The Four Essential Millennial Money Moves

Ever since releasing my book on millennial homeownership, I've been thinking a lot about millennial money moves. Although things appear to be on the mend (economically) from where they were five short years ago, there's still been much talk of millennial spending and saving habits.

Even though it's slightly dated, I was delighted to read this article by The Guardian (thanks to my friend Charles for emailing me the link!) The article highlights a study done by UBS on millennial's financial habits and outlook. The good news? That with access to technology and information on finance, and after experiencing extreme economic volatility and instability, we as a generation are going to be more financially savvy than our parents.

Possibly even more so than our depression-era grandparents.

And the best part of the study? It proves that millennials are more concerned about their finances than others/non-millennials could even possibly imagine. Which makes our editor Lauren do her happy dance; all our work these last few years is paying off!

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Other interesting facts from the study about millennial money moves:

  • Millennials hold more money in cash than other generations. Of our total wealth/net worth millennials (on average) hold 52% of it in cash, as compared to 23% of millennials. This shows we are interested in having a large amount in savings to weather financial emergencies.
  • Millennials genuinely worry about others. Behind saving for our own retirement (39%), concern over care/financial responsibility for our aging parents was the #2 concern (30%.)


  • When asked how they were going to achieve long term financial success, millennial's top answers were working hard (69%), saving/living frugally (45%) , and acquiring education (37%.) This contradicts the stereotypes that millennials are lazy or don't know the value of hard work or the meaning of money.


  • Only 28% of millennials believe investing is a way to grow serious wealth. This varies staunchly from other generations, of whom 58% of respondents said investing was a way to achieve financial success.


  • When asked how they would spend “found” money, top millennial answers were pay off debt (a whopping 42%), increase savings (17%), and purchase real estate (16%.)
  • 78% of millennials surveyed believe healthy finances are the way to happiness. This is more than Gen-X (69%) , Boomers (65%), and WWII (66%.) I like to believe this is because we have seen first hand how quickly money can come and go, and how important it is to be financially independent and prepared for emergencies.

I really encourage you to read the full report here. It's definitely worth a look. Here are some of my favorite things that Millennials do really well. Read on for some of the smartest millennial money moves.

4 Smart Millennial Money Moves

Millennials get a bad rap. Like, really bad. Millennials are constantly being blamed for “killing” all sorts of things from vacations to cereal. In fact, here’s a compilation list of all the things Millennials are apparently destroying.

That’s a pretty long list of negativity. But despite all of that, I think millennials do a lot of things really well. We’ve changed the game and everyone is just trying to keep up.

Here are some of my favorite #millennialmoney tips to really make the most of your time and money!

#1- Use Online Banking

Gone are the days of balancing checkbooks and standing in long teller lines at the bank. Millennials have some of the best financial tech available right on their phones/tablets/laptops/etc. Online banking – whether through an online-only bank or a banking portal – has made it easier than ever to keep up with your money. You can open new accounts, transfer money from person to person, or even pay your bills right from your device!

I encourage all millennials out there to try out automating their bill pay. Nothing feels worse than realizing you’re a day late on your credit card payment.

#2 – Start Saving for Retirement

I know, I know. Saving for retirement sounds super lame, especially when you could be using that extra $30 from your paycheck on drinks and food. But starting your retirement fund early will do amazing things for you in the long run.

See if your employer has a company 401k plan you can get in on and try to sock away at least 5% of your paycheck towards retirement. Since you probably don’t plan on retiring until your 60’s (or later), if you start saving at age 18 you have 42 years for your accounts to accrue interest. In layman’s terms, that $30 from this week could boom up to thousands later in life.

Click here to read my beginner investing guide or here for my biggest tips on how to get better at investing. 

#3 – Start a Side Hustle

It’s no secret that millennials value work-life balance more than previous generations. We want more flexibility in hours, pay, and even employers. And that’s what I love about having a side hustle.

You guys all know this. I’ve turned my once part-time blogging side hustle into my full-time job, (read how I did that here) meaning I am in control of how much money I make and how I make it. And guess what? You can do it too!

Side hustles give you both the personal satisfaction of doing something you love and the extra cash to use for, you know, living.

And since we live in the age of the internet, more likely than not there is someone out there that will pay you for your passion. Millennials live in a time where you can literally quit your job and run an Etsy store out of your apartment. It’s amazing. Do it.

#4 – Get Educated

Another great thing about millennials is how interconnected we are. Don’t know how to do your taxes? Google it and find countless articles and how-to’s. Looking for a cheap way to refurbish a table? Someone out there knows how to do it, and probably made a YouTube video about it. Millennials are constantly sharing their tips, tricks, and personal experiences online. And you can tap into that collective knowledge and find just about anything.

So fall down a rabbit hole of Wikipedia articles on real estate investing, read how other millennials have bought homes, or watch a step-by-step video on how the stock market works. The point is, make the most of the resources you have right at your fingertips.


Like this post? Get more first time home buying information in my book, The Millennial Homeowner: A Guide to Successfully Navigating Your First Home Purchase, now on Amazon. Click here to get your copy! 


There are some things (money-wise) that millennials do very well. Read on four of the smartest, uniquely millennial money moves.

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  • Eric
    March 5, 2014 at 12:23 am

    As much as I would love to sit around doing nothing and have the money pour in, this millennial took a few lessons from prior generations and I know that I have to work for my money.

    My goal is to always work intelligently, have a career I enjoy and I’m proud of, and be self reliant while making a few bucks (or more) on the side.

    So far so good, but I know a lot of people in much worse shape. I worry for some individuals, but as a whole I think our generation is doing pretty well.

  • funancials
    March 1, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    I have to agree with Moneystepper above, but I will compliment your “glass half full” attitude.

    I read the UBS report and I would classify the overall theme as “concerning.” The fact that Millennials have over 50% of their portfolios in cash is a terrible statistic. Over time, cash loses value. As inflation starts to rise (which it will), this misallocation will only be more damaging. So these Millennials are unknowingly becoming poorer and poorer.

    It’s equally concerning that only 28% of Millennials see investing as a way to create wealth. Wealth is created by spending less than you earn and then watching this “savings” compound over time. In my most recent article, I pointed out that a Millennial could save $1,000/month for 30 years. The Millennial that is holding cash will end up with $360,000. The Millennial that invests in stocks will have $2.3 million.

    After reading this, do you still feel confident in the found statistics?

    Great website btw….first time visiting.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life
    March 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    I think millennials absolutely have a bad rap. Not only did we have to face the terrible economic downturn the MOMENT we graduated, but most millennials are facing EPIC proportions of student loan debt.

    • Lauren Bowling
      March 3, 2014 at 1:21 am

      Agreed. In those terms, it is hard to weather the criticism, but I suppose other generations had a different set of problems.

  • Catherine
    February 28, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    I dont think people (society) deal well with change and the fact is that this generation is changing how money flows for the first time in a long time. we’re challenging the conventional banking system and they don’t like that. paying debt off first? how will they possibly make money off us? it’s been a long time coming but the generations of financially literate kids is a comin’!

    • Lauren Bowling
      March 3, 2014 at 1:21 am

      I agree with what you are saying.

      Also—this is the first time I’ve seen your lovely face! When did you change your gravatar? I like this “new” you 😉

  • Cashville Skyline
    February 27, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I agree with Jordann. I’m definitely a lot more fiscally responsible than my parents, and will be better off in retirement. I think the criticism and starting our careers during the Great Recession has made us stronger.

    • Lauren Bowling
      March 3, 2014 at 1:20 am

      Agreed! I am so glad we are feeling empowered as a generation 🙂

  • Michelle @fitisthenewpoor
    February 27, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I’m a whiny Millennial. I think we we were born in the Wall Street age where our parents were able to invest freely without having much worry that it was going to crash anytime soon. Our tuition is like 40% over inflation (don’t quote me on this… I vaguely remember that number), and college is almost always necessary to getting a well-paying job. And housing is dismal and unobtainable (plus, we have the threat of foreclosure on the forefront of our minds).

    But we were taught to dream big, work hard, and pursue our passions (unlike other generations who were taught to climb the corporate staircase). When a non-millennial sees a millennial working towards their dream job that does not align with their own, they dismiss it or preach that we just need to try harder or work more.

    Sorry. Ranting here.

    • Lauren Bowling
      March 3, 2014 at 1:19 am

      It’s ok. This is the place to rant! Student loan burden is definitely a HUGE problem facing millenials.

  • Jordann
    February 27, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Awesome post! When I look at the spending habits of my parents versus my own spending habits, I have no doubt that I’ll be better off than they are when I’m their age. I place a lot more emphasis on debt freedom, saving for retirement, and living within my means.

    • Lauren Bowling
      March 1, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      I don’t now if I’ll be better off than my parents at that age, but I have definitely learned from their financial choices. They also impressed upon me the need to start accumulating wealth early on.

  • moneystepper
    February 27, 2014 at 10:12 am


    • Lauren Bowling
      March 1, 2014 at 5:24 pm


      I see your point, but respectfully agree to disagree 😉 WHY wouldn’t we be more fiscally responsible after everything we’ve been through? We’d be complete idiots not to be.

  • moneystepper
    February 27, 2014 at 10:12 am

    In my opinion, its a mixed bag. We could take a lot of these things with a slightly different perspective:

    “Millenials hold more money in cash than other generations. Of our total wealth/net worth millenials (on average) hold 52% of it in cash, as compared to 23% of non-millenials. This shows we are interested in having a large amount in savings to weather financial emergencies.”

    Equally, this may show that we millenials are not efficiently “investing” their cash reserves, despite having lots of debt.

    “When asked how they would spend “found” money, top millenial answers were pay off debt (a whopping 42%), increase savings (17%), and purchase real estate (16%.) Top non-millenial answers were investing (33%), hold cash for other investment opportunity (19%), and increasing savings (18%.)”

    Again, I read this as saying that millenials have a lot more debt (and it is something that has a negative impact on their wellbeing) than non-millenials.

    “78% of millenials surveyed believe healthy finances are the way to happiness. This is more than Gen-X (69%) , Boomers (65%), and WWII (66%.)”

    This could be because the other generations already HAVE healthy finances and therefore isn’t something they aspire to in order to be happy.

    In general, I’d like to believe your interpretation of the results, but find it a little difficult to do in reality…

  • Dear Debt
    February 27, 2014 at 3:00 am

    I think that millenials get a bad rap — we’ve been resourceful in dire times, and that’s what will make us stronger, and more creative.

    • Lauren Bowling
      March 1, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      I agree. Glad other people are finally seeing that!