Millennials have a bad reputation when it comes to money. The stereotype says they're spending their extra cash on avocado toast, expensive coffee, and other frivolous purchases.
The reality, however, looks a whole lot different. Nearly half of millennials (48%) who made a New Year's resolution to save more money have succeeded in doing so, according to a new CIT Bank survey, conducted by The Harris Poll. Millennials beat out Generation Z (35%), Generation X (33%), and baby boomers (32%) in the survey of just over 2,000 American adults.
It pays to save
Over half of all Americans who made New Year's resolutions named saving money as their top goal. Millennials again led that way at 79%, beating out Generation Z (69%), Generation X (59%), and baby boomers (41%).
"We're encouraged to see consumers sticking with their goals well into the new year," said Ravi Kumar, head of direct banking at CIT. "Millennials and Gen Zers, in particular, understand the benefits of creating a financial cushion and are taking the necessary steps to do so."
The most encouraging thing about these results is that the generations that appear to have prioritized saving are the ones that benefit the most from it. A millennial (ages 25-38) at the beginning of that age range has roughly 40 years or more until retirement.
That time can be a pretty magical thing due to compound interest. If you invest $1,200 in your retirement portfolio at age 25 and make the average stock market return of 9% per year, you will have $15,921 after 30 years and a whopping $37,691 after 40.
Start saving early and you have to save less to reach your ultimate goals. If you wait until 50, for example, that same $1,200 will only be $4,371 when you hit 65. Imagine, however, if you manage to save $6,000 when you are 25. That's $188,455 toward your retirement.
The best time to start saving is now
Any generation would benefit from saving more. It's certainly ideal to start saving when you are young, but it's better to start late than never.
The easiest way to save is to automate the process. Contribute to a 401k if your company offers one. If there's a match, make sure you contribute enough to get the maximum amount matched.
You can also set up automatic withdrawals into a brokerage account. If you move the money out of your checking account before you see it hit your balance, it's a lot easier to not miss it (and to not spend it).
Start small if you have to, especially if you're starting young. When you make less money (as most people do early in their careers) it can seem nearly impossible to set any money aside. That may be true -- it depends upon your budget -- but, if there's nothing extra to save, you should consider a second job or side hustle with any cash earned going into your retirement account.
You probably won't remember whatever you spend a few hundred dollars on a month that you don't need in your 20s and 30s. At 65 or 70, however, you will be acutely aware if you did not save enough to have the retirement you wanted.