Millennial money: bots, budgets and bucking the trend…

Jamie Jenkins

If you’re a ‘millennial’, you probably find yourself sighing when you are portrayed as an entitled, social media-obsessed Instagram influencer with a five-figure student debt.

And let’s not forget your passion for avocado on toast too.

But how much of this is all just a stereotype (you might not be that fond of the word millennial either)? Surely you and your friends are individuals too, just like people of every other generation, with their own qualities and strengths.

Take Kim Kataguiri. In 2018, aged just 22, he became the youngest person ever to be elected to Brazil’s Congress. He didn’t run a traditional election campaign, rather, he built a social media following, then stunned all the other candidates when his followers voted in their droves.

Mind the savings gap

One thing is certain, if you’re in your 20s or 30s you’ll need to be more resourceful and do more for yourself than the generations that came before.

That’s because household savings are very low in the UK, with less than 5% of disposable income being saved, half of what people managed in previous decades.

And if people aren’t saving enough then they will have less money to spend when times are tough, or when they need to spend on something important and exciting. Or when they finish working and retire.

Can your generation start to buck this trend?

A generation looking towards the future

It seems you already are in many ways. You hear from a lot of people in their 20s that they’re struggling to save for a house deposit – and that saving for retirement is too far away to think about.

Yet there are ways to get help onto the property ladder, such as the Lifetime ISA (Individual Savings Account) and Help to Buy ISA.

When more than 10 million people joined their workplace pensions as part of automatic enrolment, people had the choice to opt out, but only around one in ten did. For those in their 20s, it was more like one in 20. Clearly, a helping hand to save for the future does appeal.

This shift of responsibility to make people more accountable for their own savings decisions is a global trend and your generation is blazing the trail.

New, social ways to save

Some might think young people are ‘glued to their phones’ – but they’re not just taking ‘selfies’ – they’re often using apps and devices to be more innovative in how they bank, save, invest and budget.

I was talking about this ‘trailblazing’ on Money Box on Radio 4 recently. We were discussing a new app called Cleo, which offers an AI-powered chatbot for savers.

Cleo is described as a digital financial assistant that runs via Facebook’s Messenger service. You can ask it for feedback on your spending across your bank accounts and credit cards.

Not only does the chatbot pull you up for spending too much – you can share these humorous ‘tellings off’ on social media.

“How’s my vacation budget looking?”, you might ask.

“You’ve spent more on outfits than the actual trip”, Cleo might respond.

Has social media come full circle? Maybe millennials are leading after all, not following… (or just ‘liking’).

Generation save the world

That’s certainly the case when it when it comes to the planet. With climate change grabbing more and more headlines, it’s younger adults who are leading the way when it comes to thinking about how their money is invested in a way they feel comfortable with. Rightly so.

Money saved into investments can be put to work more actively now, whether through engaging with companies about their activities, or simply by investing only in companies with a strong ethical or environmental stance.

I’m Generation X – but my son Arlo, who is only 18 months old, joins the new Generation Alpha: those born in 2010 onwards.

It’s estimated that there will be 2 billion of them by 2025.

On that basis, they’ll be ruling the world one day.

Providing they save, that is.

Millennial money: 4 ways to make saving easier

  • Get ‘microsaving’ on your phone: Accounts and apps that ‘round-up’ your purchases to the nearest pound and automatically save the extra pennies, either as savings or for investing in something like an ISA. Using your phone for some tech-savvy saving can make it simple and easy to track. The Standard Life app makes it easy to manage your pension or ISA on the go.
  • Get on the property ladder with a bit of help: ISAs are a tax friendly way to save and the Lifetime ISA is one to consider if you want to buy a home, with a Government bonus to boost what you save, as long as you meet certain conditions. What’s an ISA, who are they for and when should I consider one? has more.
  • Match your money personality: If your personal values are important when it comes to saving, investing or spending, check out Good Money Week, or our article How to make money and make a difference.
  • Make your workplace pension work for you: You and your employer both save towards your future. Once it’s set up, money normally goes directly from your salary into your pension so you don’t get the chance to miss it – and it makes it easy. Read more in Pensions are changing again – and it’s good news.


Investments can go down as well as up and may be worth less than what was paid in. Laws and tax rules may change in the future and your own personal circumstances will have an impact on tax.

The links provided to external sites within this blog are for general information purposes only. Standard Life accepts no responsibility for information contained in these sites or for them being available at all times.

This article shouldn’t be taken as financial advice and is based on our understanding in June 2019.