Millennials are Spending Half of Their Paychecks to Pay Down Debt

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) Student loan debt has been the headline for years as young Americans have struggled to make ends meet. And while the burden of paying for college is undeniable, it's not the primary reason over half (56%) of Millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Credit cards are, in fact, the culprit.

More than four in ten (42%) of adults aged 22 to 33 say debt is their biggest financial concern in fact, many characterize it as "overwhelming." But surprisingly, the oft-cited weight of student loans is the third most pressing debt they face. Gen-Y says their debt load averages 16% as credit card debt, 15% mortgage debt, 12% student loan debt, 9% auto debt and 5% medical debt. All in all, 47% of Millennials are spending half of their paychecks just to pay down these debts, according to a Harris Poll fielded on behalf of Wells Fargo.

Perhaps motivated to help others forego the hardships they've encountered, when asked what advice they would offer to someone just starting out, most Millennial respondents said, "Don't spend more than you earn" (33%), followed by "Get educated about your personal finances" (17%), and "Start saving for retirement now" (16%).

And when it comes to seeking advice, most turn to "family" (57%) for trusted financial guidance, followed by "financial institutions" (54%) and "personal finance experts/personalities" (50%).

Having survived the Great Recession, most (80%) say it taught them to save "now" in order to weather future financial difficulties. About half of all Millennials say they are "satisfied" with their current savings rate, yet 45% are not saving for retirement.

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