Survey: Millennials More Likely Than Others to Miss Bill Payments, Seek Government Help

Couple going through financial problems.
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Nearly one-third of Americans said their household income has been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic this quarter, according to a new survey, with millennials continuing to take the hardest hit.

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The Consumer Pulse Study, a quarterly survey conducted by TransUnion in early August, found that 30% of respondents reported that their household income was negatively impacted by the pandemic during the third quarter. Although that was down slightly from 32% last quarter, rising cases tied to the delta variant have contributed to growing unease about what’s to come. The survey found that 56% of respondents said they are unsure if their future income will decline due to COVID-19, up from 50% during the second quarter.

Meanwhile, millennials continue to have a disproportionately hard time dealing with the pandemic. In 17 of the 18 TransUnion Consumer Pulse surveys since March 2020, millennials reported the largest negative household income impact. During Q3, nearly half (46%) said their household income was currently negatively impacted due to the pandemic — the only generation reporting an increase from Q2.

Millennials are also struggling to pay their bills, with 42% saying they’ve missed a loan or bill payment in the past three months — the highest percentage among any generation. Roughly one-quarter said they rely “a great deal” on government financial support to get through the pandemic — nearly twice that of Gen Z (13%); more than twice that of Gen X (10%); and more than four times that of baby boomers (6%).

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This tendency to miss payments is driven by the greater financial hardship millennials are experiencing relative to other generations, said Charlie Wise, head of global research and consulting at TransUnion.

“Compared to older generations, millennials are more likely working in service industries (such as restaurants and hospitality) and in employment sectors that have been harder hit by lockdowns and cutbacks in consumer spending,” Wise told GOBankingRates in an email. “While the overall employment picture continues to improve, a portion of people who have returned to work have done so at lower pay or reduced hours.”

Compounding the problem is the fact that compared to the younger Gen Z group, millennials are more likely to be married or in relationships where there are multiple working adults in the household. This also feeds into millennials’ greater reliance on government help than other groups.

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“The greater the financial hardship, the more the reliance on external sources to fill the gap,” Wise said. “Younger Gen Z consumers, who are all 26 and younger, may have options to move back with parents or other family members if they lose their jobs or income, which would reduce their reliance on government assistance. Older consumers have not seen the same level of income loss and may have accumulated savings and home equity which they can rely on to meet financial hardship.”

Margaret Poe, head of consumer credit education at TransUnion, told GOBankingRates that many millennials “face hard choices about how to cover their expenses.”

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Even with the current financial challenges many face, she urges Americans to take whatever steps are necessary to meet their financial obligations.

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“An important thing to keep in mind: Making regular, on-time payments is one of the most important factors for credit health,” Poe said. “If you can’t make payments, talk with your lenders to find out if they’re offering any assistance.”

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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