Millennials are better at saving than most of you, despite jokes to the contrary.
Lazy stereotypes aside, a recent survey by Bankrate.com found that 62% of Millennials (ages 18-30) are saving more than 5% of their income, up from 42% last year. Meanwhile, 29% of Millennials are saving 10% of their income, up from 22% last year.
“The good news is that many working Americans, Millennials in particular, are saving, and saving more than last year,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. “The bad news is that 21% of employed Americans claim not to be saving any of their paycheck – nothing for retirement, nothing for emergencies, and nothing for other financial goals.”
Oh, and the rest of you aren't meeting even Millennials' modest savings goals. The percentage of working Americans saving 5% or less of income dropped, from 28% to 21% since last year. Americans saving more than 10% of their incomes increased from 24% to 28% since last year, but still lags Millennials a bit.
While a Capital One Investing survey that finds that only 11% of Millennials say growing their retirement nest egg is their top goal, compared to 31% who are prioritizing travel and 22% who most hope to buy a home, they haven't really been given much incentive to look that far down the line.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt reached a whopping $1.2 trillion (up $77 billion from a year earlier). That's the second largest pile of consumer debt behind mortgage debt (at $8.26 trillion, up $129 billion from 2014), and it's being paid largely by Millennials. Student loan and financial advice site Edvisors.com reminds us, notes that when Generation X left college 20 years ago, average student loan debt was $12,759 and just 54% of all students graduated with debt. Last year, the average student loan debt for a graduate who just received a bachelor's degree was $35,051. That debt was carried by 70.9% of all graduates.
The folks at DealNews note that 37% of the Millennials they surveyed were carrying student loans, while 63% are not. While they note that 34% owed less than $10,000 and only 6% owed $40,000 to $50,000, that's still a lot of grads in the middle. They're not exactly whacking away big chunks of it, either. Just 33% pay more than the monthly amount due, while 20% do the same when they can. According to the FRBNY, more than one in ten (11.3%) student loans are past due. By comparison, credit card bills, which are the second-most delinquent loans with 7.3% past due.
Then again, paying off debt and saving are easier to do when you have some sort of income. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the current unemployment rate at 4.9%, that jumps to 8.6% for people ages 20 to 24 -- or roughly the age of most recent college graduates. Only 63.5% of people that age are an active part of the workforce, compared to nearly 78% of folks between 25 and 54. However, DealNews notes that
Yet, despite the fact that just 52% of Americans have more emergency savings than credit card debt -- according to Bankrate.com -- Millennials are more likely than any other age group to have a nest egg healthier than their monthly statement.
However, they may not be as ready for retirement as some of their elders. While Edward Jones found that 45% of non-retired Americans are not currently saving for retirement and only 36% plan to do so in the future, roughly 58% of the study's youngest non-retired respondents (18 to 34 years) have not yet started saving for retirement, for many of the reasons we listed above.
But there's time to close the gap. According to Edward Jones, 90% of those ages 18 to 35 say they have or plan to start saving for retirement before they turn or turned 30. Just 7% of that group plan to start saving for retirement in their 40s. That would be a step ahead of their 35- to 44-year-old counterparts, 26% of whom started or planned to start saving for retirement in their 40s.
"When it comes to retirement savings, there’s a big difference between planning to save and actually doing so," says Scott Thoma, principal and investment strategist for Edward Jones. "While intentions to save for retirement are legitimate, individuals tend to satisfy more immediate, short-term spending goals and push off their long-term saving goals. This behavior can be incredibly detrimental for individual investors, particularly as they enter the critical savings periods of their 30s and 40s when they have (and unfortunately waste) a tremendously valuable asset - time."
That's if they want to retire at all. A survey by Franklin Templeton found that 30% of those ages 18 to 24 never plan to retire. Roughly 61% of respondents of all ages said that if they didn't have the funds to retire, they'd keep working. That jumped to 74% among those 18 to 24. However, 20% of the non-retired filed say they'd keep working just because they enjoy their job, with only 28% working past retirement age for a primary source of income.
“Conventional thinking and attitudes about what it means to retire are changing,” says Michael Doshier, vice president of retirement marketing for Franklin Templeton Investments. “By taking action now—via saving and planning for retirement—individuals can help ensure that they're able to embrace this next phase of life. They can also reduce the stress increasingly associated with not having enough money to retire.”
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.