Millennials Take Charge Financially, Yet Don't Know What to Do

February 5, 2016
Bill Schu

A research report based on Facebook data sheds light on the spending habits and financial practices of young adults.

In addition to being a ubiquitous part of everyday life, a sometimes frightening data hoarder, and a chronicler of our lives, Facebook is now using the power of its reach to accumulate research on the patterns of its 1.6 billion active users. That’s billion with a “b.”

In a fascinating research report on the spending, saving, and investing habits of those born roughly between 1980 and 2000, a data-heavy White Paper generated by the social media giant finds some interesting trends among this influential group. Targeted to a banking industry desperate to understand the habits of this influential group, the report has some interesting insights about how millennials view their own financial situation and those who wish to provide them with financial services.

Unlike your typical clinical journal research, which includes an exhaustive list of research subjects, the Facebook research simply aggregates information gleaned from posts to the social network site, a January survey of 27,000 users, and personal interviews with millennials. While the documentation of this statistical approach isn’t up to the standards of a clinical study, the results are interesting nonetheless.

Among those findings are some that may upend some of our expectations about this age group. Millennials:

  • Are cautious and responsible investors, diligent in paying down debt and careful with credit cards
  • Are very serious about planning for their financial future, but not very confident in how to accomplish this planning
  • Stand to inherit an estimated $30 trillion from their parents
  • Are currently entering their peak earning years
  • Feel disconnected from the financial services industry, which they largely don’t trust
  • Often turn to social media to seek answers to financial questions
  • Prefer to pay primarily with cash (vs credit), even among more affluent groups.

Despite knowledge about finances and significant consideration of their financial futures, only a third of the survey respondents say there are happy with the way they are currently saving or investing. Yet more than half (53%) say they have no one to turn to for financial guidance. “Only 36% talk to their parents about money and just 8% trust financial institutions,” note the authors.

If you are a Millennial or are facing some of the same concerns, you should consider the benefits of working with a financial advisor, including issues around trust and fiduciary responsibilities.