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Why the Study Saying Millennials Have $100K Saved Is Super Misleading

man holding up cash to window
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder


You probably scrolled across a pretty wild statistic recently: It claimed one in six millennials — 16% — has saved at least $100,000 in 2016.

That’s according to a Bank of America survey made exclusively available to USA Today.

I did an actual spit-take when I saw that number (with La Croix rather than coffee — I’m a millennial, after all). As my wife and I hurriedly tallied up our savings, even including home equity, we barely touched that total.

How could this be true? A sizable portion of a generation saddled with student debt and wanted for killing everything from cereal to bars of soap has still managed to save six figures?

Well, don’t freak out like I did, because it’s probably not true.

Millennials’ median net worth sat at about $11,000 in 2016, according to the latest Survey of Consumer Finances conducted by the U.S. Federal Reserve. And I was even more skeptical of that $100,000 whopper after digging deeper into panel data from a government survey released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last year.

Indeed, a Penny Hoarder analysis of that data tells a much different story.

Millennial Retirement Savings Are Probably Way Less Than $100,000

First off, the Bank of America study only classifies millennials as those between ages 23 and 37 in 2016, which is skewed older than the accepted age range recognized by the Pew Research Center. The U.S. Census Bureau has a similar range to Pew, as does the CFPB survey, which collected millennial responses from those aged 18 to 35.

We found 12% of millennials are likely to refuse even answering how much they have in savings, according to a weighted analysis of CFPB financial well-being survey data. And I don’t blame them.

Overall, only 3% of millennials have $75,000 or more in savings. Even with the larger age range, it’s quite a stretch from the 16% that apparently have $100,000 in the Bank of America study.

A little more than a third of millennials — 37% — are likely to have less than $1,000 in savings, according to our analysis. And 12% of us have no savings at all.

It’s not much rosier for other generations, either. Sure, 13% of folks older than 34 are likely to have $75,000, but even for this more mature cohort, more than a third have $1,000 or less in savings.

When you look at all ages, more than half of those surveyed said they weren’t optimistic about their futures at all.

I hate to be the one to break all this bad news to you. But now, fellow millennials, you know you’re not alone in your lack of savings.

But hey, at least we have avocado toast, right?

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He doesn’t quite have six figures in savings, but he’s made a dent in his goals since starting this job.

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