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Millennials and Boomers Are More Alike Than You Think

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Baby boomers and millennials share many similarities when it comes to saving and spending money, according to a survey released Monday by TD Ameritrade.

However, compared with boomers, millennials face increased pressure on their spending because of student loans and the negative influence of social media.

Head Solutions Group conducted a 20-minute online survey in mid-June with 2,100 American adults, half millennials and half baby boomers, 52% women and 48% men.

Nation of Savers

Millennials have gotten a bad rap for carelessness with money in some media outlets, but this is true only of a subgroup of their generation, according to TD Ameritrade.

In fact, both millennials and boomers are savers. Sixty-eight percent of boomers in the survey saw themselves as savers, compared with 62% of millennials.

Seventy-eight percent of older respondents believed saving had to start young, while 62% of their younger counterparts said the same thing.

Savers among the respondents were likelier than spenders to be married, own a home and earn higher incomes.

They exhibited a strong desire to meet their financial obligations, and 60% of millennials said they were savers in order to meet their financial goals faster.

Savers married savers, which they maintained prevented arguments. But when spenders married spenders, they acknowledged that this could make planning for the future a challenge.

Both millennials and boomers said they were happy to save, and the vast majority equated doing so with financial security.

Eighty percent of boomers and 72% of millennials said they were saving for retirement; a majority of both generations also said they were saving for something else.

Sixty-seven percent of millennials who were not saving said they could not afford to do so, compared with 56% of boomers, perhaps because they had more debt.

Indeed, 39% of millennials were paying off student loans by making a median $200 monthly payment. Their non-mortgage debt was $15,000, compared with boomers’ $10,000.

Spenders said they wanted to “enjoy life now,” but this attitude was considerably stronger among millennials than boomers.

Fourteen percent of millennials said they were spenders because they were so overwhelmed with debt that they no longer cared.


The survey found that 80% of millennials budget, compared with just 61% of boomers. For both groups, mortgage payments were the biggest expenditure, with lower earning millennials spending more of their gross monthly income on rent or mortgage than boomers.

In addition, both millennials and boomers were more likely to opt for saving over spending when presented with various scenarios, such as spending $100 on a meal out, though millennials were likelier to give in across scenarios.

Faced with a desirable but unaffordable item, 49% of boomers accepted that they could not afford to buy it, compared with 37% of millennials, who were more likely to set a savings target and buy the item upon reaching that goal.

“Millennials were in a position to learn the value of financial preparation, having grown up in the aftermath of a recession,” Matthew Sadowsky, director of retirement and annuities at TD Ameritrade, said in a statement.

“The qualities they have developed like budgeting discipline and a realistic outlook on retirement may well pave the way toward their financial future.”

Social media was one reason some millennials had trouble keeping their spending in check:

  • 34% said they felt pressure to keep up with their friends’ spending vs. 8% of boomers
  • 64% said they compared their situation with others because of social media vs. 29% of boomers

Short- and Long-Term Goals

About 30% of boomers said they were on top of their short- and long-term goals, compared with 20% of millennials. Fifty-six percent of the former regularly monitored the progress of their goals, versus 48% of the latter.

For both groups, having an emergency fund was the most important short-term goal.

The top long-term goal for both was paying for health care in old age, while retiring before age 65 was also a goal for 44% of millennials.

According to the poll, millennials had or expected to start setting goals at age 27 and saving for retirement at 26, much younger than boomers’ 36 and 31.

Relatively few respondents in either group had a written financial plan made with an advisor, though millennials were likelier than boomers to have written down goals independent of an advisor.

The survey found that homeownership was an important goal for more than three-quarters of boomers, but important for two-thirds of millennials. Sunset Years

Two-thirds of boomer savers expressed confidence that they would retire when they wanted, compared with 38% of boomer spenders.

About a quarter of workers said they did not expect ever to retire, and 19% of working boomers and 15% of working millennials said they did not want to fully retire.

For some respondents, retirement meant boredom or unproductive living.

Millennials in the survey were serious about saving for retirement, with 60% planning to do so before turning 30. A quarter said a reliable job was or would be the impetus to start saving for retirement.

More than half of millennials said they were prepared to retire later than they would prefer in order to make their savings stretch farther, versus less than a third of boomers who said this.

In terms of financial advice, about 40% of millennials and 20% of boomers said they would seek out a professional when planning for retirement, while 48% of boomers and 40% of millennials said they did not or would not need advice to plan their retirement.

Some 40% of millennials and a third of boomers said they would use an automated online investment service with confidence as long as human contact was available when needed.

Faced with a major financial situation that required advice, about 20% of millennials and a quarter of boomers said they would consider an online advice platform with human contact.

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