NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Edging perilously close to their mid-30s, the oldest Millennials are getting dangerously close to joining "The Establishment." They are taking their rightful place in the workforce, no longer the young interns or fresh-faced rank-and-file, but increasingly taking charge as the boss. And though it seems that Gen Y is perhaps the most-researched demographic in America, their influence is changing as they adopt a few of the traits of their parents: making bigger purchases, paying off debt and even putting aside a little of their income for the future.
Millennial Branding and Elite Daily have revealed new details on the digital generation, revealing one trait that may surprise marketers looking to gain favor with these Great Recession-scarred young adults: Gen Y is not necessarily looking for bargains. According to the results of the survey of 1,300 young adults, nearly half (48%) said the quality of the product is what interests them most in making a purchase, trumping price as a factor by more than twice (21%).
And what Gen Y doesn't find on the shelf, they want to help create.
"They want to co-create products with companies," says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding. Forty-two percent of respondents said they are "interested in helping companies develop future products and services."
Few consumers admit they are swayed by overt marketing efforts – we're much too sophisticated to fall for that, right? As if those viral GoPro videos didn't launch an empire. But Millennials say they're immune from such efforts, opting instead to trust the opinions of their friends (37%), parents (36%) and online experts (17%) before making a purchase.
And despite having an image of go-against-the-flow independence, most (60%) Gen Y consumers admitted they are often or always loyal to brands that they currently buy.
Under-35 adults are nothing if not resilient. More than three-quarters (77%) still say they are feeling the effects of the Great Recession and have struggled to save money, but are paying off their student loans from current income (33%) – and with the help of their parents (23%). And the trial by financial fire apparently taught them well: More than half (55%) say that they are knowledgeable in managing their own finances. In fact, many (43%) are either very or completely likely to buy a car in the next five years.
But the biggest rite of passage that would seal the transition of Gen Y firmly into the realm of The Establishment – homeownership – is still elusive. One in every four Millennials are either very or completely likely to buy a house in the next five years, but 61% of those surveyed say they still can't afford to buy a home.
But Gen Y is rapidly entering the sweet spot for first-time homebuyers, who generally look to own a home when building a family. While Millennials have become known for delaying marriage and offspring, last year the typical first-time homebuyer was 31 years old, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Hal M. Bundrick is a Certified Financial Planner and contributor to MainStreet. Follow him on Twitter: @HalMBundrick