Googling about millennials and their financial situation today might leave you with an alarming number of articles with the buzzing keywords of “debt” and “financial trouble”. This isn’t exactly a trend we want to continue seeing, especially when it comes to our youth.
Known as the current high spending generation, millennials have been labelled as a spendthrift, reckless, and a generation to only live for the moment. An article on The Star on 7th of July quoted millennials as “a generation with the world in their hands but almost nothing in their pockets”, while on July 2018, Study Malaysia headlined an article saying “Millennials are financially troubled”.
How did this happen and what can we do?
Vase.ai recently interviewed 1,525 Malaysian millennials to learn about their saving aspirations, their saving struggles and their knowledge on financial saving options. Respondents were between the ages of 24 – 35. A majority (60%) were employed with full-time jobs, 26% were self-employed with the rest being employed part-time or on contract-based, students and only a small minority (3%) being unemployed.
The study provided insight into the financial difficulties and illiteracies millennials may currently be facing. The results offered an improved sentiment, revealing measures millennials are currently taking to improve their financial state, and most importantly their level of awareness on the severity of the matter.
80% say they feel in control of their finances. They further indicate their financial priority with more than half of them (57%) aiming to clear their debts in the next 5-10 years, and also 56% aiming to buy a house.
A good 78% share that they have been saving part of their income, however, most who have been saving (42%) express that it is difficult to save, while only 16% say it is very easy to save.
With the many critical labels tagged onto millennials, we wanted to understand the reasons behind the lack of saving culture amongst them. Why are these youths finding it difficult to save or why do they not see a legitimate enough reason to prioritise saving for their future?
We then asked 78% of respondents who have been saving part of their income and 22% who have not been saving part of their income the issues they face when attempting to save money. The responses for both savers and non-savers unveiled significant attributes contributing to the poor financial state of millennials.
With 68% of savers and 61% of non-savers sharing that they find it difficult to save due to the high cost of living, 56% savers and 37% non-savers having loans to pay off, 40% savers and 23% non-savers revealing that their income is just enough to support their lifestyle, we notice a pattern of priorities which differ from the older generation. Additionally, only 18% savers and 8% non-savers admit to spending compulsively.
Juggling the current cost of living along with payments of what may presumably be education, car or home loans, this generation appears to be tackling their responsibility of adulthood, whilst wanting to maintain a certain lifestyle. It may be inaccurate to judge the lacking in priorities, as they may very well see the importance in both. Securing jobs after the completion of tertiary education, and having the responsibility to pay-off loans and begin a savings plan may be the expectations of older generations for their children, but it looks like millennials have other plans. The youths believe in “having it all”.
The very definition of “adulting” between the older generations and millennials could vary day and night. While older generations see work as a priority in efforts to care for their family or loved ones, priorities have shifted over time.
Millennials display a great passion for their work and place emphasis on job satisfaction. They may often secure jobs that grant a more significant level of happiness rather than a high pay grade. The rate at which they job hop may also reveal the need to attain new skills and a way to consistently challenge themselves. Security and comfort may be a less significant attribute in their job search.
Often some look for both job satisfaction and a fair pay grade, wanting an equal dose of a healthy cash-flow and happiness at the workplace – an act which may be rather foreign and slightly hard to swallow for the older generation. Millennials crave for a more balanced lifestyle and are “paying for it”. This can be seen by the 40% who say their income is just enough to maintain their lifestyle.
The glaring priority differentiation does not indicate a less pressing outlook about the future. Those who have been saving part of their income share that their top 5 saving reasons are for an emergency fund (68%), a property (53%), family planning (52%), to travel (45%) and for their retirement (43%).
Further to that, millennials reveal their plans in ensuring they succeed in their saving goals and express willingness to sacrifice their lifestyle to achieve their saving goals. 48% of savers and 35% of non-savers say they are willing to downgrade their lifestyle to achieve their saving goals.
Contrary to many media descriptions of millennials making poor financial decisions, Vase.ai study revealed that among the 78% of savers, only 5% are willing to get a personal loan from the bank or friends or family members, and only 4% are ready to charge their purchases to their credit cards if they were unable to meet their saving goals within their desired timeframe.
Instead, more than half (54%) say they would only spend what they have on what they can afford, and more than half (53%) also say they will improve their financial planning skills. Approximately similar statistics were observed for non-savers.
On the topic of savings, a majority (74%) of millennials share that their savings are currently in banks, under fixed deposits, current accounts, savings accounts, etc. Less than half (49%) have savings in unit trust funds, while a lower percentage have savings under EPF and insurance plans.
The limited means in which millennials have stored their savings and investments highlight the awareness or knowledge millennials may currently have on these services and the proficiency of securing savings via these mediums.
While this generation has positive intent in growing their savings and improving their finances, they seem to be at a loss at how to go about it given their current priorities. They would need help in improving not just their financial state, but the negative connotations the public has tagged onto them.
*This article first appeared on Vase.ai. All stats and findings are efforts of Vase.ai online survey. To view full statistics of the findings, head on over to the Vase.ai dashboard here. To utilise the data, do firstly have a read on Vase.ai terms.