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Breaking Glass

Study: Millennials are ‘overwhelmed’ by debt

Eight in ten millennials say Great Recession taught them to save “now”

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It is my hope — and the hope of generations before me — that millennial women will be the ones to ultimately bridge the gender gap in the business world both socially and financially.

But the latest Wells Fargo Millennial Study, conducted online by Harris Poll, is kind of a bummer in that regard.

Being a millennial is hard enough — we have a terrible reputation, our starting salaries are often ultra-low and there are simply not enough jobs to go around for all the college graduates out there.

In those issues, both men and women millennials find common ground.

According to the study — which included answers from more than 1,600 U.S. adults aged 22-33 — eight in ten millennials say the effects of the Great Recession of 2008 has taught them to save now in order to be better prepared for economic instability in the future.

Today, 56 percent of millennials say they are living “paycheck to paycheck,” and 42 percent say that debt is their biggest financial concern at the moment.

That’s pretty tough. I get it. I’m right there with you.

But it’s still no excuse for complacency.

Despite feeling the effects of the Great Recession and knowing how unsure our financial future looks, 45 percent of millennials are not saving for retirement.

Of those not saving, 84 percent say they do not make enough money to do so.

Living on a tight budget is difficult, for sure. But, whatever money you’re making — you can save a small portion of it.

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I have personally found success using the tried-and-true “envelope” system and apps such as BDGT, which allows you to input each transaction you make. This small change has enabled me to allocate 20 percent of each paycheck to a savings account that is there for emergencies, traveling expenses and potential lifestyle changes in the future.

And I’m not debt-free by any means.

Among millennials — including myself — 47 percent are allocating 50 percent or more of their paychecks to credit card, mortgage, student loan, auto and medical payments.

Therefore, I currently don’t have the ability to invest in the market — but it’s certainly a start.  

What’s completely worrisome, though, is that of those millennials saving, 61 percent are men and only 50 percent are women.

The men are showing us up, ladies.

Approximately 26 percent of millennial men report saving cash at a rate greater than 10 percent, versus only 9 percent of women.

And 45 percent of millennial women report feeling overwhelmed by debt, versus only 33 percent of men.

So it’s no wonder that 58 percent of millennial men feel “satisfied” with their savings at this point in their lives, while only 41 percent of women do.

Now, let’s be fair — there is still a significant income gap between millennial men and women.

The median annual household income reported by millennial men is $77,000 versus $56,000 for millennial women. For those that went to college, millennial men are making an average of $83,000 compared to an average millennial woman’s salary of $63,000.

So, simply by the numbers, millennial women have to save less and worry more about their abilities to control their finances and debt.  

“Millennial men are earning more, saving greater percentages of their income and report having more accumulated assets,” Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement at Wells Fargo, said in a press release.

“Women are lagging behind men in their savings efforts, and this could explain why they feel less satisfied with their overall financial situation.”

But we don’t seem to have the confidence to achieve a new goal, either — while 80 percent of men believe they will be able to save enough to create a comfortable lifestyle in the future, only 63 percent of women do.

Hopefully now that we’re aware of this, we can start making some small changes to help create a bigger financial future for our generation.

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Meg Fry

Meg Fry

Meg Fry covers manufacturing and retail. Meg joins NJBIZ with past production experience in the arts, film and television. She continues to write and market her own spec scripts and screenplays. You can contact her at megf@njbiz.com or @MegFry3 on Twitter.

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