Are millennial ‘super savers’ changing retirement?

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Younger employees often get a bad rap for their money management and savings habits, but there is a small group of Gen Xers and millennials who are doing everything right.

New research from Principal Financial Group found that there are a number of Gen X and Gen Y savers who are deferring 90% or more of the IRS maximum amount to their 401(k) accounts, which is between $16,200 and $18,000 per year.

Of those individuals, 91% listed saving for retirement as one of their main goals. In fact, millennials are twice as likely to say they are saving for retirement (90%) than raising a family (40%), Principal finds.

“These ‘super savers’ are incredibly driven,” says Jerry Patterson, senior vice president of retirement and income solutions at Principal. “We see them making sacrifices to achieve their goals, and sometimes that includes delaying milestones until they feel financially secure. Whether it’s driving an older vehicle or working extra hours, these individuals have said, ‘My future is important and I’m going to save to make it great.’”

Much of the financial conversation is around what different generations are doing wrong when it comes to money management. Principal Financial Group wanted to look at people who were making good decisions to see what they were doing to move the needle on financial security.

Super savers are willing to “make modest impacts on their standards of living today and those impacts will have a huge implication on their standard of living 20 to 30 years from now,” Patterson says. “These people made positive, sometimes hard sacrifices, earlier,” Patterson says. “If there is one flag we try to wave hard when we talk to young savers it is the importance of saving more, earlier.”

And that is exactly what these super savers are doing.

One of the more surprising findings from the Principal study was that “nearly 20% of these savers were carrying six figure student loan debt and yet they were still taking these hard, positive steps to balance saving and paying down debt at the same time,” he adds.

More than 2,400 super savers were surveyed between the ages of 23 and 51.

What else makes them super savers? According to Principal, they take fewer vacations, drive old cars and buy smaller homes than they would like.

“It is the kind of stuff we were coached to do growing up,” Patterson says. “Sometimes we lose sight of that.” He believes these people are being thoughtful, long-term thinking and practical.

The one question Principal Financial Group did not ask respondents was why they are doing this.

“One of the things that is happening with millennials is that they are being painted with this brush that all of them spend all their money on Kombucha juice and live in their parents’ basement and use student loan debt as a reason why they are not financially responsible,” he says.

But Principal found many responsible millennials who are taking positive steps to put themselves in a better place down the road.

He adds that some of the stereotypes about millennials are true but “plenty of millennials are doing everything they need to do given the difficult journey they will have, given how many jobs they are going to have.” Defined benefit pension plans are going away and Social Security may play a smaller role in their retirement.

“Plenty of millennials get that,” Patterson says. “They aren’t taking anything for granted and are saving right away.”

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