A new poll shows the ‘outsized’ financial burdens faced by millennials

Over half of millennials say their savings have declined during the pandemic.

That’s just one of the findings of a new Harris Poll focused on this generation, currently between 24 and 39 years old, during the ongoing global pandemic.

“That level of financial insecurity is not what you’d expect from the greatest economic power in the world, and it should be unacceptable to us that so many fellow Americans are living on the brink,” said Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in a Yahoo Finance interview.

Millennials have faced “outsized burdens” during the current crisis because of where they are in their working lives, Akabas said.

The poll found that 52% of millennials say their savings have declined, with 44% saying they have either no savings at all or don’t currently have enough to cover an emergency expense of $400.

The question about coming up with $400 was also asked in the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households published by the Federal Reserve in 2019 that found many Americans of all ages in a similarly precarious position.

Emergency fund in the glass jar with cash.
Emergency fund in the glass jar with cash.

The new Harris Poll was commissioned by DailyPay, the Bipartisan Policy Center Funding Our Future campaign, and The Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin. The survey was conducted online from Nov. 17-19 and surveyed 2,075 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 593 are millennials between the ages 24-39.

A third of millennials expect they’ll need to continue to work into their 70s based on a lack of saving. Only 35% of millennials say they’re on the right track to meet their retirement goals.

“An economy that was already difficult for young workers is getting even more challenging in some critical ways” noted Matthew Kopko, Vice President of Public Policy for DailyPay.

"This data shows the resilience of younger generations in the face of the second major economic shock of their financial lives,” added J. Michael Collins of the Center for Financial Security, referring to this year’s pandemic and the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

When it comes to student debt, 66% of respondents believe the government should forgive at least some federal debt. President-elect Joe Biden is under increasing pressure to do just that once he is inaugurated next month.

The survey also showed a divide with a quarter of young people suggesting that their savings have actually increased during the pandemic while 29% of those with only a high school education say they have no savings at all.

“The effects of this pandemic have been highly uneven,” Akabas noted about both millennials and Americans of all ages.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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