Let Me Tell You a Little Something About Millennials

by Bill Murphy Jr.
Originally Published: 

Millennials. They’re just like us!

Or maybe they’re not, at least according to a study released this week by investment bank Goldman Sachs. Here’s a summary of their insights.

They’re a giant generation.

Defined basically as people who were born between 1980 and 2000, there are more Millennials than any other generation in American history—92 million of them, if Goldman Sachs got its estimates correct. Compare that to just 62 million of us in Generation X, and 77 million Baby Boomers.

So what are they like? They’re the first “digital natives,” they have a lot less money to spend than their older siblings and parents, and they’re drowning in debt—especially student loans. Nearly 30 percent of people aged 18 to 34 still live at home, up a few percentage points from the 1990s.

They’re doing things later.

On the flip side, however, Millennials are far more likely (93 percent) to value home ownership than Gen-Xers (roughly 72 to 75 percent)—only they see it as something they’ll do sometime in the future, as opposed to soon. Maybe Millennials weren’t old enough to get burned in the last real estate bubble, or have never had the fun experience of fixing an overflowing toilet at 3 a.m.

You’ve probably heard this one before, however—they’re getting married much later in life. The median age for a first marriage in the United States was 23 during the 1970s; it’s now 30. They’re also waiting a bit longer to have children, so you’ll see more gray-haired parents at the drop off for day care.

They don’t care much for status.

As GS puts it: “It’s not just homes: Millennials have been reluctant to buy items such as cars, music and luxury goods. Instead, they’re turning to a new set of services that provide access to products without the burdens of ownership, giving rise to what’s being called a ‘sharing economy.'”

Millennials are far less likely to want to own a car or to purchase a home “in the near future,” and more than 50 percent expressed little or no interest in owning a television. Roughly 60 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 34 are renters now (presumably not including all those Millennials who still live at home), versus 52 percent in 2005.

They care about value and wellness.

They care far more about price than quality, and are likely to walk into a store, look at an item they are considering buying, and immediately turn to their phones to check out whether they can get the same product a little more cheaply elsewhere.

Wellness is a priority. Apparently those disgusting anti-smoking public service announcements are working, since fully 83 percent of 18-year-olds now disapprove of smoking, compared to 69 percent in 1998. (They’re also a little more judgmental now about your drinking—72 percent of Millennials surveyed said they “disapprove of people … taking one or two drinks nearly every day,” up from a similar 69 percent in 1998.

The explanation?

According to Goldman Sachs, Millennials are simply a product of their environment: They came of age “during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption. That’s given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents.”

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