Roughing it: Millennials are finding shelter amid financial fears

Published: Monday, Nov. 14 2011 8:00 p.m. MST

Tyson Lloyd chops firewood to make dinner for him and his tent mate Eric Richardson. The two have been living in a tent since May 2011.

Joey Ferguson, Deseret News

Eric Richardson and Tyson Lloyd's headlamps shine on the side of the canyon in Logan, Utah. After securing their Vietnam War-era tent, lacing up their hiking boots and loading their backpacks, the two make their way to the car below. They must arrive by 6 am or they will be late to Utah State University where they attend classes.

Since May, the two college juniors have lived in a tent where the closest thing to an address is the numbers on nearby telephone poles.

Richardson and Lloyd are part of a growing number of young adults who fear debt and spending. After maturing during one of the Nation's worst recessions, they are doing all they can to avoid any personal credit crisis.

"I hate spending money," Richardson said. "It doesn't matter how much money I have in my bank account, I just won't spend it. I'm scared to death to take out student loans."

The two men use on-campus showers, free lockers to store food and clothes and keep a schedule of events that serve free food on campus all in the name of debt aversion and saving a penny.

An August study from New York-based Auriemma Consulting Group, said millennials, or the demographic following generation X and born between the 1980's and early 2000's, are the most averse toward credit cards. Only 26 percent say they frequently carry a balance, an 18 percent decrease from 2007, the study said.

"Millennials have turned away from credit cards in droves since the recession began, and it's not clear to what extent they will come back when conditions improve", Patricia Sahm, managing director at Auriemma, said in a statement. "Many have been scarred by seeing friends or family struggle with unmanageable debt loads, and view credit as dangerous rather than helpful."

How banks interact with customers also affects millennials' sentiment toward banking.

"How you communicate must be a dialogue and not a monologue," Sahm said. "You can't say to this generation 'I know what's best for you.' They don't believe in mass advertising anymore because they can get what they want from friends."

Richardson, a full-time psychology honors student holding down a 3.8 grade point average, works at the facilities building on campus. He stores Life cereal in a break-room pantry and keeps milk in one of the fridges.

"That's one thing about this, you can't have any shame," Richards said as he applied his spray-on Axe deodorant while coworkers passed him in the hall outside the planning and design office.

Richardson makes $9.50 an hour for about 12 hours a week as a "space auditor," or someone who measures the size of every room on campus. He worked full time over the summer, saving money while exploring and measuring every room on campus. That's how he stumbled onto all the freebees.

He made more than $4,966 dollars. Most went to tuition, books and class fees, which makes it hard to save.

Thirty eight percent of Millennials say they live paycheck to paycheck and that consistent saving is not an option, Boston-based MFS Investment Management said in an September survey.

Without adequate savings, retirement becomes an added fear among millennials. The survey reports that 44 percent have lowered their expectations about the quality of their life in retirement.

Ted Jenkin, co-chief executive officer and founder of oXYGen Financial Inc., a financial planning firm specializing in young adults, said that millennials have been abandoning the idea of saving for retirement.

"In our client base that are between (ages) 22 and 35, they never use the word retirement," Jenkin said.

Chris Brown, founder and principal owner of Sway Research LLC, a market research firm, said millennials who give up on retirement savings might find themselves without sufficient money when they are no longer able to work.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere