Millennials often get a bad rap when it comes to their finances, but is all the criticism deserved? Many people picture millennials as spoiled young people sipping expensive coffee, munching overpriced avocado toast, posting pictures of pricey vacations on Instagram, and complaining about how hard their lives are.
But despite the stereotypes, a new survey from The Ascent shows millennials are struggling financially -- and the reasons may surprise you. There are a few money facts, in particular, that shed new light on millennials' financial lives.
1. Approximately 63% of millennials say they're financially dependent
Nearly two-thirds of millennials admit they are at least somewhat dependent on their parents to help pay their bills, according to The Ascent.
One reason why many millennials are struggling financially is that the price of college has increased substantially. In fact, among households earning more than $100,000 per year, 60% of U.S. colleges and universities are unaffordable, according to a study from the Institute for Higher Education Policy. The numbers are even grimmer for lower-earning households: At least 95% of U.S. colleges are unaffordable for families earning less than $70,000 per year. The students with the best chance at being able to afford most colleges had a household income of at least $162,000 per year, the study found.
As a result, many millennials are saddled with massive student loan debt, making it difficult or nearly impossible to repay their loans while still being able to afford daily living expenses.
2. The average millennial becomes financially independent at age 31
Of the millennials who are considered financially dependent, the average person doesn't wean off their parents' money completely until age 31, according to The Ascent.
That doesn't mean, though, that these millennials are taking advantage of their parents' generosity, happily taking their money for as long as they can. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of millennials say they want their parents to be able to stop paying their expenses as soon as possible.
In addition, nearly 60% of financially dependent millennials say that relying on their parents for money makes them feel embarrassed, and roughly half say they feel guilty about it. Further, the majority of millennials implied they'd be willing to pay their parents back for their purchases -- only 43% said they would not pay back all the expenses their parents have paid for since age 18.
3. Financially dependent millennials rely on their parents for roughly 32% of their bills
Among millennials who rely on their parents for money, the average respondent needs help covering roughly one-third of their bills, according to The Ascent.
The most common expenses partially funded by parents include groceries, student loan payments, and rent. But many parents also fully pay for expenses like the phone bill, car insurance, and health insurance.
Besides soaring student loan payments, millennials are also struggling with health insurance. Millennials are the most likely of any generation to go without health insurance, with 16% admitting they are uninsured, according to a report from the Transamerica Center for Health Studies. Among millennials who don't have insurance, 60% said it was because they couldn't afford it. With that in mind, it makes sense for concerned parents to pay for their adult children's health insurance to prevent them from the risky move of remaining uninsured.
4. Only 22% of parents are pushing their millennial children to become financially independent
Although the majority of millennials say they want their parents to stop paying their bills as soon as possible, most parents are seemingly in no rush. When asked who was pushing them to become more financially independent, only 22% of millennials said their parents were encouraging independence, according to The Ascent survey. Far more millennial respondents (60%) said they were pushing themselves to start paying all their own bills.
Millennials who achieved financial independence between ages 20 and 24 earn an average of $45,396 per year, The Ascent found. However, the average millennial salary hovers around $35,000 per year, according to a study from SmartAsset using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's 20% lower than the average salary baby boomers were earning when they were the same age as today's millennials. With lower income and growing expenses, it's no surprise it takes longer for millennials to become financially independent than their older counterparts.
Achieving financial independence isn't easy, especially with expensive student loans, increasing costs of living, and lower salaries. Many millennials are still depending on their parents to help pay the bills, but the good news is that most of them don't want to live that way forever and are doing what they can to become independent -- a promising move for both millennials and their parents.