Thursday, December 27, 2018

What the Average Millennial Spends Each Month

CNBC drew the scorn of Twitter last week when it published The Budget Breakdown of a 25-year-old Who Makes $100,000 a Year and is Excellent with Money. Millennial shaming, cried many of the critics, who rightly noted that most Millennials make far less than the subject of the article—a guy named Trevor—and spend more because they need, like, a car.

So let's compare Trevor's spending with the spending of his peers. Using Consumer Expenditure Survey data, the closest comparable demographic is "householders under age 30."

Under age 30    Trevor
Annual income    $48,946    $100,000
Annual spending      43,038        33,300
Monthly spending        3,615          2,775
  Rent*           915             825
  Transportation           657             130
  Groceries           241             400
  Health insurance*           240             270
  Dining out           221             250
  Utilities           124             195
  Cell phone               76               40
  Internet*             54               20

* Average spending of those who spent on item.

The biggest difference between Trevor and his peers is in annual income. Trevor earns more than double the $48,946 average. He spends less than his peers overall and far less on transportation because he doesn't own a car. Most of his peers own at least one vehicle, an average of 1.3 per householder under age 30. Trevor spends much more on groceries and a bit more on dining out.

Not shown in the above table is Trevor's spending on charitable donations, which amounts to an astonishing $615 a month. Few of his peers make any charitable donations—only 7 percent did so in the average quarter of 2017, according to the CEX. Those who did spent only $84 per month on such donations—just a fraction of what Trevor spent.

Not much discussed in the CNBC piece is spending on entertainment. The article mentioned only that Trevor occasionally splurges on a video game. But surely he spends something on movies, music downloads, Netflix, and the like. Householders under age 30 spend an average of $167 a month on entertainment. Trevor rarely buys clothes, according to the article, while his peers spend a modest $38 a month on men's clothes and shoes and $51 per month on women's clothes and shoes. What about shaving cream, haircuts, and toilet paper? Absent from Trevor's budget is spending on housekeeping supplies ($34/month spent by his peers) and personal care products and services ($41 per month). Let's not even get into student loan payments, which Trevor does not have.

With Trevor's outsized income, he saves a lot. With their much smaller incomes and student loan payments, his peers save little—they put an average of only about $50 per month into their retirement plans. Social Security is another story, however. The monthly deduction for householders under age 30 amounts to a hefty $303, making it one of their biggest expenses.

Trevor is no typical Millennial, mostly because of his outsized income. While he may be excellent with money, typical Millennials aren't so bad either as they manage much tighter budgets.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the 2017 Consumer Expenditure Survey

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