Millennial spending habits are the subject of constant scrutiny and there’s plenty of speculation about what motivates their financial choices. It’s projected that they’ll soon have more buying power than any other generation but the things they’re spending their money on aren’t what you’d expect.
In fact, it’s what Gen Yers don’t buy that seems to get the most attention, particularly since some of the things they’re passing on affect the economy as a whole. Instead of pursuing the conventional American dream of building a career, buying a home and starting a family, they’re forging their own unique path. Here’s a look at five things that today’s 20-somethings aren’t in a hurry to spend money on.
1. Cable TV
Cable TV subscription services are on the decline thanks to low-cost streaming services like Netflix and Hulu but the drop is most noticeable among the younger crowd. According to a March 2014 report from Verizon, young adults aged 16 to 34 are three times more likely than other generations to watch TV online. For the already-struggling cable industry it means more lost revenue as young adults increasingly turn to cheaper alternatives.
From a millennial perspective, cutting the cord on cable actually makes more sense for their budget. Spending $10 a month for Netflix versus $80 or $90 for cable frees up a lot of extra cash that can be applied to student loans or savings. If spending a few bucks for streaming services is still a stretch, TV-minded 20-somethings can keep up with all their favorite shows using sites like TV.com or Crackle for free.
Tying the knot is something that the majority of millennials seem to be in no rush to do. A report from the Urban Institute found that young adults are waiting longer to get married and that if the trend continues, more than 30 percent of millennial women will still be unmarried by age 40. That’s double the number compared to Generation X.
In terms of taxes, waiting to get married puts millennials at a disadvantage since married couples tend to fare better than singles. There is an upside, however, when you consider that the average wedding costs right around $30,000. By not shelling out big bucks to say “I do,” young adults are making it easier to reach for other financial goals.
For instance, let’s say you want to start investing so you use that $30,000 to purchase some solid mutual funds. Assuming an 8 percent rate of return, it’d be worth about $155,000 in 25 years. When you look at it that way, delaying your nuptials doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
Making sure you have basic insurance coverage for yourself and your property seems like a no-brainer but it’s something that millennials don’t seem to put much stock in. According to a survey from InsuranceQuotes.com, 18- to 29-year-olds are the least likely of any generation to have health insurance, even in the age of Obamacare where medical coverage is now mandatory. Not only that, they’re also drastically lacking when it comes to things like car insurance, homeowners or renter’s insurance, disability insurance and life insurance.
Young adults who don’t have health insurance are taking a big risk financially so it pays to research what your options are if you don’t have insurance through your job. If you’re 26 or younger, for example, you could still be covered under your parent’s plan. Older millennials can find affordable coverage through the health insurance marketplace and they may be able to take advantage of the premium tax credit to keep costs down.
If you haven’t made the leap into home ownership yet, you can’t afford to be without renter’s insurance. For as little as $15 a month, you can protect your stuff against theft, fire or natural disasters. Purchasing life insurance also makes sense for millennials who are married or have children. The younger you are, the cheaper it is to buy and you can get a term life policy worth a few hundred thousand dollars for just a few bucks a month.
If you’re not sure where to start, sites like SelectQuote.com let you compare premium rates for multiple insurers at once.
Millennials have been regarded as brand snobs when it comes to certain things, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with cars. The percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds who are buying new vehicles has dropped off pretty significantly over the last few years, much to the chagrin of the automotive industry. Part of it’s been attributed to the impact of the Great Recession, but in some cases, it all goes back to what millennials place value on.
Instead of forking over $300 a month for a car payment, plus the cost of gas and insurance, young adults are taking public transportation and spending their money on the latest technology or dinners with friends. That emphasis on experiences versus things exemplifies millennial spending habits.
For the ones who do decide to buy, it’s all about making the smartest purchase. A recent AutoTrader study of 1,900 car buyers found that 95 percent of millennials went online to research different vehicles before heading out to the car lot. If you’re in the market for a new set of wheels, sites like Cars.com let you see what’s out there and how prices compare so you get the best deal possible.
Perhaps the most bemoaned millennial spending habit centers on the fact that 20- and 30-somethings are waiting longer to buy their first home, if they’re even buying at all. Tighter lending restrictions, difficulty finding a job and crushing student loan debt has simply pushed some millennials out of the market altogether. Much has been made about what it means for the housing market but there are some good arguments for remaining a renter.
While you might pay less for a mortgage than you would for rent, you’ve still got all the added costs of home ownership to think about. The extra financial burden of property taxes, insurance and maintenance may be too much for some millennials to bear.
If you think buying is in the cards, there are a few things you can do to keep your costs as low as possible. Working on building up your credit score can help you secure the lowest interest rate possible. Setting aside all that money you’re not spending on cable TV vehicle repairs for a down payment means you won’t have to take on as much debt when it’s time to get a mortgage. Getting prequalified gives you an idea of what the cost will be so you know how it fits with your budget and your long-term financial plans.