The Millenial Generation is about to take over the economy. Are you ready?

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“Unfounded optimism is a commodity of the young.” 

The attitudes, values, and behaviors of every generation reflect their shared experience.  This has never been more true than for America’s Millennial Generation, having survived the Great Recession, finishing school with record debt, and  entering the working world amid challenges of globalization.  Still, they are inordinately optimistic, ready to influence our economy en masse.  Just like the wave of Baby Boomers going from silver to gold is impossible to ignore, the population explosion of maturing Millennials will very quickly become a predominant driving force in business, politics, communities, and our economy.  Smart businesses are already focused on meeting their needs as consumers and capturing their business for the long-term.  So let’s take a look at the financial characteristics, challenges, and beliefs of Millenials to get a better idea who they are:

Millenials Defined.
Millenials are most commonly characterized as being 18-33 years old, though it could go as high as 36 years old.

They are sometimes also called Gen Y.

Millenials are often split into two distinct groups of older (ages 26-33) and younger (18-25) members.

There are 77 million individuals 18-36 years of age, compromising 24% of the US population.  That is about on par with both Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and Gen Z (born 1995-present) but more than the approximately 50 million Gen X’ers (1964-1979.)

Right now, Millenials are the largest generation on the planet.

Every day, approximately 10,000 Millenials turn 21.

Outlook and Optimism.
32% of Millenials say they currently have enough money to lead the lives they want, and 53% say they expect that in the future.  That’s more than 8 out of 10 who show optimism they’ll have enough money.

69% of Millenials say they feel better off financially than others in their own generation.

68% of them expect their standard of living before retirement to be better than their parents.

They are best-educated generation of any in American History, with 1out of 3 of older Millenials having a four-year college degree or more.

63% of Millennials have a Bachelor’s Degree.

They believe in their education – 76% of Millenials who attend college agree that their college education was worth the cost.

However, their attitudes about higher education are less traditional; 50% of millennial college students say they don’t need a physical classroom.  53% believe that online colleges are reputable. And 39% view the future of education as being more virtual.

The median income for younger Millennials is $25k, but $48k for older Millennials.

The income levels for college-educated Millenials are much higher.  Among those with a college degree, the median income for men is $83,000, and $63,000 for women.

Despite their optimism and income levels, 56% of Millenials say they are living “paycheck to paycheck.”

Savings and Investing.
59% of Millennials say the stock market is the best place to invest for retirement, less than the 66% of boomers who say the same thing.

A resounding 80% say living through tough times like the Great Recession have taught them they have to save “now” to “survive” economic problems down the road.

84% of Millenials say they are not saving yet because they “do not have enough money to save right now.”

Just over 55% are saving for retirement, while 45% are not.

51% of Millenials think there will no money for them in the Social Security system by the time they are ready to retire.  39% say the system will only be able to provide them with retirement benefits at reduced levels and only 6% expect to receive Social Security benefits at levels enjoyed by current retirees.

40% of Millennials say they have “no idea” how much money they’ll need to retire.  31% estimate they’ll need less than $1 million while 15% think they’ll need $1- $2 million for retirement.

Spending Power and Consumer Habits.
By 2015, Millenials are expected to spend $2.45 trillion annually and by 2018, Millenials will spend $3.39 trillion, eclipsing Boomers with the most spending power of any generation.

Mobile commerce will be more prevalent than ever with Millenials, with 41% of them already making purchases with their smartphones.

63% currently stay updated on their favorite brands through social media.

Only 17% reported a TV ad prompted them to make a purchase, while 43% like more than 20 brands on Facebook.

A remarkable 81% of Millenials have at least one long-term debt and 44% have more than one major debt they are working to pay off.

About 70% of recent college graduates have student loans at an average near $30,000.  Just two decades ago, only 50% of graduates had any debt and it was only $15,000.

42% of Millenials cite the pressure of debt as “Their biggest financial concern currently.  40% say their debt is “overwhelming,” compared to only 23% of Boomers.

Other than paying day-to-day bills, 29% of Millenials say paying student loans is their top concern, followed by credit card debt (16%,) mortgage debt (15%,) and auto debt (9%.)

Millenials definitely have an entrepreneurial mindset. 54% either want to start a business or already have started one.

89% of Millennials would prefer to choose when and where they work rather than being placed in a 9-to-5 position.

Additionally, 45% of Millennials would choose workplace flexibility over the highest pay.

They don’t stay in one job long – the average job tenure for Millenials is only 2 years, compared to 5 years for Gen X and 7 years for Baby Boomers.

By 2030, Millenials will make up 50% of the U.S. workforce.

As of Q1 in 2013, Millennial unemployment rate was 13.1%, the highest rate recorded for any adult demographic, compared to a national average of 7.1%.

Please let us know if you would like more information on the demographics or consumer behaviors of Millenials.  The information in this blog is a compilation of studies by the Pew Center, Nielsen, Wells Fargo, and


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