggle to make ends meet.

Workers are wasting time on their phones

Full-time Workers Keep Wasting Time on Their Phones

September 11, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Workers spend an average of five hours a week on their phones doing nonwork things and their employers don’t like it. They also think their workers are doing it more often than they really are.

Homeownership is Not the American Dream.

Is Homeownership No Longer the American Dream?

September 8, 2017 | Gregory Cox

More Americans are reconsidering whether they should own their house.

A millennial woman explains credit to her peers

Millennial Women Know Credit More Than Male Peers

September 6, 2017 | Joe Pye

They’re also more likely to want to learn about credit.

Hispanics mad about their credit score.

Hispanics Are Mad About Their Credit

September 4, 2017 | Gregory Cox

But they’re looking to change that by improving their credit scores

Millennials and money: Financial fears have them stressing at work and beyond

Millennials Are in Fear of Their Finances — Especially Debt

August 29, 2017 | Joe Pye

They’re worried about money more than their jobs and relationships

Millennials are buying homes.

Millennials Want to Buy Homes

August 28, 2017 | Gregory Cox

And understand they need credit to buy them, even if it might mean fewer lattes

Generation X Logo

Generation X Is Stuck in a Tight Spot

August 23, 2017 | Michelle Bryan

But their growing debt apathy may have payoffs for all

How millennials think about retirement while relaxing at home

Millennials Would Rather Save for Retirement Than Raise a Family

August 18, 2017 | Joe Pye

They’re the furthest from retirement, but it’s still one of their main goals.

Americans paying for college

Americans Are Getting Better at Paying For College

August 14, 2017 | Joe Pye

For the first time in a decade, scholarships and grants cover a third of college costs.

Woman depressed in the summer

The Most Depressing Statistic of the Summer

August 14, 2017 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Trust me, you’ll never guess what it is.

Searching for Gen Xers on the Internet.

Gen Xers Have Owned Homes Longer — Yet Owe Slightly Less Than Millennials

August 10, 2017 | Michelle Bryan

Because of the recession, Gen Xers are still struggling to pay off the majority of their mortgages — and are falling behind older and younger generations in the process.


Being Polite Can Save You Money

August 4, 2017 | Joe Pye

No really, there’s a report that says so.

An upset college graduate rests her head on her hand after she hears recent student debt statistics

Student Debt Hurts Women More Than Men

July 21, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Women are suffering from student loan debt at a higher rate than men, and this first-person account of drowning in debt shows it.

Two Millennials sit at an outdoor cafe looking at a Wallet cash flow graph in a Personal Financial Management (PFM) platform

More Millennials Are Saving in 401(k) Plans

July 21, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

Baby Boomers still lead in total participitation, but the youngest generation in the workforce leads growth in use over past five years.

Woman fighting a headache, sitting in front of a laptop in a home office late at night, plagued by financial stress

Broke Millennials Can’t Crawl Out from Financial Hole

July 20, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

Group had less help from parents, learned more on their own than their more successful counterparts.

Eva, creator of Teens Got Cents, teaches finances to young people on her blog

Eva Teaches Young People About Money

July 19, 2017 | Brian Bienkowski

She started blogging at 16 years old, and a few years later became a full-fledged entrepreneur.

Couple on a sailboat are well off but also may not connect American wealth with having a lot of money

Americans Define Wealth in Very Different Ways

July 18, 2017 | Gregory Cox

Think it means being rich? Think again.

A Baby Boomer business woman sits in a corner office, examining a computer screen

Americans Hope They Can Work in Retirement

July 11, 2017 | Joe Pye

And that’s a good thing, since we aren’t saving enough anyway.

Person buried by bills and debt holds up a sign asking for help

Plot Twist: Millennials Want to Pay Their Own Bills

June 30, 2017 | Joe Pye

They believe they should cover their expenses at an earlier age – despite the fact that they still live at home.

u.s. teens fail financial literacy

U.S. Students Score Below Average on Worldwide Financial Literacy Test

June 27, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

The test on basic money knowledge has been administered twice — and Americans failed it both times

Millennial using his cell phone at the train station believes that retirement sucks

Millennials Aren’t Interested In Retiring

June 26, 2017 | Joe Pye

They’re out-saving Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, not to retire — but to work their dream jobs and travel.

3 young Millennials sit in a minimalist office blurred in the background, with a hand depositing a coin in a while piggy bank

Students Relying Less on Parents to Pay for College

June 20, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

 Facing higher costs, teens are relying more on scholarships, grants and their own savings.

millennial with student loans

Student Loans: What America Doesn’t Know Is Killing Us

June 20, 2017 | Joe Pye

Most borrowers have no idea what they’ll owe in the future – or even how many years their loans are for

A young hipster man sits at his apartment kitchen table, pouring over his budget and finances with calculator in hand

Millennials Out-Save Older Generations

June 16, 2017 | Joe Pye

They are more conservative with their money at younger ages than previous generations

What if I stopped paying my credit cards?

Middle Class Millennials Struggle With Employment

June 13, 2017 | Joe Pye

Having a credit score under 700 is related to difficulties holding onto jobs and living on your own.

moving back in with parents

College Grads Moving Back To Mom’s And Dad’s

June 6, 2017 | Joe Pye

College graduates value their degrees even though they can’t afford to live on their own.

Banking apps may be better than you think.

Baby Boomers Really Love Smartphones

May 23, 2017 | Joe Pye

They are more willing to give up financial stability for smartphones, than younger generations.

When it comes to kids and money, teach kids to work on their finances to avoid things like adult Millennials living at home

Millennial Adults Still Living At Home

May 18, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Most moms say their adult children aren’t ready to live on their own and only one-third of young adults are looking to move out of their parent’s house.

debt management plan

3 Steps to Become Debt-Free and Chase Your Dreams

April 28, 2017 | Robert Beiler

A little sacrifice can go just as far as hustle

why a college degree is more valuable

Ask The Expert: Should We NOT Send Our Son To College?

April 26, 2017 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

A reader and his wife are arguing about college for their son.

Amazon Cardboard Boxes

If You’ve Got a Teen, You’ve Got Amazon Prime

April 25, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Amazon Prime has turned into a must-have for homes with teens in them. If you’ve got kids, it’s likely you’ll have Amazon Prime.

Live without a car

Millennials Figure Out The Housing Market

April 25, 2017 | Joe Pye

They don’t believe in the “American Dream,” but want to move on with adulthood.

student loans

Student Loans Make Millennials Desperate

April 11, 2017 | Joe Pye

Nearly 90 percent of young employees would commit to an employer for 5 years – if it helped them pay back their debt.

5 Ways Millennials Buck Traditional Financial Trends

#1: Millennials are more averse to using credit cards

The Credit CARD Act of 2009 placed tight restrictions on how credit card issuers could market cards on college campuses. It also prohibited the approval of credit card applications to anyone under the age of 21. The goal was that Millennials would be less likely to rack up serious credit card debt during school. The side effect was a generation that was more wary of credit cards.

Roughly two in five (41%) of Millennials view credit cards with fear and over three quarters (76%) of Millennials don’t see credit cards as a status symbol. Oddly enough, however, when Millennials chose a credit card, they make some interesting choices. A credit card went “viral” in 2017 largely thanks to Millennials that had a $450 annual fee. Most experts tell you to avoid annual fee credit cards, but Millennial snapped this card up in droves.

#2: They stress more about money

More than half of Millennials (53%) report they have high anxiety about losing their job, compared to just 29% of all Americans. Then 67% stress about savings compared to 50% of the general population. Plus, over 23% say that financial stress makes them physically ill, while 20% say it contributes to their depression.

This higher level of financial stress may be attributed to how they grew up. The Great Recession saw many households lose their long-term saving strategy as 401(k) assets plummeted. Millennials also came of age during a period of historically high unemployment rates, particularly among youth. This environment likely created a great sense of urgency, as well as one of impending doom.

#3: They’re putting off major life goals because of student debt

Millennial consumers face record breaking challenges with student loan debt. The average student graduates with enough debt to purchase a nicely equipped sedan (to the tune of over $35,000).

This level of debt easily puts many entry level workers well above the debt-to-income ratio needed to qualify for significant financing. Purchasing a first home is out of the question in many cases, even if they get help with the down payment. They simply can’t afford the burden of mortgage payments plus student loans.

This has also led to lower rates of marriage for Millennials in the 20s. Millennials often delay starting a family because instead of the benefit of two incomes, they get the anchor of twice the student loan debt. When you consider that the estimated cost to raise a child to the age of 18 (without education costs) is over $250,000, it’s no wonder that many Millennials feel like they’re not in a position to start a family.

On the other hand, however, Millennials are more likely to cohabitate faster AND merge bank accounts into joint accounts. They’re doing this even before they get married.

#4: Life delays may also be tied to long-term goals

A 2017 study found that 90% of Millennials view saving for retirement as their primary goal, versus 40% who opt for starting a family. Remember, many Millennials saw how weak their parents’ retirement strategies were during the Great Recession. That dramatic loss of life savings left a serious impression; one that may have inspired Millennials to be more diligent about starting retirement savings in their 20s, instead of putting it off like many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Financial experts have been telling people for years that they need to start saving more earlier. They also advise taking a more active role in your own financial planning and being aware of how investments like mutual funds work. If this really has sunk in with Millennials, then we could see a decreasing trend in the retirement crisis and Millennials grow older.

#5: Money isn’t always the end-goal of employment

You’d think given all the uphill battles with finance that Millennials have, they’d be completely devoted to achieving the highest income possible. But multiple pools, surveys and employment data studies show that the bottom line isn’t most Millennials’ bottom line.

Millennials want jobs that make a difference. They want perks that make them happy and comfortable at work instead of offering any financial benefit. In fact, one survey found that a majority of Millennials would look more favorably on an employer if one of the benefits they offered was allowing pets in the office. Millennials want a happy, fun and socially interactive work environment, even if it might not pay as well as a cubicle job.

This creates a bit of a financial paradox. Millennials don’t want to be married to a job because it has a nice paycheck, but they’re also more stressed than any other generation about money. They want to live for today, but put all their financial focus on ensuring they’re not destitute later in life. It will be interesting to see as Millennials grow older (and hopefully wiser) how their financial perspective will evolve. Will they fall in line with Gen Xers and Boomers or continue to march to the beat of their own financial drum?