Millennials, Money, and Social Media

by Jason Unger

When I was writing the post about how few people have $1,000 in their savings, I was struck by an observation about millennials: that their financial situation is influenced by what they see and experience on social media.

It’s not like it’s an odd correlation; keeping up with the joneses has been an expression since the early 1900s, so for over a century the idea of people spending to keep pace with their neighbors and friends has been well known.

But with the amount of time that people spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat these days — sharing a life that may not reflect reality — it’s easy to think that you constantly need to be going out, taking vacations and buying new things.

If everyone else is doing it, shouldn’t you?

Millennials, who are the primary drivers of this social media age, are stuck in a difficult situation: seeing positive, happy images and experiences shared online, but stuck in an economy where finding a job is difficult, student loan debt is through the roof, and saving isn’t a priority.

According to a survey from the American Institute of CPAs, more than three-quarters of millennials mold their financial habits after their friends, and two-thirds want to keep pace with what they see, from eating out to buying gadgets.

If that’s not bad enough, nearly 50% of the millennials surveyed said they needed to use a credit card to pay for food or utilities, and more than 60% get financial assistance from their family.

The interesting thing about this survey is that it actually talked to millennials who had a job — not those who are unemployed or looking for a new job.

Investopedia shares more about the survey:

One of the most disturbing findings of this study reveals that seven out of 10 young people define financial stability as being able to pay all of their bills each month. The study also outlines a difference in money habits between the genders, where men feel more inclined to keep up with their friends in terms of material goods while women tend to be more frugal and place a higher emphasis on saving money.

Coming out of college in a horrible job market and saddled with student loans is no way to start off your adult life. It sucks.

I’m lucky that, even though I’m a millennial (on the older end), I was able to graduate and get a job before the Great Recession, and before Instagram and Facebook became as popular as they are.

Feeling the pressure to get a job and put money aside for savings while constantly seeing images and videos of your friends having fun isn’t easy. It’s incredibly difficult, especially if social media is your primary way to connect to your peers.

Millennials don’t have it easy.

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