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What savings? Survey says millennials not thinking about financial goals, but Grand Forks bankers aren't noticing that trend

Business woman standing in front of a blackboard with a financial chart

A national credit union survey suggests millennials are getting worse at planning for their financial future, but that trend doesn't seem to apply to banks in Grand Forks, finance advisers said.

The number of millennials surveyed ages 18 to 34 thinking about their financial goals has dropped by a third since 2015, according to the study commissioned by the Navy Federal Credit Union. Only 37 percent of the nearly 1,600 millennials surveyed this year have thought about financial goals, a drop from 52 percent in 2015, the study said. Even fewer—28 percent—have started to save for retirement.

But bankers such as Jeff Peterson, regional leader at Gate City Bank in Grand Forks, aren't noticing that trend in the area. The number of 20 year olds coming in asking for financial advice has stayed consistent over the last several years, he said.

"We actually see quite an interest in young people, and they are very aware of retirement and the dollars it takes to retire," said Peterson, who has been with Gate City for 35 years. "We have customers that we have helped out and now their children and grandchildren are coming in."

More findings

The survey sampled participants with online questions focusing on confidence in financial planning. The main takeaways appeared to center around a lack or dissatisfaction with financial situations.

"Most millennials ... are unsatisfied with their financial situation, and as a result are delaying life events and financial commitments, like buying a home and saving for retirement," a summary of the study said.

The group surveyed tended to prioritize paying down debt, the study said.

"Millennials have the right attitude when it comes to their finances," Katie Miller, senior vice president of membership for the Navy Federal Credit Union, said. "Nine out of 10 millennials say savings is a top priority. And more than half of millennials are hopeful about the economy and their ability to save more this year."

Millennials are the most educated generation in history, according to the study. More than 64 percent of the group had a four-year degree, compared with 52 percent or less for other generations. Also, 73 percent of the surveyed millennials were optimistic about their financial future, saying they were on track to meet financial goals in time.

Still, nearly half of the survey participants neglected their finances.

Looking back at other generations, people in their 20s are not typically thinking about savings for retirement or investing, said Brian Kraft, an investment consultant for Alerus Financial in Grand Forks. But he argued millennials are more aware of financing, investments and saving for retirement since they have access to more technology than previous generations.

More companies have retirement plans than before, so millennials are forced to make decisions about their financial futures, he said.

Millennials tend to do their own research instead of seeking out financial advisers or professional help, according to the survey. Kraft concurred with that finding.

"The millennial generation, to me, seems to be very tech savvy and wanting to do things on their own," he said. "We think that about everything, whether it is buying a TV or whatever it happens to be. I can just do it myself. I can go on the Internet, I'll read about it and I'll figure it out."

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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