June 21, 2021

How Much Money Do Millennials Make? It’s No Longer a Taboo Question

When 25-year-old Grace Woodward has friends over to her apartment for the first time, they…

When 25-year-old Grace Woodward has friends over to her apartment for the first time, they often react to her striking navy-blue walls by asking, “Did your landlord let you paint?”

Ms. Woodward, a graduate student at Yale Divinity School, says she doesn’t hesitate to tell them that the landlord is her mother. “I’m pretty open with people that my mom owns this and that I don’t pay rent,” says Ms. Woodward, who often goes on to explain that her mother had extra money after the sale of her house in Arlington, Va., in 2017, and was able to pay for the apartment in New Haven, Conn., in cash.

Like many people her age, Ms. Woodward is at ease discussing money with her peers. It’s a generation that some surveys have found is more candid and open about their finances—both the good and the bad—than their parents. For instance, a 2019 survey by CreditCards.com found that 61% of millennials were comfortable discussing credit-card debt with their friends, compared with 43% of baby boomers. And a March report from Swedish fintech company Klarna said a recent global survey found that 50% of millennials believe it is important to talk openly about finances, compared with 41% of older generations.

The inclination to be financially transparent is an extension of the way young adults conduct the rest of their lives, says David Axelrod, a behavioral economist at Montclair State University in New Jersey. millennials’ comfort with social media means that they are “used to a much faster pace of information moving around,” he says. “They’re going to not filter as much” when talking about money either in person or on social platforms.

That transparency is helping some millennials deal with feelings that they are lagging behind their peers and previous generations financially. It also is providing many of them an education, courtesy of their peers, in how to manage financial situations—from salary negotiations to budgeting, borrowing and saving.