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Millennials aren’t risk takers or savers

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Contrary to recent surveys that have found millennials to be as conservative if not more so than their grandparents, research released March by the FINRA Foundation found risk-taking falling with age, with 18- to 34-year-olds the biggest risk takers and the silent generation the most conservative.

Although millennials were the biggest risk takers compared with other generations, the overall willingness to take on risk was still fairly low at just 25 percent of millennials, according to the issue brief.

The issue brief uses data from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation’s National Financial Capability Study, which was conducted in 2012. More than 25,500 adults were surveyed, of whom about 27 percent were age 18 to 34.

Millennials are the least likely to plan ahead, according to the issue brief. Compared with other generations, they were less likely to save for retirement (40 percent) or to have savings in a “rainy day fund” (33 percent). The brief acknowledged that given their age and their lower household income — 65 percent have an annual income less than $50,000 — that isn’t very surprising; however, there are several other indications that millennials need help financially.

Almost a quarter of millennial respondents said they spend more than their income, and 31 percent have unpaid medical bills. Almost two-thirds have a credit card, and of those, more than a third have engaged in at least three “costly credit card behaviors” over a 12-month period, such as paying only the minimum, incurring late fees or taking cash advances.

The brief pointed out that one of the difficulties in working with millennials is that they are a diverse group. Almost half of respondents are minorities, compared with 26 percent of boomers and 9 percent of the silent generation. Within their generation, only 20 percent of young millennials (age 18 to 26) are married and almost a third have dependents, compared with 36 percent and 45 percent respectively for the generation as a whole.Millennials are also the least financially literate generation. Less than a quarter were able to answer four or five financial questions correctly in a five-question test. By comparison, 38 percent of Gen Xers, who are similar to millennials in a lot of behaviors, were highly literate; 48 percent of boomers and 55 percent of the silent generation were highly literate.