Millennials in Crisis? Survey Says COVID Pandemic, Recession Creating Bleak Economic Outlook for an Entire Generation

Los Angeles, Ca/USA - April 5, 2020: A millennial wearing a medical face mask while driving.
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With many of their prime wage-earning years marred by recessions and an ongoing pandemic, millennials are exhausted — and their outlook on both near- and long-term finances is less than optimistic, according to a new survey. Indeed, 45% of millennials polled said that because of their financial situation, they feel like they will never have the things they want in life.

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The Morning Consult survey, “The State of Consumer Banking & Payments,” shows that millennials have experienced both an unprecedented recession and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic during some of their formative career years, but not all have fared the same.

Mark Pinto, president of Harbourfront Wealth Management, told GOBankingRates that from a societal perspective, millennials are in a unique position, wedged in between radically different fundamentals compared to baby boomers and Generation Z. As such, Pinto said that they are experiencing a wide-ranging disparity in terms of financial goals because they are tasked with staying attuned to economic and information-based changes such as the proliferation of the internet and the birth of cryptocurrencies.

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“If we look at baby boomers, this cohort didn’t use the internet in the same manner to learn about finances and when we look at Generation Z, they have a radically different approach to work ethic and finances. While Millennials are burdened with too much choice, factors such as accessibility and living situations still remain as barriers,” Pinto said.

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The survey finds that 30% of millennials say they are “completely” concerned that “the money I have or will save won’t last,” while 22% say they are “very” concerned. In addition, 24% of millennials say that their finances “always” control their life, while 22% say they often do. And 21% of them say they are “always” behind in their finances, while 17% say they are “often” behind concerning them.

In addition, with “financial well-being” scores below 45, millennials in rural areas — or with low incomes, or both — are distinctly worse-off than millennial men (broadly speaking, as a category), millennials in urban areas and millennials with higher incomes, whose scores are all several points higher, the survey notes. As for millennial women, they are only slightly above this threshold, with an average score of 45.19.

Chris Motola, a financial analyst for Merchant Maverick, told GOBankingRates that “it’s safe to say that after multiple recessions and a global pandemic that millennials throughout most of the world have experienced considerable headwinds when it comes to achieving financial stability. Even so, generations can be a kind of clumsy way to view the issues they’re dealing with.”

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Motola added that millennial outcomes have a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time, with rural workers — particularly women — having a harder time finding financial stability.

“While they’re still a way off from retirement, many millennials will need policy and services to help them manage their circumstantially disadvantaged position,” he added.

The survey also notes that while millennials are more likely to report working toward any financial goal than the general population, their top goals aren’t long-term.

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Instead, they’re those that would help improve their immediate financial well-being, according to the survey.

Priorities for millennials include establishing an emergency fund (89%), creating and maintaining a budget (89%), and evening out their spending month to month (87%).

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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