The Internet is rife with research on young Americans, aka millennials, though it sometimes draws conflicting conclusions. It’s easy to find papers saying millennials are financially irresponsible while plenty of others say just the opposite. Perhaps that’s why no one can agree on who millennials are. Some define them as adults in their 20s, adults between the ages 18 and 29, those born after 1982 or, more broadly, those who came of age at the turn of the century.
However you define them, companies have reason to figure out this large group of consumers, as they’ll be driving the economy for decades. The latest paper to join this stack is Navient’s “Money Under 35” survey, in which the student loan servicer explores the finances of those between ages 22 and 35. (The report is based on a survey conducted between July 16 and August 5 on more than 3,000 consumers.) Here’s a look at some of its most interesting findings.
Millennials Are on Top of Their Finances:
- 94% are saving money.
- 19% said their top priority is to build an emergency fund, making it the most common savings goal. Homeownership came second (15%) and being able to afford their children’s education was third (12%).
- 61% know their credit score. (You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
Student Loans Are a Common Burden:
- 57% who attended some college have student loans; 46% are in debt.
But They Aren’t Quite Holding Them Back:
- Those who borrowed for college are just as likely to have a mortgage as those who didn’t, with one exception. Those who borrowed but didn’t get their degree, and especially those still in debt, are much less likely to have a mortgage than those who didn’t obtain a degree or borrow (or are debt-free).
Education Impacts Their Ability to Pay Bills:
- The median income for those without a college degree is $42,500. It’s $51,080 for those with associate’s degrees, $62,500 for those with bachelor’s degrees and $95,000 for those who earned advanced degrees.
- Most (57%) student loan borrowers with outstanding balances who didn’t receive degrees or earned associate’s degrees report having trouble making their payments. Only 34% of debtors with bachelor’s degrees report such struggles, while 40% of adults with student loan debt for an advanced degree struggle to make payments.
Gender Plays a Big Role in Earnings & Debt:
- Men earn between 5% to 53% more than women, depending on their field of study.
- Women are more likely to have auto, mortgage and credit card debt.
- Men are more likely to have student loan debt, as 36% of men are borrowers compared to 32% of women.
Overall, Millennials Are Doing OK:
- Using a custom financial health index, which considers 15 aspects of a person’s finances, the assessment found that 20% of young adults have excellent financial health, 63% have good financial health and 17% have poor financial health.
- Education level significantly impacts where a person falls on the index, with more education increasing the likelihood of excellent financial health.
- The most common goals for young people are to spend time with family (29%), be happy (28%), become debt-free (24%) and own a home (12%).
Even within one report, it’s easy to see there are mixed reviews of millennials’ financial well-being. They’re saving but struggle to make bill payments. They’re considered financially healthy but dealing with debt. Navient’s report is by no means definitive, but it’s interesting to see how young people respond to these surveys, especially given concerns about student loan debt and how it affects their role in the economy.
More on Student Loans:
- How Student Loans Can Impact Your Credit
- Can You Get Your Student Loans Forgiven?
- A Credit Guide for College Graduates