Senior year of high school, one of my friends convinced me to watch House of 1,000 Corpses. No one could believe I hadn’t seen it in theaters (for the three whole days it was there?), so we rented it. From Blockbuster.
I had long survived The Blair Witch Project and The Ring. Recently, I had even endured Saw, so surely this would be fine. Right?
I jumped so hard during one part, I accidentally backhanded my friend and she dropped a plate of pizza on the carpet. I truly have been this coordinated my entire life.
The only thing scarier than the fact that I actually used to waste so much time watching bad (and good!) horror films, though, is real life. Not legends and lore, but money and materialism. The actual realities that are woven into the fabric of our day-to-day lives.
If you’ve ever spent time in the personal finance world, there’s a good chance you’ve started to think we are straightening out our money situation and saying goodbye to consumerism. These stats (updated for 2019!) might make you realize we still have a ways to go.
Five Scary Money Statistics
The bad news? There are some really scary money statistics related to how we save and how we shop. There is some good news too, of course, and we’ll get to that too. Just call me Little Miss Ray of Sunshine.
1. Our personal savings rates stink.
So far in 2019, our average personal savings rate hovered around 8%. That’s calculated based on figures using income after taxes. Woof. (In 1970, it was about 13%.)
This is pretty bleak. I’d wager to say it’s a combination of underlying social conditions–stagnant wages, the student loan crisis–and consumerism. As a country, we are taught to value spending infinitely more than savings…and it shows. Just ask my closet.
2. Impulsivity is a problem.
ThredUP conducted a survey and found that almost 50% of millennials report that their purchases are impulse buys.
I want to be appalled by this. But honestly? You don’t end up with over 200 pairs of shoes (not even counting boots!) by making thoughtful purchases. This is why being mindful with my money is so important to me now. It’s also why I–someone who has never even consumed a full cup of coffee in her life–will believe in the latte factor forever and ever amen.
3. Millennials recycle less.
Almost 25% of the millennials polled for a study said that they aren’t in the habit of recycling. The reason? It’s too time consuming.
This floored me. I spent so many of my elementary school days staring at a giant mural that shouted Reduce Reuse Recycle as I gobbled down my lunch. Did no one else get this memo? Seriously, fam. If we can get “Ok, Boomer” to trend, can’t we do something for recycling, too?
And I know, I know. Recycling programs are in major jeopardy. But habits are formed over a lifetime. We dropped the ball, fam.
4. Credit card debt is growing.
Let’s get right down to it. The average household carried $8398 of credit card debt in June of 2019. The national average per person is over $6,028, and millennials carry less than average by over $1,000. But before you bust out the party horns, know that millennial credit card debt is actually growing.
Again, I think there are two ways to look at this number. Some of it is undoubtedly a response to the tricky economic conditions millenials are navigating. But I’m also not going to give a free pass to YOLO, Instagram, or self-care that is really just a shopping spree in disguise. As the former queen of retail therapy, I can promise you it’s not cheap or healthy.
5. Toys are a problem.
We spend a lot of money on toys each year. We deck the halls and pay a hefty price (almost $500 per kid!). Plus, we’re really committed to smart toys, expensive price tags be damned. Another study puts it another way: America’s population makes up 3% of the children in the world, yet 40% of the world’s toys are in toy boxes here.
Buying this many toys is a great way to make kids even more expensive than they already are. And holy plastic, Batman! Though our son is doing a lot to teach us about minimalism, we are not a toy-free house. We do, however, try to make it known that we really value second-hand items even as gifts! Especially so, in fact.
Money Statistics to Make You Smile
Now that you’ve white knuckled it through those statistics, let’s take a look at some money statistics that should help you push aside those fears and smile some.
1. Poverty is decreasing in the United States.
Poverty levels are still falling. The numbers dipped from 12.6% in 2017 to 11.8% in 2018.
The fact that these numbers are dropping should be something everyone celebrates. I also worry that if we are, in fact, headed for a market dip, we could see some dramatically different numbers the next few years. What a great reminder to care about your community, get involved, and give back.
2. We’re making more money.
The median income in the United States is slowly creeping up. At $61,937 in 2018, the number continues to creep up. It’s almost a full percentage higher than 2017.
Heyo! This is good news. Now let’s just learn to save the increase and fix all sorts of systemic issues, yeah?
3. Millennials want to be millionaires.
More than half of the people surveyed indicated that they expect to become a millionaire in their lifetime. The best part? The way the question was phrased also allowed for the fact that some millennials already are millionaires.
I am so happy for my millennials buddies who are already millionaires. I don’t think I’m friends with any of them in real life (unless you count time spent at FinCon), but it makes me smile so hard to know that some of us are killing it financially. And yes, I know that we likely need much more than a million dollars, but let’s not be a total Debbie Downer, mkay?
4. Sustainability is gaining popularity.
For the past few years, millennials have been using their spending power to speak volumes about sustainability. In a 2015 study, 3 out of 4 millennials said that they would pay more for a product if it was a more sustainable product.
We suck at recycling (I’m seriously not over that statistic, and I don’t think I ever will be), but we have figured out how to make retailers notice the importance of being more environmentally conscientious. Every purchase is voting with your dollars. I’m glad we understand this.
5. Smashing debt is trending.
More than 75% of the people who were surveyed said they were either taking steps to reduce their consumer debt or they didn’t have any. That number is up 2%.
The vast majority of people don’t have consumer debt or are trying to do something about it. Huzzah! Is there better news to be found in the personal finance world? I think not.
So Tell Me…Did you waste time in your teens watching scary movies through your fingers? Did any of these statistics surprise you?
Britt @ Tiny Ambitions
It is SO interesting that we are recycling less but care more about sustainability. That seems like such a contradiction in my mind. Having spent my M.A. years in the Faculty of Environment, I was exposed first hand to all kinds of research about how humans are destroying the planet (which I am forever grateful for).
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
Everything I read when I uncovered that statistic said that millennials feel like it is the responsibility of companies to save the environment and that what can be done on an individual level doesn’t compare.
BUT IT CAN’T HURT?!
Ugh…the Blair witch project. How did that thing make money?!?
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
Right?! I remember when people thought it was real!
Couldn’t watch it. The jumpy camera work have me a headache.
the Budget Epicurean
Ugh, the not recycling thing gets me too. (Of course, not buying in the first place is best, but baby steps). My dad, who works in water resource management, never recycles. I asked why a hundred times in high school/college, and he says “It doesn’t make a difference really”. #facepalm. But the good stats are sort of hopeful. I hate to say it, but a few rough years of the market tend to bring out better habits in people… from saving more, to acting more frugally in general, less food waste and “stuff” buying, and caring more for your family and community. Wish we could tap into that without job losses and poverty and foreclosures…
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
Yup. For as much as we talk about the dangers of a scarcity mindset, I think it can also make people really resourceful and appreciative.
To answer your question, yes. I spent most of my high school years watching gobs of movies. My best friend rented “The Changeling” and we too, were having pizza – there was one point in the film that both of us screamed and knocked the couch over backwards – flipping us over with it – pizza flying, the works. Her dad came running downstairs to check on us… we were laughing so hard we couldn’t move. We might have been in a little bit of trouble…. the statistics are fascinating and contradict in some areas. LOVE statistics. I have to admit, I cracked up laughing to hear Millennials “want” to be millionaires… um… who doesn’t? I could comment more, especially having hired many of them… but I wont. I think you and others have opened a lot of eyes to a new way of looking at things and in prioritizing what you really want out of your life. This is a game changer – and makes me hopeful for the future.
Yay! I’m glad you’re feeling hopeful. I also thought it was weird the some people surveyed didn’t want to be millionaires? My hope it they are holding out for billionaire status.
Kristen | The Frugal Girl
The recycling one is definitely weird to me. Something like composting? Ok, that’s a little harder and messier. But curbside recycling is, like, almost zero effort!
I was wondering if maybe some people’s skepticism about how much of that actually gets recycled is a factor. BUT the chances of something in the trash bin getting recycled are zero. So why not try, it seems…
I agree, the not recycling thing is so shocking- I too grew up being drilled with reduce/re-use/recycle and have done the same to my own elementary schoolers 🙂 I’ve heard some millennial & gen x-ers justify not recycling recyclable packaging pieces like cardboard or tissue paper because it “doesn’t make a difference”. Um.
But. But. But.
I don’t get it. Of course, I’d love for companies to enact change and for there to be sweeping legislation even to make sure that it actually gets done. In the meantime, though, I can do my own individual part. Plus, I can vote and vote with my dollars to support people who do care about the environment.
::steps off soapbox::
Not having to recycle feels like you are not helping out the environment and when you think about it, it’s not that difficult to do. Their are many places to recycle paper, bottles, paper etc..even in your home where you have a recycle bin.
Hand me down toys are the way to go. We try to get toys from other sources like craigslist and nextdoor so we don’t have to worry about buying them. Although we do end up buying some toys because our son prefers certain ones like constructions trucks, we make an effort to provide as many second hand ones to him.
I think that’s an excellent approach. We try to make do with what we are given and just fill in with what’s needed when it comes to toys and clothes. Now, though, I am trying to force myself to be better about doing the same. I need to keep passing things along rather than trying to make 29 cents from them.
Stephen @ the FIRE Lane
So do you think the 25% of non-recycling millennials is the other piece to the 3 out of 4 millennials who want sustainability?
Or do you think there is some weird overlap and there are groups of millennials who buy sustainable products but won’t recycle the packaging they come in?
This is odd to me as a recycling Gen-X’er.
That’s a great question! I really don’t know. All I know is that it makes me sad.
I find it so fascinating that millennial don’t recycle, but they’re into sustainability… I’d have thought it would be both?
Done by Forty
I’m glad we ended with some positive trends there, friend. The first five (especially recycling) got me a little bummed.
I agree it’s nice to see median incomes rising but not nearly fast enough to account for the increases in rents, education, and healthcare costs. I’m happy to get any gains we can, but a lot more needs to be done to give labor its fair share of the pie.
I read somewhere (Forbes?) an extremely interesting article pointing out that our stats about national savings rates actually aren’t terribly helpful because they don’t account for demographic shifts.
So when you say the savings rate is 8% nationally it sounds like Person A and Person B both get $100 each and save $8/pp (or whatever numbers you like – A saves $15 and B saves $1). In reality, though, person A might be saving 16% and Person B might have a negative savings rates because Person B is retired and is drawing down her savings. (Which is a totally normal and unproblematic thing to do, so long as you don’t run out of money early.) So you could theoretically have a savings rate of 0% nationally where everyone was doing fine, just because there are equal or more retirees with negative savings rates than people who are still working who need a positive savings rate. And, in fact, the article concluded, we are heading toward a demographic point where we might have about equal retirees and working people because Boomers are such a large generation. That means our savings rate could drop potentially to 0%.
That doesn’t mean we’re doing fine; it just means it’s too imprecise to talk about national savings rates without breaking it down further.
That’s really interesting, Jane! I should see if I can track that article down!