Millennials — Americans aged 23 to 37 — are more financially savvy than they’re given credit for, according to a survey Bank of America released on Tuesday.
Sixty-three percent say they are saving money. This is very close to the rate of Gen Xers (64%) and baby boomers (75%).
Fifty-four percent of millennials say they are on a budget, the same level as Gen X and only slightly below the rate of boomers (57%).
They are diligent about savings and budgeting: 67% of millennials who have a savings goal stick to it. And 73% of millennials on a budget adhere to it regularly.
And 59% say they feel financially secure, compared with 54% of Gen Xers and 63% of baby boomers.
All this flies in the face of the stereotypical image of the millennial who is laden with student debt, working a low-paying job and living with his or her parents.
But the survey found that despite all their efforts, millennials buy into the broadly accepted, negative view of their own level of financial responsibility. Seventy-three percent say their generation overspends on unnecessary indulgences, and 75% say their generation overspends compared with others. Sixty-four percent say their generation is not good at managing money.
“Millennials deserve more credit — both from themselves and from others — for their mindfulness when it comes to money and their lives,” said Andrew Plepler, global head of environmental, social and governance at Bank of America.
Thirty-five percent of millennials consider not saving enough their top source of stress.
Millennials are bolder about asking for a raise than older generations. Forty-six percent of millennials have asked for a raise in the past two years. Only 36% of Gen Xers and 39% of baby boomers have done the same.
A large percentage — 69% — long for better work-life balance.
They are still idealists, at least about finding the perfect job: Fifty-six percent say passion is more important than the size of the paycheck, 44% wish they had chosen a career they enjoy more, and 40% are pessimistic about finding a job they really like. Thirty-four percent want to make a career change but are worried it is too late.
Assumptions and research about millennials are of limited use, said Chris Britt, CEO of Chime, a mobile-only bank for millennials, which announced that it has amassed 750,000 millennial customers.
“Anyone who says there is a profile of the millennial is totally off,” he said. “It’s not only the largest generation, with 95 million Americans, it’s the most diverse generation we’ve ever had in this country, so it’s hard to say a millennial behaves this way or that way.”
He agrees, however, that some of the stereotypes are wrong.
“In their attitude toward money management and finances, they’re not as careless as people want to categorize them as being,” Britt said.
“We found that 90% of millennials know they need to get into a healthy rhythm of saving, and they say they’re going to do that. But the reality is that it’s easier said than done.”