3 financial myths about millennials

3 financial myths about millennials

Today’s generation is a lost cause, we like to moan. They’re glued to their mobile phones, obsessed with social media, and spend money without zero thought for the future. Or so we think. But actually, the evidence that says otherwise; and most of all that is a myth:

Myth #1: Millennials are lazy and aren’t interested in promotions or raises

Mention millennials in the office, and you’ll hear a few gripes about lazy, unmotivated youngsters more interested in angling their desk lamps just right for a flattering selfie, than getting any actual work done.

That must mean they aren’t motivated by money right? They live on love and fresh air, not angling for a promotion or a pay raise like the hippies got on a time machine and crashed 2017.

But actually, Millennials are among the most hardworking workers of almost any generation. A study conducted in early 2016 reported that 4 in 10 millennials actually want to be seen as a work martyr by their bosses. In contrast, only 29% of overall respondents (which included Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials) reported feeling this way.

Being a work martyr is defined as:

  • Feeling guilty for taking vacation days
  • Believe that no one else can do your job
  • A need to show complete dedication, and not wishing to be seen as replaceable.

In fact, millennials seem to really dislike lazy people. The report also said that millennials go as far as to vacation-shame their colleagues, with 42% of millennials being at least ‘somewhat serious’ about it.

In another study, over a quarter of those aged 18 to 25 reported not using any their vacation time in 2016, citing feelings of guilt and worry about creating more work for oneself or others.

But what about the money? Well…

In yet another study - this time a poll involving over 90,000 respondents – 59% of millennials said competition is what gets them up in the morning. Among baby boomers, only 50% gave the same response.

So the next time you feel tempted to write off the new junior manager, know that he or she got up in this morning with the aim to beat you. Don’t be surprised if that 19-year old colleague won’t be happy with less than $15,000 a month, and is happy to work a 70 hour week to get there.

Myth #2: Millennials want to mooch off their parents

Another big complaint about Millennials is how they just want to mooch off Mummy and Daddy, for as long as possible. Instead of striking out and making their own way in the world, millennials would rather stay home, hogging a lifetime of free meals.

Granted, this is a little different in Singapore than in places like America. Many of our youth are not really expected to leave home until they get married. Given Singapore’s prohibitive (financially and otherwise) housing laws, leaving home at 18 is much tougher.

In fact, it’s true in many parts of Asia.

Also, Singaporeans are getting married later, with our millennials preferring to establish their careers before tying the knot. That’s called financial responsibility – you know, the thing we like to accuse them of not having. But with millennials choosing to delay marriage and moving out, more and more of the present generation are staying home, and for longer periods of time.

Remember, it’s not like a single can apply for a flat until they’re 35.

It’s no wonder that when Baby Boomer dads come home to a flat, crowded with their adult children, they shake their heads at the seeming lack of spinal fortitude in today’s generation.

Myth #3: Millennials lack financial savvy

Expensive meals, exotic vacations, extravagant parties at the hottest clubs; just scroll through social media, and you’ll be convinced that millennials are all decadent, wine-swilling, fast-car-driving, VIP-lounge-service wastrels.

The media is also awash with reports about how millennials aren’t financially literate, with many surveys bemoaning a lack of trust in financial institutions. Most of this comes down to tests about financial literacy.

Now, it’s true millennials test lower for financial literacy. A lot of that is due to the environment we grow up in (yes, you older people included). Parents and schools don’t do enough to teach financial literacy, a complaint that’s been around for decades. Most people – the older generation included – would test low for financial literacy at a younger age.

Did you know the difference between a SIBOR or SOR based mortgage loan at the age of 20? Or the difference between nominal and effective interest rates? Heck, we bet some of our older readers don’t even know that stuff right now.

Of course younger people test lower for financial literacy. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested, or have the foresight of a hyperactive puppy. It just means they haven’t gone through the grinder of getting a home loan, car loan, paying steeper taxes, and so forth.

In fact, in a survey by HSBC, 75% of millennials in Singapore have already begun saving for retirement. They may have high expectations, like retiring at 60 (also, see point 1), but it’s clear that most of them aren’t ignorant of the size of the mountain they need to climb. And over the past five years, organisations like OCBC Securities have seen a spike in interest among millennials.

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Good spending habits come down to more than age

Spending patterns are influenced by age, but you know what’s an even bigger influence? Our parents.

Most of us learn about financial management from watching mum and dad; so when the family’s older generation complains about the spending habits of the younger ones…well that might say a little more about them than the generation they’re criticising!

Millennials are an easy target in the media because complaining about “kids these days” is an age-old gripe. Our parents did it to us, and their grandparents did it to them. It’s not fair to assume every millennial is necessarily a spendthrift, who will somehow be the downfall of the country.