Millennials will reportedly outspend Boomers by 2017—but their buying power will be wielded much differently than generations before. We took a hard look at Millennials’ current financial behavior and divided the generation into four earning groups to see how they’re spending, what they’re saving for, and what they have in common regardless of how much is in their paychecks.
After years of studying Millennials, we are entering their true age of influence. It is widely said that they are set to outspend Boomers by 2017. There are currently more 24-year-old consumers in the U.S. than any other age. They now make up the vast majority of the vital 18-35-year-old demographic. Their generational characteristics and their tastes are beginning to impact culture in a broader way, and their spending is affecting more industries than ever before.
In our Q4 2014 Quarterly report, we took a good look at Millennial spending to see what the financial future holds from bills to splurges to savings. Knowing what they’re spending on, how they’re approaching that spending, and what is motivating them is more important than ever. They might have a lot of buying power, but they’re not behaving like the generations that came before them. We broke down their money habits to give an extensive look at their financial attitudes and behaviors, from bills to splurges to savings, taking a look in their bank accounts and their plans for the future to give brands the full scoop on what they’re earning, and how they spend it. Surveying 1000 13-32-year-olds, we divided the generation according to their current earnings to look at four segments of Millennial spenders, from Non Earners to High Earners. Here’s a little of what we found about each group:
Non Earners (roughly 40% of Millennials): The majority of Non Earners are in their teens (51% of 13-17-years-old) and don’t yet have financial independence: 70% had no job in the past year. Their generally younger age range is also reflected in their savings priorities: 30% are currently saving for tech devices. This group also accounts for stay-at-home parents and those who are unemployed. While they feel worried and nervous about money, there is a touch of optimism in their outlook as well: 20% of Non Earners feel “excited” in regards to money compared to 12% of all earners, showing their enthusiasm for learning more as they gain experience.
Low Earners ($1-999/mo, roughly 25% of Millennials): College students and recent graduates make up the majority of Low Earners, with 57% 18-25-years-old, and they are just starting to find their financial footing. Working part-time to stay afloat (86% have a part-time job) they are determined to make their hard work pay off and 16% are currently saving for school. 70% say they live paycheck to paycheck.
Mid Earners ($1K-2499/mo, roughly 20% of Millennials): Mid Earners are the most frugal of Millennial spenders, possibly having experienced market turndowns or a recessed job market first-hand. They are practical with their money and are just starting to save for the future given their more secure salaries: 86% have a full time job, and 15% are currently saving to own a home. They’re finding a balance between indulgences, like nights out on the town and expensive hobbies, and saving for major life moments up ahead.
High Earners ($2500+/mo, roughly 13% of Millennials): High Earners are unsurprisingly more laid-back about finances than others, given their more financially secure portfolio. Majority male (60%) and in their mid to late twenties, High Earners—who might fall into the HENRY (High Earning Not Yet Rich) group that some financial experts have been discussing of late—have worked hard for their earnings and don’t mind indulging…in moderation. 98% have a full-time job, and 29% are currently saving to own a home.
Comparing spending and saving behavior and attitudes between groups, we found some key differences, and some commonalities that speak to their generational experiences and core characteristics:
Monthly disposable income is being spent differently by different groups. While High Earners are the most likely to be spending on dining out, Mid Earners are the most likely group to be spending on entertainment “out” like movies and concerts. More Low Earners spend on accessories and apparel (28%) and public transit fares (16%) than any other spending segment. Unsurprisingly, Non Earners are the most likely by far to be spending on entertainment “in” like books and video games.
79% of Millennials would feel guilty splurging. Interestingly, while this decreased slightly depending on their earnings, the majority of each earning group felt they would have splurge guilt: 82% of low earners, 79% of mid earners, and 73% of high earners. Coming of age during the recession is a likely influencer here: while they might want to spend once they have the means, they aren’t as likely as previous generations might have to feel they “deserve” to splurge. Brands might have to help this group to feel that it’s ok to indulge, and aren’t likely to resonate if they emphasize excess and pretension in marketing.
Quality Over Trend:
Among all earning groups, quality and durable products are the items they are most likely to spend on, with each group most likely to spend on items that are either high quality or will last forever. Low Earners are more likely than other groups to spend on “disposable” items. Despite their financial ability to buy the latest and greatest, High Earners are not much more likely than other groups to buy the newest model of a product.
More than 50% of employed Millennials say they are saving for something special, and from low earners to high earners, they are most likely planning travel as their big-ticket purchase. Mid Earners were actually the most likely to have travel at the top of their saving list, with 43% saying they are saving for a trip or vacation. 33% of both Low Earners and High Earners said they were saving for travel as well. Millennials’ travel bug is no secret, but it is interesting to note that their income does not necessarily determine how much they are planning to satiate their wanderlust.