6 in 10 Millennials Postponed Financial Milestones Due to COVID-19

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Updated on Thursday, July 9, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has turned many lives upside down, from immense job loss to the postponement of major life milestones like buying a home or getting married. In fact, a new survey by MagnifyMoney found that almost half of Americans have had to postpone a milestone due to the pandemic.

We asked Americans whether they had to put off any financial milestones because of the COVID-19 outbreak. While many answered yes, their milestones and reasons for postponement varied greatly. Some respondents even met their milestones sooner.

Key findings

  • Nearly 50% of consumers have postponed financial milestones due to the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Most commonly, Americans had to postpone buying a car (14%), buying a home (13%) and paying off debt (11%).
  • Nearly 6 out of every 10 millennial respondents have had to postpone a financial milestone.
    • The next hardest-hit generation was Gen Z, of whom 55% faced postponements, followed by 50% of Gen X. Just 27% of baby boomers postponed a milestone.
  • The most commonly postponed milestones varied by generation.
    • Gen Z and millennials were more likely to put off buying a home (15% and 18%, respectively), while buying a new car was the top milestone postponed by Gen X and baby boomers (16% and 9%, respectively).
  • Two-thirds of those who were furloughed or laid off due to the pandemic have postponed a financial milestone, compared with just 27% of those whose income was not impacted.
    • However, those who kept their jobs but saw their salary or hours cut were actually the most likely to put off a milestone, at 72%.
  • Almost half (49%) of those who postponed a milestone still expect to reach that goal before 2020 is over, with an optimistic 13% hoping to reach it by the end of the summer.
    • Meanwhile, 28% think they’ll meet their milestone instead in 2021, and 10% said their milestone is on hold until at least 2022. A little over 1% believe they’ll never reach their milestone.
  • On the other hand, 29% of consumers have reached a financial milestone sooner due to the pandemic environment.
    • Of this group, most respondents bought a house earlier than planned (8%), followed by paying off debt earlier (5%) and getting engaged earlier (4%).
    • The largest group of respondents (28%) cited additional income from the CARES Act relief check as the main reason for reaching their milestone sooner.
    • It’s worth noting that for each milestone, the percentage of respondents who met them sooner was still less than the percentage who postponed them.

Who is getting hit the hardest?

By generation, millennials and Gen Zers are getting hit the hardest when it comes to postponing milestones. These two generations had the highest percentages of postponements for each of four different milestones.

  • Mostly millennials were forced to postpone buying a house, getting married, having a baby and going to college or graduate school.
  • Meanwhile, mostly Gen Z said they’d postponed getting engaged along with getting a house, moving out of their current city, changing jobs and retiring.
  • Gen X got hit the hardest when it came to buying a car and paying off debt.
  • Baby boomers, on the other hand, were largely unbothered by postponed milestones. Almost 75% of baby boomers didn’t have to postpone a milestone. The largest percentage that was affected (9%) had to delay buying a car.

Consumers’ likelihood of postponing financial milestones due to the coronavirus pandemic varied little by income.

  • About half of those making between $50,000 and $99,999 per year had to put off a money-related goal, as did 56% of those whose annual income is between $25,000 and $49,999 and 49% of those earning $100,000 or more.
  • On the other hand, just 42% of consumers making less than $25,000 postponed a milestone, which is the lowest number of any income bracket.

More than a tenth of those whose salary or hours were reduced due to the pandemic have now put off finding a new job.

  • This compares with the mere 4% of those whose income wasn’t impacted at all.

While most of our respondents haven’t had to put off getting married, many know couples who did.

  • A quarter of survey respondents have been invited to a wedding that’s now been postponed, canceled or turned into a virtual event. That jumps to 31% of millennial participants.

Financial turbulence due to the pandemic postponed milestones

On the whole, respondents marked loss of income and general economic uncertainty as their main reasons for postponing milestones.

By generation, Gen X was most likely to worry about these top two reasons, with 38% affected by loss of income and 37% citing general economic uncertainty.

  • Millennials closely followed in these categories, with 36% of those affected citing loss of income and 33% pointing to general economic uncertainty.
  • Meanwhile, mostly Gen Z cited health reasons and shifting priorities as their main reasons for postponing milestones.

Respondents who make less than $25,000 per year were most likely to be affected by loss of income, at 48%. The next most affected cohort (45%) was those who earn between $35,000 and $49,999.

  • Those who make $75,000 and over were more concerned with general economic uncertainty.
  • Of all income levels, those who earned $100,000 or more cited health reasons as their main reason for milestone postponement.

Methodology

MagnifyMoney commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,020 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. We defined generations as the following ages in 2020:

  • Gen Z are ages 18 to 23
  • Millennials are ages 24 to 39
  • Gen X are ages 40 to 54
  • Baby boomers are ages 55 to 74

The survey was fielded June 12-15, 2020.