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Millennials' finances aren't such a mess after all

A new report examines Gen Y's personal finances and produces some surprising results.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 13, 2014 1:05PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyMembers of Generation Y, also known as Millennials, have gotten a bad rap. The largest generation in U.S. history, made up of those born between the late 1970s and mid-1990s, has a reputation as entitled, unrealistic, over-confident and spoiled.

Man with hat © CorbisA new report indicates that Millennials may not be as bad with money as everyone thinks.

The TIAA-CREF Institute has released new research on Gen Y’s personal finances (.pdf file), examining Millennials' financial confidence, habits and preparedness. The report focused on Millennials with a college degree, a defining characteristic of Generation Y.

The report explains why the findings are important:

Despite entering the workplace in the unstable economic environment of recent years, Gen Y continues to be energetic and highly optimistic. Its members are eager to make a difference, and the size and influence of this generation means they will. Yet the quality of their impact is linked to their financial behavior. Indeed, Millennials' personal finances are more relevant for the state of the economy than those of any preceding generation.

The report includes these key findings:

  • Household income. More than 60 percent of college-educated Millennials report annual household income of at least $50,000. Compare that with the national figure of 50 percent.
  • Bank accounts. Most college-educated Gen-Yers report having either a checking account (94 percent) and/or a savings account (85 percent).
  • Retirement plan. Sixty-nine percent of Millennials have some type of retirement plan in place.
  • Outstanding long-term debt. The report says 81 percent of Millennials have at least one form of outstanding long-term debt and 44 percent have more than one.
  • High-cost borrowing. Twenty-eight percent of respondents report having used one or more high-cost borrowing methods, such as payday loans, during the past five years.
  • Car and mortgage debt. Forty percent of Millennials have car loan debt and/or mortgage debt.
  • Planning for a rainy day. Only 48 percent report having enough funds set aside to cover expenses for three months if something unexpected happens.

The report goes on to say that although Millennials' asset ownership is encouraging, they are burdened by debt and have a low level of financial literacy. So there’s definitely room for improvement here.

Are you a Millennial? Do you agree with the report findings?

More on Money Talks News:

Feb 13, 2014 2:59PM
I am in this age group and largely agree, especially with the last part of "although Millennials' asset ownership is encouraging, they are burdened by debt and have a low level of financial literacy."  I think that last part is what tells the real story.  There is a big difference between having a 401k and saving, versus saving enough.  Very few of my peers have any concept of time, value, money and will frequently raid retirement accounts which aren't as large as they should be to begin with.  It's also seems to have become acceptable within this generation to simply be "bad at math" and your never going to get too far finanically without some basic number sense like understanding the magic of compoind interest ...
Feb 13, 2014 4:03PM
Having a checking account and a savings account is a "key finding". Really? Why? Having an account with something meaningful in it is one thing but just having an account means nothing. Same thing with the retirement plans and really all of the other categories. Having accounts, debt, etc in and of itself is meaningless unless they have a value sufficient to make a measurable positive or negative impact.
Feb 13, 2014 2:51PM
There are or were a huge number of Americans that existed in what I called Legacy jobs which paid far more than what the Job produced. Those jobs were held by folks of both parties. Many of those folks are now retiring early and or being fired. Those folks left behind are being ask to pick up the slack of those Jobs eliminated but at reduced wages and benefits. However the CEO types are doing less but asking for more. And there you have it.

Fact is, a large number of those let go have done extremely well through no fault of their own. Funny right. They basically happen to be in the right generational gap created by those that actual fought for Fair Wages. Now we live in the Right to Work for Far Less Era and America has suffered greatly, unless you are in the top 1%.

Feb 13, 2014 5:11PM
Most of them are still living with their parents. Wait until the majority are out on their own (if that ever happens) and see how they fare.
Gee when I was the age they are now they were saying like 68 percent of baby boomers with college education were making on average $75,000 a year and that was in 15 years ago dollars which would translate into about $120,000 today. Plus it was for the individual and not household income

Remember a lot of these kids are living at home with their parents and probably include their parents income in the household income.

So pretty much the average for these kids is probably about $35,000 a year income.

Pretty bad if you want to buy a house or a car nowadays.

And if they do not have $200,000 already saved they are not going to meet their expected retirement savings of $15,000,000 -- mine is already $5,000,000 in savings needed.

Pretty much Krystal Steinmetz is trying to put a smiley face on a very bad and bleak situation


Car and mortgage debt. Forty percent of Millennials have car loan debt and/or mortgage debt.

well this fact alone tells it all -- the mills have a bleak out look for their current and future life.

baby boomers by this time had like 80 percent home ownership and 95 percent car ownership

pretty much I would guess it comes in like 20 percent home ownership and 30 percent car ownership for the mills generation.
Feb 13, 2014 2:03PM
"The report includes these key findings:"

Of all the people in this age group I know, and I know hundreds of them... NOT ONE fits into ANY of your "findings". Go back and validate the people you polled-- FOOL. 
Feb 14, 2014 6:37AM
"Planning for a rainy day. Only 48 percent report having enough funds set aside to cover expenses for three months if something unexpected happens."

That's a bad sign when it's been crystal clear lately that Corporations are only concerned with bigger payout to CEO types plus larger dividends and buybacks for wealthy investors while cutting the everyday workers pay and benefits. This right to Work Harder for less pay and benefits is destroying the working poor and fading middle-class. This massive transfer of Wealth to the already SuperRich is destroying America.

Sooner or later, Members of Generation Y, also known as Millennials along with everyone else will have to understand and PLAN for that Cold Reality.

Feb 13, 2014 3:12PM
How rude! Why I'm Trans-Curious Millenial as my updated Facebook profile clearly states, and it's none of your business what shape my finances are in...
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