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How Millennials Spend Their Money (Hint: Experiences Trump Possessions)

Originally posted on Forbes.

A good chunk of my client base consists of millennials who have tough relationships with money… And for good reason. They want it, they know it’s out there, but they feel like they never have enough of it. They want to find their dream job, but they know they need to pay the bills, and they’re trying to figure out how (or even if) they can have both. (Hint: they can!)

I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve lived it, and I see it every day in my work. Millennials have really been dealt a tough hand. They came of age during the worst recession our nation has experienced in decades, and they’re still shouldering an immense amount of student loan debt. They’re putting off marriage to avoid the expense of the wedding. They aren’t buying cars and homes at the rates that prior generations have, instead opting for car-sharing programs and group homes or staying with mom and dad. While they’re doing relatively well at planning for retirement, they’re not investing in the stock market like older generations.

Millennials have had access to much less money than prior generations due to unemployment levels and low salaries, so they’ve had to be strategic about how they manage their finances and prioritize their spending. One thing that they’re willing to spend their money on, though, is travel. In a recent survey, 70% percent of respondents said that funding travel is a motivation to work, second only to paying for basic necessities.  Millennials tend to value experiences over owning things. It makes sense, given that millennials are the most social and connected generation yet.

Millennials tend to define themselves by their experiences more so than other qualities or factors, so it comes as no surprise that funding experiences is a high priority for them. And it’s not just travel and cultural experiences that are attractive to millennials. They value all sorts of experiences—live performances, sporting events, concerts, and other social events—much more than they value possessions or even achieving a particular career status.

That doesn’t mean, though, that millennials aren’t focused on their careers. They are, very much so. They’re passionate about the work they do, and they want to make a difference. But they aren’t defined by their careers the way that, say, the baby boomers were—which makes sense, considering most of the employees in that generation stayed with the same employer for 20-30 years. Millennials, who tend to job hop and even change careers much more frequently than baby boomers and even generation X, view their careers are just one piece of the complex puzzle of that makes them who they are.

This is a generation of people who know what they want and are committed to getting it. So if marketers want to sell a product to a millennial, focus the marketing around it as more of an experience than a possession. More importantly, though, employers need to understand that for millennials, experiences top the list of how they prioritize not only how they spend their money but also their time, so finding fulfilling work is as important as the salary to them. Millennial clients often come to me discouraged by their salary levels and unfulfilled at work, but it doesn’t take long for them to see that finding a dream job with a solid salary isn’t just a pipe dream, it’s a goal well within their grasp.

And the employers who are willing to offer both in exchange for stellar employees are reaping the rewards.

Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.

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