A new study finds millennials are doing much worse financially than their parents did at their age, pushing them to delay things like homeownership and starting families as they struggle to keep up with rising education, food, and health care expenses.
The study, released Thursday by the financial services company Deloitte, found that millennials’ net worth was about $8,000, 34 percent lower than their parents’ cohort at their age.
“Typecasting the millennial as simply being ‘different’ overlooks a much bigger factor — that of their economic constraints,” wrote the authors of the study, which looked at whether the stereotype of millennial tastes being responsible for the deaths of things like napkins, chain restaurants, and even beer is grounded in reality.
Consumers under 35 are spending a larger chunk of their income on fixed expenses than previous generations: Student debt among those under 30 rose by a staggering 160 percent between 2004 and 2017, the study found. Health care and housing are also eating up a bigger portion of the millennial budget. All told, Americans 25 to 34 spent about 17 percent of their income on fixed costs in 2017, compared with 12 percent in 1997.
Taken together, not only are major life milestones being delayed, but the increase in costs is leaving less money for spending on things like retail and entertainment. The study found that despite the popular stereotype of millennials-as-industry-killers, this cohort is spending its leftover cash pretty much the same way previous generations did — it’s just that millennials have much less left over to spend.
“This observation runs counter to conventional wisdom, which posits that millennials have shifted spending categories toward experiences and away from products,” the study authors wrote.
There’s an exception to all this though: The highest-earning Americans (across all age groups) increasingly have much more disposable income and are spending it on experiences.
The study found that income for the top 20 percent of earners rose 1,300 percent more than income for the lowest tier between 2007 and 2017.
“It’s not the younger consumer who’s shifting toward entertainment-based spending, but rather the higher-income consumer with growing discretionary spend,” the authors wrote.
The study by Deloitte is based on government data analysis, interviews, a survey of 4,000 consumers nationwide, plus analysis of credit card transactions and location data.