What Are Millennials’ Most Important Life Aspirations?

December 17, 2015

Navient-Millennials-Most-Important-Life-Goal-Dec2015Starting a family or spending time with family ranks as the most important of 6 life goals for a leading 29% of young Americans aged 22-35, closely followed by being happy, which is the top goal for 28% of Americans of this age, according to a study [pdf] from Navient. Being debt-free (24%) is also a much greater goal than home ownership or career advancement, per the survey, though the financial health of the respondent appears to have an impact on the ranking of these goals.

The study was based on a survey, conducted by Ipsos, of 3,006 young Americans aged 22-35. Navient constructed a “financial health index” based on 15 objective and behavioral indicators, then segmented the sample into three groups of financial health based on those index scores. One in 5 respondents were classified as being in “excellent” financial health, with a majority 63% falling in the “good” category and the remaining 17% determined to be in “poor” financial health.

Interestingly enough, Millennials with “excellent” financial health were the most likely to say that being debt-free is their most important life goal, with a leading 32% saying that this is the case. This group was less likely than average to say that being happy (20% vs. 29%) and being with family (23% vs. 29%) are their most important goals, but put more emphasis on owning a home (20% vs. 12%).

By contrast, for those in “poor” financial health, being happy (33%) is the leading aspiration, followed by being with family (31%) and then being debt-free (27%).

For those in “good” financial health – the largest group – being with family (31%) and being happy (29%) were the top goals, with fewer pointing to being debt-free (20%) or owning a home (11%).

What does research say about marketing financial services to Millennials? Find out here.

The study also examined respondents’ satisfaction with various aspects of their lives. Measured on a 10-point scale (with 10 being the highest level of satisfaction), respondents reported being most satisfied with life (7) and health (7), and least satisfied with their jobs (6.1) and current income (5.6). However, they appear to be more optimistic about their future in those latter areas, with a 6.6 satisfaction rating for future earnings and a 6.3 rating for career advancement.

Once again, there were some interesting discrepancies when the study segmented satisfaction ratings, this time by the respondent’s “most important” goal. For example, the group of respondents who said that home ownership is their most important goal were more satisfied with all aspects of their lives (including their health, job, income and future prospects) than any other group. Perhaps counting home ownership as one’s most important goal requires a general satisfaction with other facets of life?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who said that “being happy” is their most important goal rated all aspects of their lives (life, job, health, income, future prospects) lower than any other group, suggesting a link between greater satisfaction in those areas and overall happiness.

Satisfaction with different areas of life also differed by respondent demographics:

  • Satisfaction with life and health (top-3 box score on the 10-point scale) tended to be above-average for those with an advanced degree, males, those with income of at least $100k, and those employed full-time; and
  • Not too surprisingly, satisfaction with job- and income-related areas tended to be highest for those with advanced degrees, those working full-time, and those with at least $100k in income.

Amid a host of other data, the study also tracked Millennials’ agreement with various financial attitudes and behaviors, finding that the highest level of average agreement was with the following statements:

  • “I need time to save up before attending big events (such as a wedding, anniversary, or family reunion)” – average of 3.77 on a 5-point scale;
  • “I use a grocery list so as to not overspend” – 3.75;
  • “Even if it’s a small amount, I can put money away each month” – 3.69;
  • “I don’t eat out as often as I would like because I don’t want to spend the money” – 3.59; and
  • “I subscribe to online streaming services (i.e. Netflix, Hulu) rather than cable because they are less expensive” – 3.59.

By contrast, the lowest levels of agreement were for the following statements:

  • “I am a member of various clubs in my community” – 2.6;
  • “I only buy name-brand clothing” – 2.67;
  • “If I have money left over at the end of a pay period, I just have to spend it” – 2.77;
  • “I regularly volunteer in my community” – 2.95; and
  • “I own the newest model/make of my gadgets; such as smart phones and wearable technology” – 2.96.

The report – which contains a wealth of educational and financial data, including levels of college education, current income, mortgages and savings, and trouble making payments – is available to download here.

About the Data: The Navient-sponsored study was conducted by Ipsos online among 3,006 adults aged 22-35 using a nationally representative sample, between July 16 and August 5, 2015.


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