Martinez leaves with a new rim liner on the wheel
of his bike with assistance of the Bicycle Kitchen
in Los Angeles, California, on May 14, 2013. The
nonprofit group helps folks with battered bikes,
providing spare parts and elbow grease, and
dovetailing with the millennial generation's
penchant for thrift.
by the posh shops of Los Angeles’ Beverly Center, Tim
Ratliff said no — he didn’t have a credit card. He
didn’t need one.
just hear so many horror stories about people being in
debt," said Ratliff, 21, who studies psychology at
Ohio State University. "When you have a credit
card, you feel like you have a lot of money when you don’t."
is like many young adults, emerging data show. His
generation, dubbed millennials by academics and
marketers, grew up during the boom and bust cycles of
the U.S. economy over the last decade and a half —
crises that appear to have reshaped their attitudes
toward spending and debt.
who range from teenagers to people in their early 30s,
are more financially cautious than the stereotype of the
spendthrift twenty-something, several studies suggest.
Many embrace thrift.
experts say their habits echo those of another
generation, those who came of age during the Great
Depression and forged lifelong habits of scrimping and
saving — along with a suspicion of financial risk.
generations had a childhood memory of wealth and then
saw that wealth yanked out from under them" in or
around their teenage years, said Morley Winograd, who
has co-written several books on the millennial
generation. Though the pain was much more severe during
the Depression, "Both generations are very
conservative spenders," Winograd said.
the economic downturn, while older households ran up
credit card debt, younger households whittled it down, a
Pew Research Center analysis of federal data found
earlier this year.
young households had no credit card debt in 2010 than
was the case in 2001, the data show. Among those who did
owe on their credit cards, the median amount fell from
roughly $2,500 to less than $1,700.
Garcia, 30, said she gave up her credit card seven years
ago. "The fees — they get you," said Garcia,
a mother studying Web development at Los Angeles Harbor
College. Her attitude these days is, "If I can do
without it, I’ll do without it."
studies hint that Garcia is not alone in that attitude:
Young adults were less likely to report using a credit
card for everyday expenses than the average adult, a
National Foundation for Credit Counseling survey found.
Another survey from the Corporate Executive Board, a
business advisory company, found that millennials with
credit card debt feel worse about it than older adults
keenly aware that the decisions made by their parents,
politically and economically, have put them behind the
eight ball," said Michael D’Antonio, co-author of
"Spend Shift," which draws upon an
international opinion survey about values and spending.
"This is the screwed generation — and I think
they know it."
young adults have forgone big purchases. Millennials buy
fewer cars and own fewer homes, federal data show.
cook from scratch more often than older adults, are more
likely to try homemade beauty treatments, and are more
apt to use coupons to find deals, the market research
firm Information Resources Inc. found in a survey last
recent years, Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveal,
young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 spent less
annually on entertainment than those ages 65 to 74.
as they cut back on spending, millennials started saving
for retirement earlier than older generations, according
to studies by Merrill Edge, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade
not that we’re more pious about saving money,"
said Nona Willis Aronowitz, a 28-year-old Pipeline
fellow with the progressive Roosevelt Institute who
writes about generational issues. "It’s more that
we have no idea what the future looks like. We’re not
sure if we’ll have our jobs in six months."
added that many millennials who went to college also are
burdened by ballooning student loans, making them loath
to load up more debt.
despite their thinned wallets, young adults were more
likely than any other group — including households
making $90,000 or more — to say they were happy with
their standard of living, a Gallup survey found two
years ago. In another Gallup survey last month, they
were more likely than adults ages 30 to 64 to say that
their financial situation was good or excellent —
which nearly half of them asserted.
some quarters, thrift has become cool, reflected in the
do-it-yourself stylings of hipsters and economical new
applications and websites.
a kid, if you had a patch on your jeans it wasn’t cool
— people made fun of me," said Jonaya Kemper, a
27-year-old preschool teacher who grows her own
vegetables and sews her own sundresses. "Now they
ask, ‘Can you teach me?’ "
STORY CAN END HERE)
a recent Monday night, Kemper was learning to adjust
brakes at the Bicycle Kitchen, a Silver Lake nonprofit
group that tends to battered bikes with spare parts and
elbow grease. Across the room, a friendly, tattooed
volunteer showed a 13-year-old and her mother how to
shorten the chain on a long-neglected bicycle. Kemper
was fixing up a bike handed off to her by a friend.
$600 or $700 for a bike — it’s ridiculous,"
Kemper said. As for repairs, "If I can’t fix it
myself, I won’t own it. I don’t own a car. I would
want to know how to fix it myself."
Internet has provided more ways to save. Carless
millennials can grab rides with Lyft, a ridesharing
service known for its discount rates and the cheeky pink
mustaches gracing its cars. Those short on cash can pick
up a camping tent or a blender by logging onto
NeighborGoods, a Los Angeles-based startup that helps
people borrow items from neighbors and friends.
recession made thrift cool," said Micki Krimmel,
the 35-year-old founder and chief executive of
NeighborGoods, which has nearly 30,000 members of all
Los Angeles, twenty- and thirty-somethings flock to
classes to craft chandeliers out of Mason jars or
salvage old clothes with a bit of sewing at the
Classroom LA. They fork over upward of $150 to learn to
make garden benches, wooden spoons or electric ukuleles
at Knowhow Shop, a warehouse equipped with saws and a
the price of such classes underscores, young adults are
still willing to spend, but they think carefully about
value before buying, marketing groups say. At the
grocery store, they give generic brands a chance but
will also pay more for organic or local foods, the
Hartman Group consumer trends consultancy found.
looking for, ‘What’s the best investment for the
dollar I have?’ " said Tina Wells, CEO and
founder of Buzz Marketing Group, which studies
caution that many in this generation may not be thrifty
by choice. Nearly 1 in 4 young adults surveyed by the
National Foundation for Credit Counseling said they had
applied for a credit card in the previous year; more
than half as many were rejected. Fewer college students
reported owning credit cards at all after a federal law
made it tougher to issue them to consumers under 21,
Sallie Mae and Ipsos found.
warn debt could still be trouble for strapped
millennials. An earlier Ohio State University study that
included roughly 300 young adults projected that while
they owed less on credit cards, they repaid it so slowly
that they could face far deeper debt than their parents
and grandparents in the future.
is wary of that risk. Maybe a credit card is in his
future. But the Ohio State student sees using one as
"a last-resort kind of thing."
don’t want to put myself in a situation of being
crushed," he said.