What It's Like To Have Little Or No Savings, According To 24 Millennial Women
Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating.
At some point, you've probably been there. In fact, you may still be today: You have little or no money in your savings account. In fact, it's more common than you may think, so don't worry — you're not alone. A 2017 GoBankingRates survey found that 57 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. As for those with no savings at all, 39 percent reported they had none. For Millennials 18-24, those percentages go even higher — 67 percent have less than $1,000 saved, and 46 percent have $0. As for Millennials 25-34, 61 percent have less than $1,000 saved while 41 percent have $0. While not saving almost seems to be the norm, of sorts, saving something each week is ideal versus nothing at all. I know it may seem tough — trust me, I've been there! — but with a few money tricks of the trade, it is definitely doable!
"The biggest advantage Millennial women have on their side is time — anything that is saved today will benefit from the wonders of compound interest over time," Emily Shutt, ACC, Money Mastery Coach, tells Bustle. "Delaying even a few years can have a major negative impact on their financial future. Let's say one woman starts saving $35 per week when she's 25, investing in low-fee index funds with a seven percent return on average, which is a pretty standard assumption. She'll have over $275K saved by the time she retires at age 60, whereas her friend who started saving at age 35 (just 10 years later) would have to put more than twice as much away every single week for the next 25 years to hit the same amount in retirement. Those first 10 years are so critical because of compound interest."
How Can You Start Saving If You Barely Have Money Leftover After Paying Bills?
I know you maybe wondering how you can put away even a few dollars a week if you're just making ends meet. But Shutt says there is a way. "To start saving even a small amount of money each week is a huge first step for which your future self will thank you," she says. "To do this, take a look at last month's credit card statement and see if anything pops up that isn't giving you as much value as you'd hoped, or if there's overlap that can be eliminated. The classic example is lunches out versus packing food for the office, which adds up over time, of course, but there are other less obvious 'money leaks,' like paying for Pandora or Spotify, in addition to an Amazon Prime membership — when Amazon Prime comes with a music subscription that has almost identical features, and a lot of people don't know it's there. You probably don't need to pay for both, but it's about understanding all of the features and benefits of all the things you do buy, and how meaningful they really are in your life."
It's definitely a lot to think about, whether you reduce or cut out eating out or even skip buying as often as you do. I spoke to women who have little or no savings, and here's how they're managing.
1. Amanda, 30
"Up until recently, I was a Millennial with no savings, and my husband and I were living paycheck-to-paycheck. We did have about $5,000 in savings in 2015, but it was wiped out due to medical debt. A tip for living paycheck-to-paycheck would be making sure to pay all your bills up front so you know how much other money you have to use for the rest of the time until your next paycheck. I had started a side hustle to make ends meet. I do career consulting and help people find their dream jobs through The Color Coded Life. I also do freelance writing."
2. Anonymous, 24
"As a 24-year-old living in San Francisco and making roughly 60K a year, I have found it impossible to save. The student loans and the cost of rent in this city, as well as the cost of anything in this city, is what really breaks the bank. When I do try to save money, 99 percent of the time, it's so I can travel... and I usually pick up apart-time job in order to do so. Having to work a full-time job and a part-time job is not what I went to college for."
3. Tristan, 30
"I have no money in savings. My hubs and I spent about eight months paying off $28K in debt last year. We were planning on using 2017 to start stacking our savings account — well, it's November, and we got nothing. Why, you might ask? We spent the whole year traveling! Do I regret it? I feel like I should; I feel like it was irresponsible — but I don't think I do. We got to see and do so many cool and fun things without going back into debt and now that it's all out of our systems, we can begin saving in 2018 and start a family."
4. Rachel, 34
"I hate to admit that I have no savings and live paycheck–to-paycheck, but I'm all about living in the moment. I know saving is important, especially for emergencies or sudden medical expenses, but then you see all the people who save and save and then die of a heart attack when they're 50. For now, I'd rather live this way — if nothing else, it teaches you how to manage your money, even if it's not a lot. I figure I can always pick up a side hustle if need be."
5. Samantha, 25
"I live paycheck-to-paycheck and owe it to other women my age who are finding themselves in a similar situation to speak out. I graduated from college in 2014 and, due to substantial student loan debt, I have been struggling to make ends meet since that time. I definitely want to save someday— I'd like to be saving today, ideally — but with my student loan debt being what it is, I don't see it happening anytime soon. I'm constantly worried about never being able to afford a house, a family, and my next car when my current one inevitably gives out. But this is the reality that I, and many of my friends, are dealing with."
6. Lindsay, 23
"As a recent graduate who moved to New York City, I've found it especially tough to save. I previously lived in Boston, so it was a shock to experience a difference in cost of living once I moved to NYC. On top of the cost of living, the price tag of maintaining a social life and 'convenience' costs associated with a busy schedule (Ubers, Seamless lunches) leaves me very little room for savings. I contribute to a 401(k) account, but I do also feel like I should have a more robust financial plan in place."
7. Andrea, 24
"I try hard to save money, but it is very minimal. It is hard to save anything when I'm in an entry-level job straight out of college. Living expenses and debt payments add up quickly, and I'm left with barely anything. Work is pressuring me to open a 401(k), but honestly, retirement is the last thing I think about right now."
8. Anonymous, 28
"I've been working full-time since I graduated college almost six years ago. I've never had a period of unemployment, and even worked during my high school and college years. But somehow, my entire savings account has less than $1,000 in it. This is not because of a lush lifestyle or shopping habit — this is the reality of life in your 20s in today's world. Although I have a college degree and work my butt off at my job, getting promotions and recognition for being a valuable employee, I still only make enough to live paycheck-to-paycheck. I rarely buy myself new clothes, I don't spend money on lavish vacations, and my used car was as cheap as I could go without driving a total junker. As much as I attempt to save a small amount each month, life always has a way of changing that. This year it was medical bills, even though I have health insurance, and those took nearly every penny I’d attempted to save. This is life for most of the women that I know in my age group."
9. Carli, 26
"Between my student loans, getting married at 23, and living in NYC, my savings account has always been strained. Saving sometimes seems impossible. As soon as I've built up a little in savings, it seems like I end up putting it all towards my student loans, moving to a new apartment, or traveling to see family."
10. Jenn, 23
"Every time I feel like I'm ready to start saving, something comes up — holidays, I need money for my car, apartment, student loans, etc. — so then the savings gets pushed off to another paycheck, and another, and on and on. Plus, being a single 23-year-old, all my family keeps telling me is "to enjoy your life while you can," or until you settle down and have kids. I've always just thought that once I found that special someone, we'd start saving together for a house and retirement (grownup things), so until then, I'd just spend my money on traveling and having a good time being a young 20-something."
11. Emily, 22
"A lot of my friends, my boyfriend included, moved home after college to save money instead of spending it on rent. My parents divorced and moved while I was in college, so moving 'home' wasn't really an option for me. I was lucky enough to find a job in line with my career path, so even though it's entry-level and doesn't leave much room for saving, I took it to have some financial stability. I had more money in savings, but moving was way more expensive than I'd budgeted for — even though I only moved an hour away from my college town!"
12. Anonymous, 27
"I live on Long Island in NY. Like many of my peers on Long Island, the insane rental costs and cost of living, we struggle to make ends meet — it's hard to save when there’s nothing left. Looking to our financial future is the last thing on our minds when we wonder how we're going to pay rent next week. I used to have savings that I would use on my car for insurance and repairs, but after leaving my original field (education) and spending almost a year bouncing between unemployment benefits (which was only enough to cover my rent and a few bills, let alone gas to go to interviews, food, and other amenities) and dead-end, low-paying jobs, I finally got a stable job in marketing. By the time I started my position,my savings was non-existent. It took me six months of scraping what little money I had left over from my paycheck just to pay down my credit card, which I had to use during my instability just to stay afloat. I think it's safe to say we would all love to be able to put money away, but with the insane rent costs on Long Island and disproportionate wages compared to the living expenses, it's impossible."
13. Lakiesha, 30
"Unfortunately, I don't have anything in my savings. I've had savings at one point that probably had about $1,500 in it. I think it boils down to my relationship with money. I'm learning to respect it now, but prior to, I would let money slip through my hands like water. I work full-time and have a private practice. I honestly feel like I don't make enough for what I do, all while trying to take care of two children on an annual salary of $46, 000, while getting out of debt from school and other bills."
14. Bobbi, 30
"I don't have savings. I'm a lifestyle and travel photographer, and a freelance event marketing manager. I will preface this with I am single and do not have any children. There are times, with the ebbs and flow of business, where the going is great, and then others where you are waiting for that direct deposit to hit from an event or photo work any day. It always works out, and I have faith that I will always have enough (even when there's $20 in my bank account). For many, this freelance lifestyle is not for them because they get worried wondering where and when the next check is going to come. For me, I find myself grafting to this lifestyle and love the roller coaster feel of it (traveling, doing what I love, and working outside of the confines of traditional offices). There is always the comparison that many draw: Do you worry or what if something were to happen? My philosophy is that there is always enough out there to sustain all of us. Will things change as I continue to age? Probably. But right now at this moment and time, this fits my lifestyle and needs."
15. Ella, 24
"I just find it hard to save when part-time job salaries aren't that high. I'm still in university, but I want the newest iPhone, the nicest shoes, and to hit up the next destination — especially the traveling and the life experiences. I'm young now — when else would I be able to enjoy those things?"
16. Lindsay, 30
"I don't save as much as I'd like to, and even though I have a savings account, it hasn't grown much the past few years. Plus, I find if I keep my money in there, I'm actually more likely to spend it, since I know I have it available. Instead, I’m a big proponent of the 'envelope method' of saving money I'm OK spending — each week I withdraw some cash and put it into different envelopes: one for an upcoming trip, one for general couple activities, and one for girl's night out or shopping excursions. This way, I still have money to have fun with, without touching my savings."
17. Kathryn, 27
"There are two reasons why it's tough me for the save: lack of a full-time job and student loan debt. I work two jobs just to pay off my loans from undergrad and graduate schools, so it's tough to save anything when you’re trying to pay down debt. And as for the future, I would love to save because I'd like to have some sort of safety net to fall back on — I just need to land a better paying job to do so."
18. Christine, 28
"Despite working full-time and having a number of side hustles for seven years, I am rarely able to keep money in my savings account. My expenses (car payment, student loans, rent, insurance), eat up the majority of my paychecks, even with my fairly frugal lifestyle. When I do accrue a couple hundred dollars in my savings, I tend to run into an emergency: car repairs, vet bills, etc., and the balance is quickly depleted. I try very hard to live within my means, while still being able to enjoy myself (just went on my first vacation in three years — a weekend road trip to the beach). I have big savings goals: buying a house and saving for retirement, but I'm worried about how I'll ever get there if I can't even save up an emergency fund."
19. Alison, 27
"I'm a Millennial woman with a physical disability. I receive Social Security Income every month and make some money as an independent public relations practitioner. I had a 'savings' account with my bank account, but after a certain amount of money was 'saved,' there was some kind of fee that made it go negative. I brought it up to someone there, and they deactivated that account. As someone who receives SSI, they penalize recipients if our bank account goes over $2,000. If I lost receiving SSI money, then I would lose my insurance because I'd be making 'too much money.'"
20. Brenda, 26
"Right now, I have $30 in the bank and can't wait until pay day. I work full time, but find that NYC living costs leave me living paycheck-to-paycheck. I try to find ways to take advantage of NYC's free entertainment, so I can still feel like I'm enjoying myself and doing new things while on a budget. Also, I subscribe to MoviePass, which is $9.95 a month and lets me see up to one movie a day! A couple of my friends have it now, too, so when we decide to go to the movies, it feels pretty much free. I also love to eat good, organic food, but going out to eat costs four times more, especially with alcohol. Instead, I'll grab a bottle of wine and great ingredients and cook a fancy meal at home with friends."
21. Caroline, 25
"I have little or no savings. Well, that's because my husband and I bought a foreclosure this year to try to invest in our future, and the closing costs drained our saving. Plus, repairs have been enormously expensive, even though we are doing much of it ourselves. My husband has about $130k in student loan debt, so I have to shoulder a little more of the bills to make it work. I know it's temporary, so my mental alarm bells won't be set off if I can start saving next year. Fingers crossed."
22. Heather, 30
"I've been with my husband for 11 years and I've followed him around as he has built his career. I attended college, but was in and out of the workforce because I had to accommodate his job and our son! I am just now entering the workforce full-time and have nothing saved, and chances are I will barely be able to after I pay student loans. If anything ever happened to us, I would be screwed because I don't make enough money and have nothing saved."
23. Aliah, 22
"Saving money was really easy for me until I graduated, but daily expenses are really keeping me from holding onto cash when what I make goes directly to things I need immediately. My savings are very low these days for four reasons. 1) I work part time at [a clothing store], love the store, but for the entire month of October, I only worked about 30-40 hours (but still had to pay for things with my own money, of course). 2) I am in a wedding in December and bridesmaid attire is not cheap at all, especially when I wasn't getting a lot of hours at the store. 3) After graduating from college, I was very determined to work in a gallery. I was a studio art major, and couldn't get the job I wanted for about three months. 4) And lastly, I'm currently interning at two locations without pay, which is also an expense, but necessary to get the experience required to get the jobs I want."
24. Jenn, 23
"The pressure to go out and be social as a 20-something is serious, and with going out means spending money. I'd like to think I spend more money on buying clothes or something more important, but the truth is that I spend more money on food and drinks every weekend than anything else. I always have the goal in mind that I won't spend too much on drinks, but then once I'm out and I see all of my friends start to spend on the $12+ drinks, it's like the pressure is set to do exactly what they're doing. My family likes to say I have Champagne taste on a beer budget, and they're exactly right — and literally correct! Besides the stressfulness of being social, instant gratification is my weakness. If a boy breaks my heart or I've had a rough day at work, somehow, moments later, I'm in the middle of Target buying things I didn't know I needed or I'm on my computer booking a vacation — buying makes me feel better, and all plans of saving have quickly run out the door."
How To Start Saving Money
You may still be brainstorming ways to start saving money each week, and fellow Millennial Jennifer McDermott, Consumer Advocate at finder.com, has some ideas. "You can start small by setting yourself a budget, tracking your expenses and identifying areas where you can reduce your spending," she tells Bustle. "It's also crucial to pay off any outstanding debt you may have — anything from student and auto loans to mortgages. Consolidating your debt into a balance transfer credit card is a great starting point, as this may result in lower interest charges. An important factor to remember is that starting out is more often than not the most difficult part of your savings journey. It may seem like the road to nowhere, but making a few key changes in your financial life can set yourself up the right way. Remember, all savings are good savings, no matter how small."
If you could relate to some of the stories above, hopefully you've also thought of ways you can reduce your spending and put that money towards saving. After all, every dollar counts.