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Millennials are Killing the Economy… Because They’re Saving Money

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:41 PM
Ben Brown
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:41 PM

Millennials have been accused of killing a lot of industries  (cereal, beer, housing, mayonnaise, napkins, and politics ). But this might be the stupidest theory of them all. According to one investment bank, millennials are killing the entire economy .

And how? Because they’re doing the decent thing and trying to save their money.

Slow economy? Blame Millennials for not spending enough…

The theory – outlined by investment analyst Travis McCourt – blamed “frustratingly low growth” in the economy on a “generational shift” in people saving money.

Translation: millennials are spending less, leaving companies unable to sell enough ‘stuff.’

Since the financial crisis, the personal savings rate in America has jumped to 8.1%, up from less ~2.5% in the mid-2000s. The financial crisis has made young people wary of spending and investing.

millennials saving rate increase
The rate of personal saving has increased dramatically since the 2008 financial crisis. Source: CNBC/US Federal Reserve

“The U.S. consumer has had enough, so they are saving instead of purchasing like last generation.”

Maybe there’s a deeper problem here…

The theory is technically accurate. Spending and investing does stimulate economic growth . And ‘hoarding’ your money in a bank account means you’re not spending it on cars, coffee, restaurants, etc. You’re contributing less to the economy. McCourt laments:

“Savings rates are now higher leading to excess supply seemingly everywhere in the economy.”

In simpler terms, millennials aren’t spending enough money.

But maybe… just maybe… that’s the wrong way to define economic success.

Throwaway spending, credit cards, and debt might boost Wall Street investors, but it’s a false economy. 

Millennials should be applauded for saving

It seems young people can’t do right for doing wrong. They’re blamed for spending too much on coffee and avocados  while simultaneously being slammed for saving too much.

In the not-too-distant past, saving money was encouraged and rewarded with strong interest rates. Now, the entire economy is built on low (or negative) interest rates.

It’s a policy of ‘economic growth at all costs.’

And it’s obviously not working. Low-interest rates are designed to encourage spending but millennials are hell-bent on saving anyway. Something is broken.

Generation bitcoin

It’s easy to see why a phenomenon like bitcoin has flourished in this backdrop. The math is self-evident: millennials are wary and skeptical of the traditional economy around them. They saw what happened to the banking system in 2008 and they want an alternative.

“Many [millennials] want no part of the stock market after seeing the devastating effects their parents suffered from the 2008 financial crisis” – CCN.com.

As much as 27% of 18-34-year-olds said they would rather own bitcoin than stocks (even during the crypto bear market).

Not only does bitcoin offer an alternative to a financial system loathed by millennials, it arguably encourages saving. Bitcoin evangelist Pierre Rochard calls BTC a “savings technology ” and advocates for a return to low-time-preference, long-term savings mentality.

Travis McCourt is right about the generational shift in finance. And it’s only going to grow bigger as Millennials overtake Boomers and Gen X as the wealthiest generation. Demographics are perhaps the most overlooked fundamental driver of markets, and the shift is becoming evident. A seismic wake-up call is coming.