Millennials are saving more and their money habits are improving.
Nearly a quarter of people aged 24-41 who save have more than $100,000 in savings, up from 16% in 2018, according to a new report from Bank of America.
“Today’s millennials are more serious about their finances than we’ve seen historically,” said Andrew Plepler, global head of environmental, social and governance at Bank of America. “They have more financial acumen than people suspect.”
More than half regularly check account balances or track their expenses, and 46% pay their credit cards in full each month, according to the study. Nearly 40% have boosted their credit score in the past year.
For the millennials who are saving, retirement is the top goal with 75% citing it as their main priority, according to the report.
“Retirement is a point of real emphasis,” Plepler said. “Millennials have seen their parents and the culture around them go through the financial crisis. They are more conscious of how important it is to be prepared.”
Employers making retirement saving more seamless and automatic through 401(k) plans helps too, he said.
Another 42% said their savings were earmarked for travel, while getting into a first or next home is the main goal of 32%. Homeownership is an even greater priority for younger millennials. Of those who are saving, 41% of Gen Z (under 24) and 40% of younger millennials (age 24 to 30) are saving to buy a home.
“I think the home is still an anchor asset guiding goal-setting for this population,” said Plepler. “They see it as a part of their stability in life and also wealth building.”
Trade-offs and delays
While more millennials are growing their savings, 27% of them are not saving at all.
Over three-quarters of all millennials are saddled with debt and 16% hold more than $50,000 in debt, not including mortgages.
“If you’re doing well, you’re doing very well,” Plepler said. “If you are struggling and in debt, it is very hard to transcend that struggle.”
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Being in debt is keeping millennials from meeting milestones, according to the report. More than three-quarters of millennials who carry debt say it prevents them from achieving their personal and financial goals.
Because of debt, 42% say they aren’t able to buy a home, 21% are putting off getting married and another 21% are delaying having a baby. Others are waiting longer to start a business or move to a more satisfying job.
Debt is keeping 18% from living on their own without support from family and friends.
Over half of all millennials feel they are lagging behind their peers financially. Increasingly, they are stressed out. One-third worry often about their finances, up from a quarter in 2018.
An overwhelming number of them, 82%, would rather buy a smaller house than a larger home at the top of their budget. Over half would opt to stay in a less desirable job with higher pay than move to a more desirable job with lower pay.
But Plepler says that a bit of anxiety about finances is probably not a bad thing.
“It keeps them from being complacent,” he said. “We’re 10 years removed from the financial crisis and we have lived through a period where home prices and the stock market went up. But this generation knows that it can go down, too.”
- Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the findings of this report. A quarter of Millennials who save have amassed $100,000 in savings.