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Millennials aren’t as bad with money as everyone thinks

By Kristin Wong

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Jan. 13 2014 12:03 a.m. MST

We’ve discussed pursuing our passions a lot here. That’s something that graduates seem to struggle with: After college, do you keep looking for the job you went to school for, or do you take whatever job you can get? But despite the stereotype that Millennials are simply lazy and don’t want to work, the Pew Research Center found that half of them have taken jobs they don’t want so they can pay the bills.

Maybe that’s low compared with past generations — I couldn’t find any comparable data. But I do know that college is a lot more common and accessible these days, and we’re encouraged to pick a major so we can find a satisfying occupation. But then, when graduates actually try to hold out for that job, they’re lazy. And when this generation decides to postpone things like owning a car, opting to take public transportation instead, their decision is not viewed as a sacrifice; it’s considered not growing up.

Further, you’ve probably come across the statistic that 30 percent of young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 moved back in with their parents to either pay the bills or pay off debt. Generation Y gets ripped for that too, despite the fact that no one between the ages of 25 and 34 wants to live with their parents. And, in fact, about half of the young people that moved back in with their parents say they helped their parents out with rent.

It seems like Millennials are sucking it up more than we think. They’re doing things their way, sure. They want better jobs, sure. They might even want to change the traditional boring office structure. But they’re still adapting to their financial reality.

Millennials want to be frugal

Millennials like to go out and have fun and spend, but they want to find ways to do it for less. Their desire to be frugal may not be intense, but they’re definitely interested in saving money.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, Wendy Liebmann, CEO at WSL Strategic Retail, revealed a finding on the consumer behavior of Generation Y: “8 out of 10 of these shoppers say it’s important to get the lowest price on most things they buy, which is higher than any other age group.”

Their interest in frugality has also increased in recent years more than any other age group, Liebmann said. The study she cites isn’t the only to reveal that this age group shops frugally.

Then there’s the argument that Millennials are spoiled because they’re into brand-name Stuff. But most frugal people will tell you: It’s better to invest in quality items that will last than to purchase cheap, replaceable items regularly. Most of the time “quality” equals “brand-name Stuff.” I’m not saying that Millennials are into brand names solely because they’re applying that frugal adage. But if they were, it’d probably be obscured by the stereotype that they’re spoiled.

Young people struggle with the urge to spend, go out and drink and buy nice things. People of all ages have that same struggle. But Millennials seem to be aware of their financial situation and the general dark cloud that looms over the economy. They seem to be adapting by finding cheaper ways to give in to their cravings.

Duh: Millennials are young

Recently, I came across a study that criticized the Millennial generation for the many ways that their spending habits are influenced by keeping up with their friends. That was really shocking, to learn that young people are susceptible to peer pressure.

Sarcasm aside, I don’t think it’s just young people who bow to peer pressure. We all have our Joneses, after all.

I feel like the things we criticize Millennials for have less to do with their generation specifically and more to do with, simply, the mindset of youth. They’ve been called “entitled” and “unrealistic” and “spoiled.” Those are the same scathing words I’ve heard people in other cultures use when describing Americans. That’s the stigma we carry. It’s not surprising that young people who live in a culture that honors consumerism and the American Dream want to consume and have dream careers.

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