3 big ways millennials are smarter about money than their parents


Bad news about millennials and their money abounds.

Dogged for being less likely to pay their own rent and health insurance premiums — much less contribute to a retirement plan — millennials appear to be on shaky financial ground compared to previous generations, according to a 2016 Bank of America/USA Today report.

Saddled with student debt, they also make 20% less money than their baby boomer parents did at the same age, according to a Young Invincibles report on Federal Reserve data.

Sure, it is true: The Great Recession seismically changed how millennials save, spend and view banking institutions.

But the news isn't all bad. While millennials are known for postponing marriage and aversion to spending money on luxury goods, according to a 2015 Goldman Sachs report — they also have an affinity for technology and convenience that displays a certain valuable savvy.

Indeed, it could be argued that digital natives raised in shaky economic times are wise beyond their years in a few key ways. Here are three.

1. Millennials know not to view the world through rose-colored glasses  

Coming of age during one of the worst financial meltdowns in history has its advantages — millennials entered adulthood with their eyes wide open. 

"Millennials are the first in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations had at the same age," Pew Research Center's senior editor Bruce Drake writes.

The Great Recession also made millennials more averse both to credit cards and credit card debt. According to a CreditCards.com survey, about 36% of millennials have never had a credit card: That's not actually a good thing, since having a credit card helps you build a good credit history.

But there is an upside: Credit card debt for people younger than 35 is the lowest it has been since 1989.


2. Budgeting is king for young workers

At least 8 out of 10 millennials have a budget — compared to only 61% of baby boomers, according to the TD Ameritrade report.

In addition, more millennials report having an emergency fund, saving for a down payment on a home and dedicating assets toward education.

Because millennials may be strapped for cash, they cut and manage expenses by doing things like forgoing a new car purchase and using ride-sharing instead, according to a 2016 ReportLinker report.

Selecting low-fee investments is also a priority for many millennials. 

"My plan is to invest with Vanguard, an investment company famous for their low-expense trustworthy index funds," Turi Reeves, business analyst for fintech company Fidessa, wrote in an email to Mic. "On top of the saving, I also have a 401(k)."

3. Younger folks know tech is an asset

Millennials are taking advantage of technology that didn't even exist a generation ago — from online bank accounts to savings apps like Digit — to help them stay on track financially. 

Take online banking: A study by cloud software company Morphis found that 92% of millennials select a bank for its digital services, and 68% use online banking to manage their accounts, American Banker reports. 

Just having access to your account balance online can help you know your balance and avoid overdrafts and the attendant fees. What's more, you can easily compare interest rates on savings accounts using sites like NerdWallet.

When it comes to financial management apps, some of the most popular with young people include You Need a Budget for basic budgeting; Acorns, which automatically invests your spare change for you; and Personal Capital, which combines robo advice with licensed advisers.

Price comparison sites, coupon apps and discount ticket services are other ways millennials use tech to make sure they get the best deal on everything — from laundry detergent to that much-needed beach vacation.

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