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Do You Fit Stereotypes About Generation Y and Money?

I read a great post this morning by Monica O’Brien of TwentySet about Generation Y bloggers and generational stereotypes. It got me pondering stereotypes I’ve encountered about how twentysomethings handle money. What are these stereotypes? Are you validating these stereotypes with your financial behavior, or smashing through them?

Common Stereotypes About Generation Y and Money

Most of the stereotypes Monica touched on were about Generation Y in the workplace and, more specifically, about Generation Y bloggers. Still, two of them apply to money, too:

  • Generation Y isn’t interested in marriage. After the expense of a wedding, marriage is a plus for your finances. Two people can live together for less than they can alone (and with two incomes to boot). Plus, marriage creates stability which will positively influence financial decisions. Yet twentysomethings aren’t interested. Is it a fear of commitment? Of growing up?
  • Generation Y thinks it’s OK to live with parents longer. Living at home while you look for a job or save up a couple month’s expenses makes sense. Living there until you’re 28 or 30 may not. Sure, you can save up a 50% down payment on a first home, but I think adulthood is about more than owning a home and/or having a big bank account. A lot more.

Some of the other stereotypes about Generation Y and money that I’ve heard include:

  • Generation Y isn’t interested in money. Perhaps we’re not uninterested in money, but we do value our time and interests more than cash. That could be healthy, unless we’re so uninterested in money we simply ignore it.
  • Generation Y feels the American dream is not for us. This came up in my NPR interview a few weeks ago: So many of us are struggling with debt and earning so little that we find it impossible to dream about owning a home or meeting other life goals.
  • Generation Y doesn’t save. Yes, as a generation we score low on saving for retirement and for emergencies. We need to work on that. Although I wonder: At any point in recent history, have young Americans been big savers? After all, we earn the least of any generation, and we’re busy spending on things like first cars, weddings, and first homes. It is, after all, easier to save once those big items are out of the way, no?

Although there is some data to indicate today’s twentysomethings’ high debt and low savings rates, most of the these are clearly stereotypes propagated by older generations looking down on us with an older-and-wiser mentality. But are there truths in any of them? All of them? What do you think?

Published or updated on April 20, 2009

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. Kenny says:

    Background, 22, 4-year undergrad, work full time, taking master classes part time.

    Marriage: I’m not interested in marriage at this age. It’s more of a personal decision, because I know a handful of people in my age bracket that are engaged or married.

    Living at home: I felt upon graduating, Spr. 2010, this was the best decision for me. I happened to land a job 20-30 mins away from where my parents live. My reason for staying here is 1) The area I live in is expensive (though I could pay it), I am paying for school out of pocket, I am able to save (not for anything in particular), and I have actually become closer to my brother (7-8 age difference).

    Interest in money: I am highly interested in money. Not in terms of saving, but seeing the process, and researching and learning new methods and strategies that affect my money is interesting to me. The ability to maximize my earning potential and create/pursue supplemental avenues of income is almost like a game in my eyes. It is fun.

    Saving: Saving, for my generation, is hard, mainly because most have loans (school is over-priced), and the jobs, unless you’re in a sought after field, start entry-level pay too low. But, we are interested in saving, once everything is paid off, take another survey in 10 years, and see how our generation is fairing. As for myself, I love saving. As stated before, it is almost like a game to me, seeing the different ways to save and what will maximize my profit (mutual funds, stocks, etc). I would say a majority of my savings would not be possible if I lived at home, but there are some that decide to splurge and live an expensive lifestyle because they do live with their parents. So, having personal financial discipline is a major contributor in this category.

  2. Dave says:

    I would like to know how everyone in Gen Y has come up with their downpayment for their home? I am 27, live in California and just put down $120,000 on my home. I went to college and have a great job, but there is no way I could have saved up that much in such a short amount of time, so I took out a loan from my parents. My dad fronted me $55,000 from his retirement $$ and I took care of the rest. I have been paying him p/i since Apr. 2009. Is anyone else in a similar situation or were you able to save for your downpayment all by yourself?

  3. ?? says:

    Am I the only one here who thinks that generation this and generation that is nothing but a bunch of stereoptying?

  4. tom says:

    So we can compare ourselves to the stereotypes all day long, but the fact remains, they become stereotypes for a reason.

    People just don’t make this stuff up, a majority of Gen Y fits the mold which creates the stereotype in the first place. Then we spend the rest of the time trying to prove them false. We shouldn’t allow them to form in the first place.

  5. Claire says:

    I’m 22.

    I found it very interesting to read the stereotypes listed and I don’t know if it is because I am about 5 years younger than everyone else that has posted but I DO agree with most of them in reference to myself and my friends.

    “Generation Y isn’t interested in marriage.” – I’m not married, and no where near being there. In fact the only friends I can think of that ARE married are either religious or involved in the military.

    “Generation Y thinks it’s OK to live with parents longer.” – Totally. I still live at home, my brother only just left to live in a rental and he is 24 and most of my friends live at home. Part of my reasoning is that I travel about 6 months of the year, every year, so when I come home I need a place with little to no rent where I can save to go away again. Having said that though, I love my dad and I love living there! I enjoy being part of my family and as much as I love my friends, I love a break.

    “Generation Y isn’t interested in money.” – Definitely disagree with this. Gen Y is so interested in money. Not so much making it, but definitely having it. We’ve grown up with iphones, ipods, laptops, digital cameras – all costing money, and people and shows like Paris Hilton, Gossip Girl, the OC – where everyone has money but doesn’t really do anything for it. So we definitely are interested in having money, I would just say that a large percentage don’t want to work for it.

    “Generation Y doesn’t save.” – Very true. Every time I go out people tell me how they have no money, and I am the same. I can save extremely well, and do, to travel overseas or to buy new things, but in terms of general savings for life – nope. Although, to be fair, I can think of a couple of friends who have purchased houses or are looking to do so, so they must be saving!

  6. Annie Tran says:

    I’m 26.
    It was interesting to read the stereotypes and then disagree with each one. During college I began saving to buy a home in order to get away from my parents (as much as I love them). I bought my first home in San Diego when I was 24 because I wanted the American dream. Today, I’m planning for my wedding which is 9 months away. Having to save up for the wedding costs is a priority this year for me. Should’ve waited to buy a home, but that’s another story.
    Sadly, I must say that money is important to me. I decided to do something that paid well instead of doing something I liked. I enjoy my job but not as much as I’d hoped. Financial security is important to me after seeing how my parents struggled.

  7. Kym says:

    “Generation Y isn’t interested in marriage.” — As if. I’m 28, and I’m the only one of my friends my age who’s never been married. And I’m not still single from lack of interest in marriage, but rather from lack of having met anyone who both meets my standards and is willing to put up with me.

    “Generation Y thinks it’s OK to live with parents longer” — Nope. Like I said, everyone I know is already married by now. I’ve lived on my own since I was 23, and even then most of my friends were either married or living with friends or significant others.

    “Generation Y isn’t interested in money” — True. We decide the quality of life we want to have and try to get enough money to have it. The problem here is that most of us are slaves to shiny new gadgets and being trendy.

    “Generation Y doesn’t save” — The fact that in our generation EVERYONE is a college graduate means that jobs anyone who is decently literate and trainable should be able to perform are suddenly requiring a Bachelor’s degree and 3 years’ experience, and also that EVERYONE is saddled with debt before they even get started as an adult. Therefore, it hasn’t been until the past year or so (and I’m 28) that I’ve had 2 spare dimes to rub together at the end of a month after my expenses (which are admittedly higher than most because I live alone, which is more expensive than sharing).

    “Generation Y feels the American dream is not for us” — I agree with this, to the extent that I never want the responsibility of owning a home. I don’t feel that the benefits are worth the costs. I also feel that part of the American dream entails marrying your high school or college sweetheart, and since I had neither I’ve already failed at it anyway.

    I should add, even though I am 28, and as such an in-betweener as far as Gen X vs. Gen Y, I tend to come down more often on the side of Gen X. My parents were Boomers (well, my dad is solidly Boomer, but my mom was born in 1959, so is in between Boomer and Gen X), grandparents remember the Depression, even if they weren’t quite old enough to serve in WWII… Perhaps more importantly, I grew up associating mostly with people older than me, and my closest friends tend to be 5-10 years older than I am.

  8. Matt says:

    I’m 25 and I bought my first home at 21. Here’s my take:
    Generation Y isn’t interested in marriage – this is definitely true for some. I am not uninterested but I am hesitant in even dating. I witnessed my parent separate and decimate their net worth on legal fees. My experience was rather mild compared to some of my friends. With that as my primary view of marriage, I’m not necessarily leaning towards it and neither are my friends.

    Generation Y thinks it’s OK to live with parents longer – Only if it is to save money or pay of debts. Nobody wants to do it for more than a year or two after college. After that it isn’t acceptable.

    Generation Y isn’t interested in money – I disagree but there are definitely those who value quality life over money, but there is still an interest in money.

    Generation Y feels the American dream is not for us – I think movies have given us unrealistic expectations. Also the glut of college graduates means lower salaries and more competition than previous generations and many of these graduates who are earning less have tons of debt. This makes dreams like a home, a family, nice vacations, and even savings difficult.

    Generation Y doesn’t save – Absolutely. This is partly because of debt. It is also partly because some refuse to cut back. They think they are entitled to certain things. I had a coworker who made much less than I do and she would go to bars every weekend and take trips about once a month (usually by plane). There is no way she could have been saving in that time frame. Many others that I know could easily cut back expenses but simply don’t.

  9. Rainerd says:

    Not interested in marriage does not mean not interested in being with someone. Many 20somethings co-habitate, thus gaining the benefits you talk about (saving money on rent, increased stability of life) without succumbing to the social and legal pressure of marriage and all that entails. 20somethings aren’t afraid of marriage, they are uninterested in it.

  10. These are all great examples, thanks!

    Since several commenters mention they are between 27 and 30 I should note I’m also 28, and I’ve never been sure where we fall between Gen X and Y. I’ve never felt truly a part of either, but I guess I would identify on the old side of Gen Y rather than the young side of Gen X. Whatever that means. Of course, since this is “Money Under 30”, a majority of potential readers will be in Gen Y, hence the post idea!

    @Dan — Glad you like the new look! Your site is looking good, too. Thanks!

  11. Kris says:

    I’m 30, so perhaps I’m already too old for this discussion, but…

    Not interested in marriage: I’d say that we are not interested in marriage for the same reason our parents were. So many of us have seen households divided by divorce. Perhaps the stereotype is just because we don’t marry our high school sweetheart and we live with someone before we marry them, we are uninterested in marriage. I say we are just taking more time making our decision.

    Live with parents longer: It’s okay, but no one really wants to do it.

    Interested in money: Everyone is interested in money. My two year old god-son knew that a credit card equaled money when he was one.

    The American dream isn’t for us: On the contrary, we’ve expected the dream for so long that it’s almost a right versus a dream.

    We don’t save: True, but not because we don’t want to. It’s probably because we are busy paying off college or buying our first home, as the American dream has told us to. Almost all of my friends were home-owners by age 25. For better or worse, this has left us with a less to save.

  12. Adam says:

    I’m 29.

    * Not interested in marriage.
    * Lived with my parents until 24.
    * I AM interested in money. I’m an odd-bird and don’t subscribe to the rat-race paradigm. I want to stockpile fast, to retire early, and THEN enjoy life by experiencing the world…not the daily grind.
    * I’m currently set up for an American Dream that I’m not sure I want. I want the American Dream…not this one, though. Not quite sure how to get there from here.
    * I DO save…though only started recently.

    So, I agree with the first two stereotypes. The next three are a bit hit-or-miss.

  13. Nick says:

    I’m 27. I personally don’t feel I fit those stereotypes…but to a certain extent maybe I do a little.

    Marriage: I got married six months ago and I’m very happy!

    Live with parents: I was one of those “as soon as I turn 18 I’m so outa here!” I moved back during summer break after my freshman year and couldn’t stand it once I got a taste of freedom. :) I’ve never been back…

    Interested in money: I was interested in money ever since I can remember. When I was young, having money got me toys. Now it gets me expensive “toys” (a nice house, a new car, a fast computer). Not to mention the freedom that comes with having lots of disposable income. Plus when I was a kid my dad made me play sort of “virtual” investor where we made a game out of picking stocks out of the newspaper. There was no real money involved but it did teach me the value of saving and investing.

    American Dream: I’ve been saving money for a down payment on a house next year. I can’t wait to have a home to call my own!

    Saving: I had a ton of money saved up, but then blew it on the wedding and a really amazing honeymoon. Some would argue that wasn’t smart, but I kind of think it’s important to have a good start to your marriage with lots of wonderful, romantic memories. Once we get our house next year I’ll be able to start socking money away for our emergency fund.

  14. I was born in 1980 making me 28 years old. I don’t think that I fit any of the generation Y stereotypes, but I also consider myself more generation X not knowing the exact cutoff. I have heard some people say that us in-betweeners may also be considered part of the MTV or Doom generation.

    -Dan Malone-

    P.S. I still like the new layout. It is more professional. So much so, that I followed your lead and updated the color scheme of my blog.

  15. Donnie says:

    “Generation Y isn’t interested in marriage.” – I’m married, but I’m not particularly interested in it. If I had my way, I would have skipped the big expense by having a $50 civil ceremony, and reaped all the financial and legal benefits of marriage, without the $10k wedding.

    “Generation Y thinks it’s OK to live with parents longer.” – Myself and pretty much everyone I know would go out of their mind if they had to live at home. It isn’t a matter of rules or finances, but the simple reality having to interact with your parents every day.

    “Generation Y isn’t interested in money.” – I would say that we stop being interested in money once we have a comfortable cushion of it.

    “Generation Y feels the American dream is not for us.” – I would agree. I can’t imagine a situation where my life/job would stable enough to live in one city for 30 years, let alone one house. Student loan debt is also a big drag that our parents didn’t have. They could actually get a decent job without a Bachelor’s.

    “Generation Y doesn’t save.” – Correct, we pay off debt. Nothing left to save.

    • Candice says:

      I completely agree with the above. I am interested in marriage but did skip the big fancy wedding because I did not think that the ceremony was worth going into more debt (on top of the student loans that I incurred to get a much needed Bachelor’s degree, as well as the home I own). None of my friends live at home nor do we want to; this statement is absurd! We are perfectly willing and able to make it in the world. We are very interested in money, but we are not consumed by it. After watching the stock market crash (on more than one occasion) and the housing market collapse we know that just as fast as you can earn it, you can lose it all! The only truth I see in this is that we do not want the American dream, because where the hell has it gotten everyone!?!? Our country is more debt than ever, our dollar is barely worth anything, and we cannot trust to investment in the stock market or even the housing market which in the past was supposedly the most stable investment one could make. Lastly, as far as saving goes — how the hell are we supposed to save when we’re told we have to have an expensive college degree to get a decent job and we have new families to support?

      So here I am, a 28 year old, who works full time for a wonderful company whom I am loyal. I am married, paying off a ridiculous amount of debt for a college degree, also paying off debt for a home which isn’t worth what I owe on it and will probably continue to lose value while having some “expert” tries to define me. Well, I say no thanks! I refuse to be lumped in with such absurd stereotypes!

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