Millennials' Biggest Financial Concern Is Student Loan Debt

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A new survey from Wells Fargo provides a snapshot of how millennials - young people between 22 and 32 years of age - feel about finances. Here are five takeaways from the study. No surprise, student loan debt is the demographic’s overwhelming concern.

1. Millennials are a resilient bunch even in the face of economic adversity

Four in 10 young people between the ages of 22 and 32 feel overwhelmed by debt. Even so, nearly three-quarters think they’ll be able to save enough to live their desired lifestyle in the future, and more than two-thirds expect their standard of living to be higher than their parents’ standard of living.


What’s driving that discrepancy? Optimism about the future.

2. Student loan debt is millennials’ biggest financial concern

More millennials - 36 percent - cite student loan debt as a chief concern than any other form of debt, living expenses or retirement savings.

This isn’t surprising given rising college costs and the nation’s trillion dollar student debt problem. Around 70 percent of recent graduates have student loan debt, with the average borrower taking out nearly $30,000 to pay for school.

Pair that with a sluggish job market, and young people are putting off saving for retirement and big purchases like cars and houses, which economists say could hurt the overall economy.


Wells Fargo Millennial Survey

3. As some form of higher education becomes more important than ever, confidence in the system is waning


College is still a financially sound investment for most people. But just two in five millennials say they got a great value on their education. A third think they should have skipped college and gone straight to work instead.

Again, student loans play a role here. While 64 percent of millennials financed their education with loans, just 29 percent of Baby Boomers did the same.


While it might seem tempting to skip the degree to avoid the loans, job prospects for people without some form of higher education are dwindling and salaries are declining.

4. Millennial men are more likely than millennial women to save for retirement

While millennials are under no illusions that Social Security will be their saving grace, less than half are saving for retirement. Why? See number one, above. But of those who are putting money away, 54 percent are men. Just 43 percent of millennial women are saving. One potential reason is that women continue to earn less money than men for the same work. Assuming women have similar day-to-day expenses, that wage gap means there is less money to save.


Wells Fargo Millennial Survey

5. Millennials are more risk averse than Boomers

Even though young people are further from retirement, they are less likely to be confident that the stock market is a good place to invest for retirement. That’s especially true for young women.


The lack of confidence isn’t a shocker, given that millennials have watched the tech bubble grow and then burst, and come of age just as the economy and stock market were crashing.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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