Millennials and Money: The State of Their Financial Management and How Workplaces Can Help Them

Insights Report
Research Report

The financial decisions of millennials—defined as individuals age 18 to 37 in 2018—will likely affect the U.S. economy for the next 30 years.


Millennials are the largest, most highly educated, and most diverse generation in U.S. history. They also make up the largest share of the nation’s work force. To gauge the financial status and capabilities of this important segment of the economy, this paper examines millennials’ financial situation, behaviors and knowledge, including comparisons to other demographic groups. The findings point to a generation struggling with financial fragility and high levels of anxiety over their personal finances.


Key Insights

  • The proportion of young adults with outstanding student loan debt has increased from 34 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2018.
  • Over 50 percent of Millennials are concerned that they may not be able to pay off their student debt.
  • The proportion of young adults accruing high credit card fees increased from 54 percent in 2009 to 60 percent in 2018.
  • Millennials are financially fragile; 37 percent report they would not be able to come up with $2,000 in 30 days.
  • The majority of Millennials report feeling anxious or stressed about their personal finances.

Workplace financial education programs, tailored to the needs of young workers, can play a crucial role in boosting millennials’ financial capabilities.


The authors’ conclusions are based on an analysis of data from the 2018 National Financial Capability Study (NFCS). As part of their research, they compared millennials to older working-age adults age 38-64. They also compared millennials to young adults in the same age range (18-37) in 2009, 2012 and 2015 using data from previous waves of the NFCS.



Andrea Bolognesi

GFLEC, The George Washington University

Andrea Hasler

GFLEC, The George Washington University

Annamaria Lusardi

GFLEC, The George Washington University

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