By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
TV Land/Courtesy Everett Collection
The most fortunate young Americans have been boasting about their $1 million 401(k) balances on social media.
But there’s a sizeable number who have seen a savings bump in recent years. Nearly half (47%) of working millennials have $15,000 or more in savings and 16% have $100,000 or more in savings, according to Bank of America’s “Better Money Habits” report, which surveyed 2,000 millennials aged 23 to 37. The bank asked about the total amount of savings, including bank savings/checking accounts, IRA, 401(k) and other retirement or investment accounts. A nine-year bull market has clearly helped.
That’s an encouraging improvement for this struggling generation, which is saddled with record student loan debt and has a hard time affording a first house. In 2015, just one-third of millennials said they had $15,000 or more saved and only 8% had $100,000 or more stashed away for a rainy day. Millennials are also just as likely to budget than both Generation X-ers and baby boomers, the study found.
Here are some other findings:
• The majority of millennials are saving (63%), and they are more likely to say they have a savings goal (57%) than members of Generation X (42%) or baby boomers (42%).
• More than half of all millennials plan and manage a budget (54%), on par with 54% of Generation Xers and 57% of baby boomers.
• And yet 73% still worry about money, in part because they have seen their older family members go through the Great Recession.
“While millennials are likely to bring up the topic of salary at work, that’s not always the case at home. Nearly one in five millennials don’t know how much their spouse/partner makes,” the report found. Millennial couples are also more likely than older generations to keep their finances separate (28% versus 11% of Generation Xers and 13% of baby boomers), based on an additional survey of 1,500 respondents aged 18 to 71.
(The margin of sampling error for national data is plus/minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.)
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But in a separate survey for the same report of people aged 17 to 71, three quarters of Americans said that millennials overspend on indulgences and will have trouble meeting long-term goals. “Young adults deserve more credit — from others and themselves — for the way they are handling their finances,” said Andrew Plepler, global head of environmental, social and governance at Bank of America. He said their saving and budgeting behavior “defies common stereotypes.”
Millennials, studies suggest, have fewer responsibilities than their older counterparts. They are more likely to rent than own property and, unlike their parents and older siblings, are less likely to have kids. They spend more than an average of $2,300 per year than older generations on five key items: groceries, gas, restaurants, coffee and cell phone bills, according to personal-finance site Bankrate . And they spend $233 per month on meals versus $182 for older generations.
They also have bigger problems. They shoulder more student loan debt than any other generation and face house prices that are far higher than their parents did at their age in a post-recession environment of stagnant wages. Student loan debt has reached $1.3 trillion as the cost of college has soared. And spending no more than 30% of their income on rent or a mortgage, a golden rule for decades, is now almost impossible for many young Americans.