For Some Millennials, an Income/Spending Imbalance

More than one in four spend more than they make

Author: Monica Melton

July 18, 2017

A recent study of millennials and their financial situation found that more than one in four of those ages 18 to 34 say that they spend more than they earn.

In the study by GenForward, Black and Asian respondents were slightly more likely to spend more than they made, at 29% and 26% of respondents, respectively. Comparatively, 24% of Hispanics and whites each reported falling into this category.

On the other hand, white and Asian millennials in the survey were considerably more likely to spend less than they earn, with 45% of whites and 42% of Asians saying so. Around a third of both black millennials and Hispanic millennials said they spend less than they make.

“For millennials more than their elders, the recession really hasn’t gone away. It came along as many were entering the work force and hence is likely to mess up their finances for years on end,” said Mark Dolliver, senior analyst at eMarketer. “This is something that millennials—and the people who want to make money by marketing to them—are going to have to live with for quite a while.”

Millennials’ finances are already affecting marketers and the brands they may represent. In a Q1 2017 survey by IRI, the vast majority of millennials said they buy private-label brands in order to save; nearly as many respondents also tried lower-priced brands.

Dolliver notes that financial straits can have unexpected effects on spending patterns. “The irony is that if you can’t scrape together the money to buy something big—like a house—it does free you up for spending on little treats.”

And, he noted, millennials have tended to delay having children. “So to that extent they do have a bit of money to spend, and they can spend it on themselves.”

In a recent episode of eMarketer’s “Behind the Numbers” podcast, eMarketer analysts Mark Dolliver and Yory Wurmser discussed some of the myths and misconceptions about generational spending patterns.