85% of millennials say they’re too burned out to deal with their finances

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In a Nutshell

A recent Credit Karma survey found a large majority of millennials feel so burned out they can’t even think about their personal finances, naming money as their No. 1 source of daily stress.

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You may have heard millennials called the burnout generation — a generation so anxious and overworked that even the idea of mailing a letter can seem overwhelming. But how can burnout affect the way millennials handle their finances? 

A recent Credit Karma/Qualtrics survey of 1,039 U.S. millennials found a vast majority of respondents (85%) saying they’ve experienced feeling so burned out that they avoided thinking about or dealing with their personal finances — a phenomenon we’re calling “money scaries.” 

And it could be affecting a large number of millennials. Our survey found that burnout has caused respondents to avoid checking their credit card statements and even put off paying their bills. (Learn about our methodology.)

So not only are stress and burnout preventing some millennials from tackling mundane tasks, as reported this year by BuzzFeed News, it could also be affecting their ability to stay on top of their finances.

This matters because, as previous Credit Karma surveys found, millennials are the least likely generation to have savings to cover three months of living expenses and are especially susceptible to overspending to keep up with friends

Combine that with the fact that money is the No. 1 source of daily stress for most respondents (61%, according to our survey), and you get a generation whose money scaries could be holding its members back from making meaningful financial progress. 

We’ve got some tips below to help you deal with feelings of money anxiety. But first, let’s examine how stress is affecting this generation’s relationship with finances.

Key survey findings 

85% of millennials surveyed say they’ve felt so burned out that it caused them to avoid thinking about or dealing with their personal finances.
1 in 5 respondents (20%) say they never check their credit card statement. And among those who don’t often check their credit card statement, 27% said it’s because they feel overwhelmed or too burned out.
67% of respondents have put off paying a bill, and nearly one-third of those (28%) did so because they felt too overwhelmed.
In our survey, 59% of those who felt stressed about money said it stresses them out on a daily basis.
Housing is the biggest money-related stressor for survey respondents, with 39% stressing out when rent or mortgage payments are due.
Among those with money-related stress, respondents said that some of the reasons they’re so anxious about money is because they feel as if their financial goals are out of reach (56%) or they don’t have enough money to make ends meet (55%).

 

See our key findings infographic


How is burnout affecting millennials’ financial lives?

It’s clear from our survey that burnout is causing a significant number of millennials to avoid dealing with their personal finances. Though keeping up with your finances can be a chore, we think it’s better to deal with the issue head-on, if you can. Ignoring your finances could cause trouble down the road. For example …

  • 1 in 5 millennials from our survey said they never check their credit card statement. This could cause you to miss a payment due date, which could hurt your credit. You could also miss spotting fraudulent charges or other errors on the account.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 millennials (18%) did not check their bank accounts at least weekly. If you don’t have enough money in your account to cover a payment you’ve made, you could get hit with an overdraft fee.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (28%) of the 67% of millennials who have put off paying a bill did so because they felt overwhelmed. Avoiding bills could lead to late fees, and paying a bill late or missing a payment altogether can hurt your credit.
  • 64% of respondents have dealt with feelings of stress by impulse shopping, which could lead to overspending and put you in a cycle of stress spending.

Money stress may also be detrimental to millennials’ personal relationships. More than half of those surveyed (54%) said money stress hurts their romantic relationships, 49% said it impairs their relationships with family, and 44% felt it negatively affected their friendships. 

What’s causing millennials the most money-related stress?

“Hooray! My bills are due!” said no one, ever. For most respondents in our survey, paying monthly bills was the biggest source of money-related stress — more than half (55%) said they frequently feel stressed about paying for things like rent, mortgage, student loans or utilities.

Of these monthly bills, surprise, surprise — housing costs cause the most money-related stress for a large group of respondents: nearly 2 out of 5 (39%).

And we get it. It’s no secret that housing prices are rising in areas across the country. In fact, a recent Credit Karma survey showed that many adults living in cities are feeling the crunch because they pay more for housing than those living in suburban areas.

Younger adults are increasingly moving to urban areas, and this means millennials could be particularly burdened by high housing costs.

What money-related expenses cause the most stress for you? % of millennial respondents
Rent or mortgage due 39%
Asking to borrow money from a friend or family member 34%
Learning that I’ve overdrawn my account 32%
Unexpected medical expenses 31%
Auto-related expenses 30%
Going into credit card debt 30%
Money-related conversations with my significant other 30%


But it’s not just housing that’s causing money-related stress for young adults. Another common cause of stress among respondents was asking to borrow money from friends or family (34%), as was learning that you’ve overdrawn an account (32%). Both of these instances may be linked to feelings of buyer’s remorse that millennials we’ve previously surveyed said they’ve felt when
thinking about their spending.

Why are millennials so stressed out about money in particular?

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (61%) said money was their top source of daily stress, making it clear that money issues could be a major contributor to millennial burnout. But what is it about money in particular that’s making millennials in our survey feel the pressure? Respondents indicated their top reasons below.

Why would you say money is a source of stress for you? % of millennial respondents who have money stress
Financial goals feel out of reach 56%
Don’t have enough to make ends meet 55%
I think I should make more than I do 43%
I don’t think I’ll have enough savings for retirement 42%
The experiences and products I want are more expensive than I can afford 39% 

 


Ghosting your ‘money scaries’:  How to plan ahead to reduce financial anxiety

There’s no getting around it — sometimes life is stressful, and money can play a big (and stressful) part in your daily life. Things like rent may cost more than you’d like, it may have been way too long since you’ve taken time out for yourself, and it can be hard to feel as if you’re making financial progress. But beating yourself up over the stress you face around money won’t help. Instead, check out some of our tips on planning ahead.

Getting a handle on general money stress

  • Set a budget that accounts for your essentials, fun and the future. Setting a budget could help you set expectations for how you’ll spend your money. Just having a plan could give you a greater sense of control over your finances and reduce stress. Think of the 50/30/20 rule — aim to spend 50% of your monthly income on bills and necessities, 30% on fun and 20% on savings. 
  • Boost your knowledge on credit. Understanding how to build credit and how to stay on top of your credit can give you a greater sense of empowerment about money. If you know what to expect when it comes to credit, it may seem less scary.
  • Have a plan to repay any debt before you borrow. Debt can have real and long-lasting consequences. But having a solid debt repayment plan in place could help you start paying down your debts and help you stress less. 

For rent-related stress

  • Be honest about the type of housing you want and can afford. Be honest with yourself about how much you can afford and stick to that. The U.S. Census Bureau recommends spending no more than 30% of your monthly income on rent. As a starting point, if you’re looking for housing, do the math and see what 30% can get you.

If your ideal area or apartment puts you over that threshold, ask yourself what you can tolerate and what you could compromise on when it comes to your living situation. For example, could you live with roommates if it means saving a few hundred dollars a month? 

For money-related stress with friends and family

  • Communicate — and be honest — about how you can spend your money and time. If money is a source of stress among friends and family, you may be afraid to have a conversation about it. You’re not alone — our survey found that among those who frequently stress about money, 77% of millennials are so stressed about money that they avoid thinking or talking about it.

When it comes to showing your appreciation for those close to you, think about how you can do so in ways other than money, like with your time. Spending time with friends and family is an experience that can be valued over something that costs money.



Methodology

On behalf of Credit Karma, Qualtrics conducted a nationally representative online survey in August 2019 of 1,039 Americans ages 23 to 38 to learn whether burnout is affecting their willingness to deal with or think about finances.