By Valencia Higuera, Contributor
Just about everyone has an opinion about the millennial generation, which includes about 80 million people born between approximately 1982 and 2002. And, unfortunately, opinions aren't all positive. If anything, millennials receive the baddest rap of all generations. Sure, they're a diverse, social and tech-savvy generation. But at the same time, there's no shortage of stereotypes attached to these young adults. They're often described as pampered, lazy and entitled. And, with regard to personal finances, many believe millennials don't have a firm grip on their money, largely due to present economic conditions.
It's true that some millennials find it harder to save and balance their money in the aftermath of the recession, and many have been impacted by the lack of available jobs. But this doesn't mean the generation is financially doomed. In fact, research shows that many commonly held beliefs about millennials and their money just aren't true.
1. They're selfish with their money.
Judging by the number of selfies this generation posts on social media sites, millennials are the "me" generation -- and often labeled as narcissists. However, this generation isn't overly self-absorbed and only concerned with themselves. According to data compiled by the Nielsen Company, "three-quarters of millennials made a financial gift to a non-profit in 2011." Additionally, "63 percent of millennials feel it is their responsibility to care for an elderly parent, compared with only 55 percent of boomers."
2. They don't care about their personal finances.
There's plenty of data that suggests otherwise. A 2013 Wells Fargo survey found that more than half of millennials (about 54 percent) say debt is their "biggest financial concern." And according to a recent Fidelity study, 39 percent of millennials worry about their financial future "at least once a week." Contrary to what some people believe, this generation isn't sitting around with their heads stuck in the sand. They're regrouping and making adjustments in the wake of the Great Recession -- just like every other generation.
3. They're all happily insured.
Health care reform gave millennials who otherwise couldn't get health insurance access to coverage, and given that the Affordable Care Acts requires everyone to purchase insurance, some might conclude that millennials now have the insurance they need -- but this isn't the case. A survey by Princeton Survey Research Associates International revealed 24 percent of Americans age 18 to 29 don't have health insurance.
There are several possible reasons behind the lack of coverage, such as the inability to afford it due to high student loan debt and modest salaries. Millennials are also less likely to carry other types of coverage, such as life, renter's and disability insurance.
4. They spend money irresponsibly.
Believe it or not, this is a deal-conscious generation. Although millennials are more likely to make an impulse purchase, they're careful about how they spend their money. The Nielsen Company survey reports that "deals account for 31 percent of their shopping dollars." Additionally, "the top 20 apps used by millennials are either retail or discount focused, with Amazon Mobile and Groupon topping the charts."
5. They're all broke.
Living paycheck to paycheck isn't a foreign concept for many millennials, but don't feel sorry for this generation as a whole. Although the Nielsen survey says "younger Millennials have a median household income of $24,973 -- roughly half the overall median income of $49,297," millennials are the most educated generation, and therefore more likely to enjoy higher earnings as the economy and job market improves. The survey also found that "millennials make up 14.7 percent of those with assets beyond $2 million, just behind boomers," and "roughly 8 percent have their own businesses."
6. They want the American Dream.
Everyone wants a four-bedroom house in suburban American with a white picket fence, right? Home buying might have been item No. 1 on the to-do list of boomers and Gen X, but many millennials are taking their time.
Approximately two-thirds of millennials rent; they're also more likely to live with relatives or a roommate. What's more, in 2011,"14 percent of millennial homeowners went back to renting compared with 4 percent of the general homeowner population," per the Nielsen survey. Whether millennials choose to rent or buy, urban living seems to be more attractive than suburban life. About 62 percent of millennials prefer living in urban settings where everything is within close proximity -- home, office, entertainment, shopping and restaurants.
7. They have unrealistic expectations.
At present, millennials might not earn as much as they would like, they might struggle with student debt, have no health insurance and keep limited funds in their retirement accounts -- but overall, they're optimistic about their financial future. It might take longer to achieve what their parents have, but they're not giving up.
About 67 percent of millennials think they'll ultimately achieve a better standard of living than their parents, according to the Wells Fargo survey. In addition to this outlook, "half of millennials say they're confident in their own abilities to earn and save money for their financial future."
Photo credit: Tax Credits