Four in 10 millennials say they feel overwhelmed by debt, poll finds

Graduates throw their caps at the University of Delaware's commencement ceremony as the future awaits; more than half of millennials in a study say they live paycheck to paycheck.
(Emily Varisco / Associated Press)

Four in 10 members of the millennial generation said they felt overwhelmed by debt, with more than half reporting they were living paycheck to paycheck, according to poll results released Tuesday.

Most of the respondents in the Wells Fargo Millennial Study said the Great Recession taught them they needed to start saving for retirement, but 45% said they had not yet begun.

Although 56% said they were living paycheck to paycheck, nearly seven in 10 said they felt better off financially than other members of their generation and expected their standard of living before they retired to be better than that of their parents.


Debt concerns — topped by outstanding student loans — weighed heavily on millennials, typically those 22 to 33 years old.

The 40% who described their debt as overwhelming was much higher than the the 23% of respondents from the older Baby Boom generation who said they felt that way, according to the poll.

The survey of 1,600 millennials and 1,500 baby boomers found big differences between men and women in how they view their financial situations.

A smaller percentage of women said they are saving — probably because of salary differences — and so more of them feel overwhelmed by their debt.

“The silver lining of the recession that started over five years ago is that a majority of millennials get that saving is a necessity and even equate it with surviving tough times,” said Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement at Wells Fargo.

“But millennial women are starting out their working lives making far less than men and, as a consequence, are saving less and feeling less contentment at the start of their working lives,” she said.


Overall, 55% of millennials said they are saving money. But just 50% of women said they were saving compared with 61% of men.

About 45% of women respondents reported feeling overwhelmed by debt, compared with 33% of men.