In Addition To Age, Millennials Differ In Many Ways

As part of our recent focus on wealth, our previous two columns — "Millennials Are The Future, But Boomers Are Today" and "Gen X Is The Generation That Affluent Marketers Can’t Afford To Ignore" — addressed where household income and wealth currently reside among upscale consumers. Plus, for the first time, we also included mass-market consumers in order to provide affluent marketers with a benchmark of the rest of America, which is often one of their target markets.

These two columns led a number of readers to question what we believe differentiates the Millennials as far as affluent marketers are concerned. In that regard, we're nowaddressing this specific question by focusing on how some demographic characteristics differentiate them from the Boomers and the Gen X'ers. Millennials are definitely the generation that affluent marketers cannot afford to ignore based solely on their numbers, but how valuable they will be to affluent marketers depends on three uncontrollable factors: 1) how the economy evolves, which will determine how much they eventually earn and how much wealth they accumulate (the ways marketers define affluence); 2) how many eventually marry or partner; and 3) how many have children, which materially changes how affluent adults spend their earnings and wealth.



Following are recent statistics from the Bureau of the Census for American adult generations showing the percentage of each that are currently married and the percentage that currently have children younger than 18 living in their households. The estimated number of adults in each group, again based on Census statistics, follows the generation's name.

Generation (size) % Married % With Children Under 18

All Adults (236.9 million)

Millennials (67.9 million) 28 45

Gen-X (60.4 million) 64 63

Baby Boomers (74.9 million) 66 19

Seniors (33.7 million) 55 6

Notably, of the 68 million Millennials, who now range in age from 18 to 33, about one quarter (28%) are married, but a good number already have children in the household, perhaps through partnerships that the Census doesn’t characterize as marriage. Of course, some of these Millennials with children in their households are actually siblings. But we don't know how many of the Millennials will eventually get married or form partnerships and then have children, which changes their primary focus to their families.

A further look at the Millennial generation reveals the following that is of importance to marketers: 

  • About 6 million of the Millennials currently are truly affluent (they either live in households with household incomes of $250,000+ or their personal net worth is $1 million or more);
  • The Millennials' share of total estimated net worth dollars (21%) currently ranks third of all the generations (Boomers are in first place for this metric);
  • The Millennials' share of total personal income dollars (18%) again ranks third of all the generations (Boomers again are in first place in this metric).

For marketers targeting upscale, affluent Millennials (those with household incomes of $250,000+ or personal net worth of $1 million or more):

  • 45% of these Millennials are focused on either becoming or remaining financially independent, while only 6% are currently focused on providing for their children's college expenses (these are their #1 financial goals);
  • Finally, regarding their spending plans for the near future, upscale, affluent Millennials have traveling for pleasure in their plans (86%), while three quarters (76%) plan to buy one or more luxuries (with 44% planning to buy fine jewelry which is their #1 planned luxury purchase).

Given that the Millennial generation as a whole currently ranks third out of four of all the generations regarding share of household income and net worth, it would be wise for those who market to them to keep abreast of how many in this valuable target market are getting married or partnered and how many are having children. Even as marketers cultivate and engage Millennials, they shouldn't ignore the older adults — especially the upscale and affluent ones.

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