Millennials, Boomers, and Gen Xers Alike Face This Financial Threat
by Elizabeth Aldrich | Sept. 27, 2019
Overcoming this one thing could drastically improve your quality of life.
We all love to pit millennials against baby boomers and Gen Xers against millennials, especially when it comes to responsibility. But amidst the arguments, there's one thing that all generations share when it comes to money. Unfortunately, our common financial ground isn't looking good -- in fact, the one thing that millennials, baby boomers, and Gen Xers all face in near equal measure is financial insecurity.
Financial insecurity common across all generations
Paying your bills on time, holding down a secure job, and stashing money away in a savings account are all traits of a stable middle class, according to our recent survey on how Americans define the middle class.
Unfortunately, these perceptions aren't necessarily the reality for many middle class Americans. Nearly half of those surveyed reported financial insecurity. Millennials feel the most financially insecure, with 51% reporting that they don't feel financially comfortable. However, Gen Xers and baby boomers aren't far behind, with 49% and 43% reporting financial insecurity, respectively.
Financial insecurity is a feeling of fear about one's own financial stability. And these results show that people who experience financial insecurity can come from all different backgrounds -- regardless of income and age, we're all capable of being scared about the future. The question is, what's causing so many Americans to feel insecure about money?
Middle class likely to live paycheck to paycheck
Another common theme across generations is living paycheck to paycheck, which is a reality for more than 2 in 5 middle class Americans.
Living paycheck to paycheck essentially means that 100% of your paycheck goes toward your living expenses. This means you don't have money leftover to put toward your savings -- and if an unexpected expense comes up, you'd be unable to pay for it without borrowing money.
Baby boomers are the most likely to live paycheck to paycheck, with 45% of those surveyed saying their money only lasted to the next payday. Roughly 40% of Gen Xers and millennials suffer from the same problem.
Achieving financial security with an emergency fund
It's easy to see why living paycheck to paycheck would create a sense of financial insecurity. If you find yourself constantly draining your bank account before payday, what happens if your car suddenly breaks down or your pet needs to go to the vet? What if you end up in the hospital and need to pay for medical care? Without a savings cushion to dip into, what would you do if you lost your job tomorrow?
If you live paycheck to paycheck, these kinds of questions are likely running through your head on a regular basis. And with worries those kind of worries, it's no wonder that feelings of financial insecurity are common.
Ending paycheck-to-paycheck living is the first step to reaching financial security, and it starts with building an emergency savings fund. Having that cushion in your bank account to cover unexpected expenses or gaps in your income will greatly improve your financial peace of mind.
Of course, if you're living paycheck to paycheck, putting money into savings will require you do one of two things: cut your expenses or increase your earnings. Ideally, you could do both. Try to find areas in your budget where you can save money, and see if you can pick up a side gig or ask for a raise at work.
The easiest way to build a savings account is to pay yourself first. Set up automatic deposits into your savings account that will go out the day after you normally get paid. That way, the money comes out of your budget without you even having to think about it, and your savings accumulate on their own.
To boost your savings, open a free high-yield savings account. These accounts often offer interest rates that are 20 times higher than what you'd get at a traditional bank, so you can earn some rewards for your newfound savings habit.
Once you've built up a generous emergency savings fund -- at least six months of basic living expenses -- you can turn your sights toward bigger savings goals, like buying a home or retiring. You can also enjoy the feeling of financial security, and that is priceless.
These savings accounts are FDIC insured and can earn you 18x your bank
Many people are missing out on guaranteed returns as their money languishes in a big bank savings account earning next to no interest. Our picks of the best online savings accounts can earn you more than 18x the national average savings account rate. Click here to uncover the best-in-class picks that landed a spot on our shortlist of the best savings accounts for 2020.
About the Author
We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.