Research conducted by BT Financial group suggests Millennials are far more confident than the broader population about money, with almost three out of four saying they are optimistic about their future financial position. Curiously, this is despite two out of five of that group saying it’s either “difficult” or “very difficult” to meet their necessary cost of living expenses, including housing, electricity, health care and transport, right now.
Women however don’t have such a rosy perspective. Melinda Howes, BT’s general manager superannuation, presented new research last month suggesting fewer than than one in five Australian women feel satisfied they are on track in preparing for their financial future. That was derived from a study of 1026 nationally representative Australian women aged between 18-74.
However, female Millennials are more optimistic about their financial future than women in general. Half of Gen Y/Z females feel more confident about their current financial situation compared with this time a year ago, versus 36 per cent of females overall. More than three out of four Gen Y/Z females feel they’ll be in a better financial situation in two years’ time, compared with 56 per cent or females overall who say the same.
Of course by virtue of their age, Millennials have their entire lives ahead of them to earn their financial freedom. But they are also on the cusp of extraordinary change in the workforce. The casualisation of work and the rise of the gig economy hardly deliver the stability and financial security that full-time employment can. Combined with rising living costs, young Australians could readily be forgiven for harbouring some fears about ever achieving financial freedom.
But they don’t and it isn’t because they’re not thinking about it. The BT research suggests they are more disciplined about budgeting than Baby Boomers and Generation X and they’re adept at saving. More than one in six Millennials have savings equal to six month’s income, 11 per cent have equal to four to six month’s income and nearly one in four have equivalent to one to three month’s income. That’s cumulative, so it’s a little over half of all Millennials who have at least one month’s income saved.
Is that one reason the younger generation is so confident about money even though two out of five of them are in the midst of financial insecurity right now? Because they recognise the value being disciplined about money will deliver over time? Perhaps but saving is only possible when a gap can be created between income and expenses: uncertainty around employment and the rising cost of living means that’s not always going to be feasible. Even the best savers will struggle to save without work.
Perhaps the real reason Millennials are confident about money is because they don’t attach the same significance to financial freedom that previous generations have. In a study of 1000 Australian Millennial workers by the global HR think-tank Reventure fewer than half the cohort believed financial security was important to their overall wellbeing. This compared with three out of five Baby Boomers.
“Forty-two per cent of workers define wellbeing as balance in physical, mental, social and spiritual life and only 12 per cent said it is having their desire for a house, income and success met,” lead researcher Dr Lindsay McMillan said. “What is interesting is that despite this, Millennials are highly driven towards success – twice the rate than that of Baby Boomers – yet do not seem to be motivated by financial security.”
By contrast women are thinking about it and what they’re seeing isn’t pretty. BT’s study shows nearly seven out of 10 women acknowledge that superannuation is critical to secure their financial future but more than half of women believe they won’t have enough for retirement and almost a third are unsure. Is it any wonder they don’t share the Millennial positivity?
Georgina Dent is a journalist, editor and TV commentator with a keen focus on women’s empowerment and gender equality.