Submitted by Nicholas Colas of Convergex
Millennials save more of their income than older generations. Don’t believe it? Look at a recent survey by Merrill Edge, which found millennials say they save 36% more than their general population counterparts report as over a third stash away more than 20% of their salary per year.
As for what they’re saving for, that’s another story. Whereas baby boomers save for retirement, millennials want financial freedom and save for a desired lifestyle rather than exiting the workforce. Millennials would rather spend money on travel, dining, and fitness than save for their financial future. They are also more focused on certain milestones like landing their dream job or traveling the world, and are less worried about getting married or having kids. Bottom line, millennials are saving, just for shorter-term goals as compared to their parents.
Where were you thirty years ago? My parents and many of our readers likely remember the stock market’s ascension to record highs before the sudden crash of 1987. A few decades later the capital market is back to flirting with another peak, but the loss-averse nature of people leaves past financial crises clearly imprinted into memory.
The Atlantic put together 41 pictures for a glimpse into 1987 that captured a wide variety of figures and events during that year. One such portrait included passengers on the F train in New York reading the newspaper after “Black Monday.” The front cover of the New York Post read “Wall St. Bloodbath” in huge bold letters and “Panic selling sweeps market: P.5” at the bottom of the page. Six clocks sat between the two texts, reflecting the event’s global reach.
Here are some other descriptions of pictures from that time to highlight just how different our world is three decades on:
- Now-President-but-then-private-citizen Donald Trump greets Liza Minelli backstage at Carnegie Hall, along with his then wife Ivana Trump, and Henry and Nancy Kissinger. Fast forward 30 years (almost to the month) and likely much to his disbelief at that time he’s currently representing the free world by traveling abroad and meeting with foreign leaders. Far cry from real estate deals, that.
- The vice president of marketing for Compaq Computer Corporation shows off the new Compaq Portable III at the Mark Hellinger Theater in New York, which weighs just 18 pounds so that it’s easy (!) to carry. Now not only our computer but phone capabilities rest in just one device and fit right in our pockets, with the iPhone 7 weighing as light as between 5 to 7 ounces.
- Then First Lady Nancy Reagan watches an anti-drug musical, Just Say No, at a high school in Alexandria, Virginia. Tough to imagine now about two-thirds of Americans live in a state where some form of marijuana is legal. The momentum continues in that direction as well, with 60% of Americans favoring legalization of the drug according to a 2016 Gallup poll.
- About 200,000 people (according to US Park Police estimates) rally on the National Mall in support of gays and lesbians. Fast forward and we now have marriage equality.
- Bernie Sanders, then Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, records songs and a conversation about his philosophy on tape: “Sanders feels music is a powerful way to communicate with the masses.” Little did people see just how much he would connect with the masses this past presidential election, particularly among the politically hard to reach millennial cohort.
- For more photographs down memory lane, here’s a link to the article with everyone from David Bowie and Princess Diana to Pee-wee Herman and Howard Stern:
Thirty years ago, baby boomers were in their twenties and up, and now their kids’ ages span from nearly twenty to their mid-thirties. As those old photographs show, however, millennials’ experience in their twenties and thirties vastly differs from their parents socially, culturally, and economically. We therefore have different values and goals, which even extends to our financial lives.
A recent survey of over 1,000 Americans conducted from March 21st to April 5th by Merrill Edge showed a stark generational divide about different groups’ life priorities. Some of these findings may come as a surprise. Here are the results:
- Top life priorities: “millennials are the first generation to plan long-term for financial freedom instead of retirement.” Most (63%) millennials are “looking to save a set amount of money or income necessary to enjoy their desired lifestyle, compared to the majority (55%) of Gen Xers and baby boomers who are saving so they can leave the workforce.” Millennials are “significantly more likely than their older counterparts to focus on personal milestones of working at their dream job (42%, compared to 23%) and traveling the world (37%, compared to 21%).”
- Additionally, “today’s 18- to 34-year-olds are also far less likely to emphasize the traditional family milestones of getting married (43%, compared to 51%) and being a parent (36%, compared to 59%).”
- Spending patterns: most millennials are more likely to spend money on “travel (81%), dining (65%) and fitness (55%) than save for their financial future.” The report attributes this to FOMO, or the “fear of missing out”.
- Savings: millennials “say they save 36% more than their generational counterparts, with more than one-third (36%) setting aside more than 20% of their salary per year.” As for overall respondents, 42% are saving less than 10% of their salary, while 7% don’t save anything.
- Ironic given that Americans think the “Greatest Generation (54%) does a ‘very good’ job of saving, followed by baby boomers (45%), Gen Xers (19%) and millennials (8%).” In fact, just 15% of millennials think of themselves as good savers. So even though 45% of millennials consult their parents “always” or “often” for financial advice and think they’re better savers, it’s the opposite.
- Consequently, Americans aren’t saving enough and feel unprepared for uncertain scenarios. Most Americans “are not very confident they would be able to achieve their financial goals if they were to: get a divorce (71%), have children (64%), live to 100 years old (62%) or outlive their significant other (48%).” The problem, they are not “financially planning for these scenarios either, with only 5% saving for the possibility of divorce and 23% for the possibility of children.”
- Therefore, 59% of respondents think Americans should be required to save for their own retirement, and 48% believe financial education should be required.
- Technology: Two in five Americans report “using an online or mobile portal to manage their investments.” Respondents also say using these platforms “has a positive impact that makes users feel more knowledgeable (51%), empowered (31%) and savvy (14%).” Going forward over the next decade, Americans “believe emerging technologies will allow more people to invest (41%)” and that a “majority of investments will become automated (34%), the 401(k) account will no longer be the ‘gold standard’ (29%), and the market will be dominated by women (13%).”
- As for robo advisors, one in eight (13%) Americans currently use one or would consider it in the next year. Zeroing in on millennials, however, brings this figure up to 22%.
- Link to the full report.
The upshot: whereas baby boomers save for retirement, millennials want financial freedom and save for their desired lifestyle rather than seeking to exit the workforce. Americans may view older generations as better savers, but millennials actually take the cake there. They just have different priorities that are shorter-term than their parents. Of course this could pose risks for millennials when they finally grow to their parents’ age and beyond, but this survey shows a clear way for financial professionals to best reach them: on mobile where they already give most of their attention, and addressing their unique take on life goals.