65% of US Millennials don’t think their life is where they thought it would be

August 8, 2019

The time has finally come: Millennials are all grown up. Most US Millennials* have said ‘goodbye’ to their 20s, are married and own their own home; however, ‘adulting’ has proven harder than expected as there is a strong sense of disillusionment among the cohort as many don’t yet feel like adults. In fact, according to new Mintel research on marketing to Millennials, 65% of Millennials agree that their life isn’t where they thought it would be at this point.

Kristen Boesel, Senior Lifestyle and Leisure Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Marketers have focused attention on Millennials for years and rightfully so. This generation represents approximately one-quarter of the US population**. In the past, Millennials have been depicted as aimless hipsters in their 20s who still live with their parents; today, most Millennials are in their 30s, and more than half are married and starting families. Despite this positive evolution, however, our research shows that the majority of Millennials agree that their lives are not living up to their expectations. The reality is this generation is redefining what ‘adulthood’ means. As they face growing pains during this transition, there is huge potential for companies and brands to engage with and support them in this new stage of life.”

Finances are their biggest concern

Generally speaking, economic circumstances have left this generation with less wealth than older generations had at this age. As a result, many Millennials are plagued with financial concerns. Mintel research shows that half (51%) of Millennials say their financial situation is one of the top three things that stresses them out the most; 23% say it is the most stressful thing. Other stressors at the top of Millennials’ list include thinking about their future (40%), keeping up with everything they need to do (40%) and relationships with family (24%). As a direct result, 68% of Millennials say improving their finances is a top goal for 2019, ranking above advancing their career (39%) and trying new things (35%).

“Millennials are tired of lectures about financial responsibility. Turmeric lattes and avocado toast are not solely responsible for their economic situation. Companies and brands should show empathy for the challenges this cohort faces as they hustle for financial security. Digital apps and tools that can help Millennials save or invest in smaller amounts and track progress toward goals could help ease some of their money-related stress,” continued Boesel.

Work defines them, but there has to be passion

Work and employment are major parts of the Millennial identity. Half (53%) of Millennials somewhat or strongly agree that they define themselves by what they do for a living, which is significantly higher than older generations, including just 35% of Baby Boomers*** who say the same. Furthermore, while 51% of Millennials say they plan to keep working for as many years as possible for financial reasons, almost as many (45%) say they plan to continue working as long as they can for personal fulfillment.

While key to their identity, Millennials don’t want just any job. In fact, a good work/life balance (66%) and a job that will be stable for many years (61%) are ‘must haves’ for the majority of Millennials, as is the ability to advance their career (57%). About one third also expect to wear whatever they want (34%), have a role/title that most people respect (32%), and to be their own boss (30%).

Where Millennials’ altruism shines through is with the 96% who say doing work that they are passionate about and the 93% who say work that makes the world a better place is important to them (must have/nice to have). Two in five (39%) Millennials associate themselves with ‘progressive ideas’ and 21% believe they have the ability to change the world.

“Because Millennials derive part of their identity from the work they do, brands and businesses should understand the important role that work plays in their lives, while also understanding that they do strive for some work/life balance. Their more progressive mindset also makes them more sympathetic to causes that help level the playing field for all Americans. They will be more willing to support businesses that treat their employees fairly and champion efforts for affordable healthcare and education,” Boesel went on to say.

70% of Baby Boomers feel good about their future

Finally, while Millennials may be disillusioned with life at the moment, Mintel research on marketing to Baby Boomers reveals that the majority (70%) of Baby Boomers feel good about their future and 52% say they plan to keep working as long as they’re able to for personal fulfillment. What’s more, one quarter (22%)  say they would not make different life choices if they could do things all over again.

However, they seem to be aware that their bodies won’t last forever. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Boomers say improving their physical health is a goal for 2019, while a mere 24% say the same for improving their mental health.

“Baby Boomers are a valuable, but often overlooked market. As this large group of consumers grows older, opportunities will emerge for businesses to meet Boomers’ new needs. Brands should be ready to offer products and services that can help them maintain a sense of control and dignity as they ease into their senior years,” concluded Boesel.

*Mintel defines the Millennial generation as adults aged 25-42.
**US Census Bureau, interim population projections released 2017 and annual population estimates/Mintel.
***Mintel defines the Baby Boomer generation as adults aged 55-73.

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