If You're a Young Adult, See Where You Spend Money

Throughout 2019, young adults spent their money in ways you may not expect. Lifestyle often takes priority. Remember, not all have the same economic circumstances, and the world is a different place than the one their parents grew up in. So, some of these trends may seem contradictory because they depend on the circumstances of the young adult. Here are some of the most prevalent.

Organic and Natural Food

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Young adults are choosing organic—at least for some products. Parents ages 18 to 35 are the biggest group of organic food buyers in the U.S., according to the Organic Trade Association. This tilt toward organic will continue to grow as more young adults start families and want the healthiest and freshest foods available for their little ones—and for themselves. Organic food is going mainstream.

Craft Beer and Canned Wine

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Young adults aren't drinking as much beer as generations before them, but when they do drink beer, it's got to be special. Craft beers with unique flavors and names and made by smaller breweries represent 12% of all beers sold, reports the Brewers Association.


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Housing eats up a big portion of most young adults' income, with a majority spending more than 30% of their take-home pay on a place to live. Unlike their boomer parents, who were advised to spend no more than a quarter of their income on housing, millennials don't have that option in many places. Most landlords won't accept renters who can't meet that 30% threshold, and yet there are still 20% of millennials who are spending over half of their income to put a roof over their heads.

Homeownership is a goal for many, but not a priority. Though a home is a good investment, young adults are resistant to adding more expenses to their already hard-to-manage budgets, and so put off making such a big purchase.

Student Loans

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One of the largest expenses for many young adults—especially new college graduates with low-paying jobs—is student loans. Student loans are a crushing debt for many and get in the way of starting to save for retirement, purchase a home, or start a family

In 2019, the volume of outstanding student loan debt exceeded the combined national auto loan and credit card debt levels. The average loan size is currently $39,351.

Savings and Investments

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Despite spending way too much on coffee drinks and eating out, young adults are managing to squirrel away money. Overall, millennials are saving starting at age 24, while their Baby Boomer parents started around age 33. How are young adults putting away all that cash? They are using company savings plans—401(k)s with matching are extremely appealing to forward-thinking young adults. Starting early is a great way to begin to grow a nest egg for the future.


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Young adults are finding ways to give back that are meaningful to them and practical, too. They favor companies that offer a chance to buy things they need, yet donate a portion of the purchase to help others.

Restaurant fundraisers are one of the favorite ways for young adults to enjoy themselves and do something philanthropic. Almost 50% of millennials will buy something to support a cause they believe in, and 37% will pay a little extra for an item or experience in support of an organization they feel is worthy.


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Never has travel been more personalized and accessible than it is now, and young adults are taking advantage of that. With the rapid rise of home-sharing, mobile offices that offer the opportunity to work from anywhere, and discount airfares for savvy buyers, young adults are seeing the world with as much ease and as little expense as possible. According to a study by research firm GfK for Airbnb, travel comes in second only to saving money as a priority. As millennials postpone traditional milestones like marriage and children, the opportunities for indulging their wanderlust grow. 


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One thing millennials show no regret about spending money on is fitness. From a pricey spin class to a pair of high-end running shoes, they are willing to pay top dollar to get the best quality equipment and experience. While they may be saving money by not paying for basics that boomers do—such as landline phones, cable TV, and their own cars—for most young adults, following trends and trying out different fitness experiences is both fun and good for their health. 


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Healthcare for some young adults is an expense that can break the bank. Many millennials are working at jobs that don't provide healthcare coverage, and an individual plan can run upwards of $300 per month or more. Even with a group health plan, deductibles can cost enough to keep young adults from seeing specialists.

Factor in the cost of medications such as birth control, allergy treatment, anti-depressants, or other types of medicine young adults may be taking, and healthcare becomes a seriously expensive part of their budget. When young adults start families, their healthcare expenses go up with each new baby. Those ages 19 to 34 represent about 12% of all medical spending.