If you were born in the period from the early 1980s to the early 2000s – part of the group known as millennials – there’s a more than 40 percent chance your finances have you persistently stressed out, according to a new Bank of America poll.
The results of the poll, released this week by the Charlotte-based bank and USA Today, show 41 percent of millennials are “chronically” stressed about money. In addition, the survey shows, the top source of stress among millennials is not putting enough money into savings.
I spoke about the survey with Andrew Plepler, who is based in Charlotte and serves as Bank of America’s global corporate social responsibility executive. Bank of America and USA Today have conducted not one, not two, but three separate surveys over the past 12 months on millennials and their attitudes toward their finances.
Here are five takeaways from my discussion with Plepler:
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1. He says Bank of America wants to understand millennials.
The first survey by Bank of America and USA Today was released last fall; the second, this spring.
Plepler, who at 54 is not a millennial, said Bank of America continues to study the group because it is “an incredibly important demographic in today’s society.”
Some economists have noted that as “so go the millennials, so goes the economy,” he said.
“So we want to understand their perspective, both in terms of better understanding people’s perspectives on the economy, and we think it also helps our business. It’s an insight into issues that the company’s going to be dealing with.”
2. His advice for millennials? Start saving now.
“At the risk of being preachy, I think it’s never too early to save for the long term, and every bit helps,” he said.
3. But he says that’s easier said than done.
Plepler said there are myriad challenges facing millennials, making it sometimes tough for them to save. Those challenges include paying off student loans, high housing costs and a job market that hasn’t quite stabilized, he said.
“Given the fact that there are short-term financial stresses in their lives, it is difficult to think for the long term,” he said. “We know that for financial security, they should be investing in the long term, and yet it’s understandable that they’re dealing with short-term challenges.”
4. What strikes him the most from the survey? How stressed millennials are.
“The sense of stress is something that I don’t think those of us who came into the job market 30 years ago, I don’t think we felt that same level of stress,” he said.
Once upon a time, when a person became employed, it brought with it the feeling of being “on your way,” he said. But for millennials, that sense of stability doesn’t exist, he said.
“It’s just a much more stressful environment to be dealing with than many of us in the prior generation dealt with, and I think you see that in the findings of the survey.”
5. He admits stress levels are probably high among other groups.
Since a still-recovery economy affects more than millennials, I asked Plepler whether he thought a similar percentage of people in other age groups would say they were chronically stressed.
“I think that’s a fair point,” he said. “Some of these issues probably permeate beyond just millennials.”
But, he said, millennials are also dealing with issues that are unique to them, such as student debt.
Still, “you’d see high stress numbers in other age brackets” if they were to be surveyed, he said.