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Millennial Finances: Unsatisfactory, Despite Optimism

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Millennials are more optimistic about the financial future than the general population, yet their finances are unsatisfactory, a new study of millennial finances released Thursday by MoneyUnder30 finds.

The study, based on a survey of a representative sample of 612 Americans conducted earlier this year, uncovered three themes regarding millennials and their finances.

For one, they are more dissatisfied with their current situation than other Americans. Fifty-six percent reported being somewhat or very dissatisfied, compared with 45% of the general population.

Two factors are at play here, according to the study. First, student loans: In an era of soaring tuition costs, 16% of millennials say paying off student loans is their primary financial goal, versus 2.6% of other respondents.

And job hunting, at a time when the market is at “full employment”: 13% of millennials said finding a job in their field was their chief target, versus 3% of others.

Optimism about the future was a second theme that emerged from the study. Seventy-eight percent of millennials expected their financial situation to improve over the next five years, compared with 45.5% of the general population. Less than a fifth of millennials expected their situation to stay the same.

The study’s third theme is that millennials are not sufficiently healthy financially.

Consider how they would pay for an unexpected $500 expense. One in five said they would ask their family or friends for help, nearly three times more that their older counterparts. Only about 12% of millennials would charge their credit card, about half the number of others who would do so.

According to the study, millennials’ lack of understanding of retirement, credit scores and credit cards lends support to the finding that they are not sufficiently healthy financially.

Fifty-two percent of millennials said they had not contributed to their retirement account in the past year — and 10% did not know whether they had done so.

Thirty-six percent of millennials did not know their credit score, more than double the number of other survey respondents.

The report cited this finding as evidence that what millennials do not know can hurt them, as credit scores influence loan and mortgage rates and can be used by prospective landlords and employers.

When it comes to credit cards, millennials are twice as likely as other Americans to completely avoid using them, and are three times less likely to have four or more cards.

The report said this finding suggests that millennials do not understand that responsible credit card use can raise their credit score, which will be a boon to their financial futures.

— Check out How 5 Generations See Their Finances on ThinkAdvisor.


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