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

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date



general population, financial status and behavior, age, higher education students


Millennials (individuals age 18–37 in 2018) are the largest, most highly educated, and most diverse generation in U.S. history. Millennials are making financial decisions that will likely shape the future of the U.S. economy for the next 30 years, and they are doing so in an increasingly complex financial landscape.

In this study, we analyze data from the 2018 National Financial Capability Study (NFCS) to obtain an in-depth picture of millennials’ current financial situation, behaviors, and knowledge, and we compare the state of their personal finances to that of older working-age adults (individuals age 38-64). Further, we compare the personal finances, money management behavior, and financial literacy of millennials to young adults in the same age range (18-37) in 2009, 2012 and 2015 by using data from previous waves of the NFCS.

Overall, we find that millennials currently tend to be highly indebted. Concerns about student loan repayment and over-indebtedness are more common among millennials than older working-age adults. Further, millennials more commonly engage in expensive money management behaviors than do older working-age adults. They also demonstrate lower basic financial literacy levels while at the same time being more likely to overestimate their own financial knowledge. In addition, millennials are worse off along these dimensions than young adults were in 2009. These factors likely explain much of the financial fragility and high levels of anxiety over personal finances that exist among millennials.