Millennials, Gen Zers Struggle With Adulting

Nearly half say pressures have led to a ‘quarter life crisis’
A young woman on her phone.

Though a majority of teenagers and young adults believe they will eventually be more financially successful than their parents, many are off to a slow start and are stressing out about it, a new study shows.

In order to find out how younger generations feel about money and their ability to reach their financial goals, investment firm TD Ameritrade surveyed 3,054 people to ask about what it means financially to be an adult. The survey focused on young millenials (ages 22-28) and Gen Zers (ages 15-21), though it also questioned parents aged 30-60.

The survey results show many respondents see becoming an adult as reaching certain financial milestones. For example, young respondents on average expect to:

  • Pay for their own streaming services by age 19
  • Start a full-time job by age 20
  • Pay their own phone bills by age 20
  • Move out on their own by age 20
  • Pay their own health insurance by age 23
  • Start saving for retirement by age 23

Overall, young people have high expectations for the long-term. In fact, 52% of young millennials and 58% of Gen Zers said they expect to surpass their parents financially. Another 35% of young millennials and 32% of Gen Zers expect to do just as well as their parents in money matters.

However, some respondents from the younger generations may be viewing their financial situation with rose-colored glasses, at least as far as their parents are concerned. According to the survey, young people on average, believe they will be financially independent by age 22. However, 91% of parents expect their children to be financially dependent on them until age 25.

Young people are also missing the mark on some of their early financial goals. For example, although 60% of young millennials and Gen Zers expect to start saving for retirement before the age of 24, in reality, only 28% of young millennials over the age of 23 have actually done so.

Many have also been slow to start saving, which is critical for financial stability. In fact, 20% of young millennials and 30% of Gen Zers save nothing during a typical month. On top of that, 23% of young millennials and 13% of Gen Zers said they can’t afford to save.

High expectations and the realization that it may take longer to achieve certain goals could be causing anxiety in some young people. According to the survey, 54% of young millennials and 42% of Gen Zers say they have experienced a “quarter-life crisis.”

Others have embraced the idea of getting help from parents for an extended period of time. For example, young millennials on average say they wouldn’t be embarrassed if they received financial support from their parents until they turned 30 — though parents, on average, thought it would be embarrassing if they were still supporting their kids past age 27. Other surveys have indicated that the stigma around moving back home has decreased in recent years.

Setting financial goals is key to reaching financial stability. However, it’s important to develop a plan to get there. Creating a sound budget that accounts for both necessities and savings is the first step. Also, young people who expect to receive financial help from their parents should initiate a conversation with them in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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