Millennial, Baby Boomer Financial Decisions Largely Align

Much has been made of Millennials’ differences from older generations, such as how they’re killing off various institutions and products—department stores, fabric softener, marmalade, etc.—and need to be approached by marketers in a wholly new way. And while there is much truth in that, data from Morning Consult shows that when it comes to money, their priorities are generally very similar to those of their Baby Boomer parents.

The survey, conducted by Morning Consult and Business Insider in March 2019 from a sample of 4,400 adults, found that Millennials, who are in their 20s and 30s, are making financial decisions of someone in their 20s and 30s in previous generations. For example, the survey asked respondents what they would do with an extra $1,000. It found that among Millennials, 18 percent would pay outstanding bills, compared to 17 percent of Boomers; 23 percent would pay down debt, compared to 25 percent of Boomers; 23 percent would save it, compared to 25 percent of Boomers; three percent would shop, compared to two percent of Boomers, etc.

Another similarity the survey found regards credit card debt—35 percent of Millennials have less than $5,000 in credit card debt, similar to 34 percent of Baby Boomers.

Some differences are evident in the data, however. Millennials are reaching traditional milestones, such as marriage, buying a house and having children, later in life than Baby Boomers did. Research from the Federal Reserve and Yale University suggests these delays may be due to climbing student debt and the impact of graduating from college in the middle of the financial crisis. The Federal Reserve does note, however, that when adjusted for age and other factors, “Millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.”

Student loans, in fact, represent the largest difference the survey highlighted between Millennials and Boomers. It found that 64 percent of Millennials have or had student loans, compared to 39 percent of Baby Boomers. Millennials are also more ambivalent about student loans’ value—56 percent said that based on their current financial situation, taking out a student loan was worth attending college, compared to 68 percent of Baby Boomers.

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