When it comes to saving, the conventional wisdom is that you get better at is as you get older. Because of this, many people believe that older generations are likely to be saving more money, and saving more effectively, than those in younger generations.
For a little while, this has been mostly true. But we’re actually starting to see that this trend may be collapsing, as the financial world has changed significantly following the housing crisis, Brexit and pandemic events of recent years.
In this article, we’re going to investigate the different savings rates in a few different areas for millennials and Gen X-ers. Remember that we’re only talking about averages and trends here – there will be lots of people who sit outside of these trends.
What’s the difference between millennials and Gen X?
So, before we get too far into it, let’s start with a primer on the difference between the two generations. Millennials are those born between approximately 1980 and 1995, making them around 25-40 now. The Gen X generation includes those born between 1965 and 1980, so they’ll be around 40-55 – so at the older end they may actually be just starting to retire.
Because the different generations are at different ages, we’re not talking about overall saving power in pounds and pence. We’re usually talking about surveys comparing attitudes to saving or the overall percentage of income that each generation is saving. This gives us a good view of the relative amounts that each generation is saving.
Savings and investment
In terms of general savings and investments, there are a few interesting trends that separate the generations. For one, Gen X-ers tend to build traditional savings portfolios and not actively manage their investments. Millennials tend to trade more actively, building their portfolios through short term gains and actively buying and selling.
We also see that millennials tend to borrow less money and worry more about building up their savings. While Gen X-ers will buy cars or properties on finance, millennials are on average more reluctant to borrow large amounts. However, millennials are far more likely to access smaller amounts of credit for purchases.
The common perception of millennials is that they’re not saving or investing adequately, and spending money on short term impulse purchases. But, the trends paint a picture of a generation that’s serious about saving and reluctant to commit to large debts – potentially because they’ve lived through the housing crisis and possibly seen their parents experience negative equity as house prices crash.
When it comes to saving for retirement, the common wisdom is again that millennials won’t be taking it seriously. However, looking at the data it would appear that this isn’t the case. A 2019 study revealed that millennials are saving nearly 16% of their annual income for retirement, while Gen X are only putting aside around 14-15%. This comes despite millennials being further away from retirement age, and therefore having more time to save later in life. It really does seem that the message about the importance of saving into pensions, and the introduction of schemes like the workplace pension, has led to an increase in retirement savings amongst the younger generation.
On the flip side, a worrying number of Gen X-ers are approaching retirement age and finding themselves facing a possible shortfall in their retirement income. One study showed that half of Gen X-ers are either fairly or very worried that they won’t be able to achieve the lifestyle that they want in retirement. The research showed that a fifth of those in the Gen X generation are either saving less into their pensions or have already started to access them. This means some within the generation are already starting to dip into their retirement income, despite only being 55 or 56 – so they’re taking it as soon as they’re able to.
Gen X also spent a large proportion of their working life without the workplace pension, prompting some worries that this generation may end up slipping between the cracks of the pension safety net and struggling to make ends meet in retirement.
Whether you’re a Gen X-er, millennial or any other generation, it’s vital to get a good understanding of your finances, whether for general savings or retirement. For impartial, independent financial advice, speak to Face to Face Finance. We offer a wide range of financial advice services that can help you get on top of your money, from investments to pensions.