Saving is an important part of financial responsibility. It’s also a necessary component of gathering down payment funds. The up-and-coming generation of first-time homebuyers, known collectively as Generation Y or Millennials, do not have the best reputation for financial success.

But a recent report shows this poor reputation may not be entirely deserved.

Bank of America surveyed U.S. adults between the ages of 23 and 37 and found:

  • 47% have at least $15,000 in savings in 2017, up from 33% in 2015; and
  • 16% have at least $100,000 in savings in 2017, up from 8% in 2015.

Further, 67% of Millennials surveyed report sticking to their saving goals each month.

What are Millennials saving up for? The survey says they’re saving for:

  • an emergency fund;
  • retirement; and
  • buying a house.

However, Millennials don’t always save together. Of the married couples who took the survey, 28% report keeping their finances separate from their spouse. In contrast, just 11% of Generation X couples and 13% of Baby Boomer couples keep their finances separate.

35% of Millennials report that not saving enough is their top financial stressor. This is followed by their career path (24%), not saving enough for retirement (21%) and not being able to qualify to buy a home (20%).

It’s easy to understand why Millennials are so stressed about saving. They came of age during the worst financial crisis and recession since the Great Depression. Many saw their parents lose homes to foreclosure and many more are stuck with crippling student debt loads taken on during the long recession.

All this stress is paying off in the form of large savings — but is it enough?

Savings remain near historic lows

Nationally and across all adult age groups, the percentage of money individuals set aside in savings dipped to its lowest point in years at the end of 2017, to 2.7% of disposable personal income. The last time savings were this low was when homebuyer confidence was highest, right before the 2008 recession hit.

For comparison, today’s very low 2.7% savings rate is down from the recent peak of around 9% in 2012.

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Low savings are the result of several factors working against the savings rate, including:

  • the inability of renters and homeowners to save as housing costs outpace incomes (especially true in California); and
  • the lack of interest in saving due to high confidence in the economy.

Further, savvy investors refuse to keep more than the bare minimum in savings accounts. That’s because savings accounts offer a low interest rate — usually around 1% — which doesn’t even keep up with inflation.

Saving alternatives include certificates of deposit (CDs) and bond funds, which offer slightly higher interest rates. These are good ways to save up for a down payment since these require the saver to commit to saving their money for a certain number of months or years before withdrawing and have penalties for withdrawing money early.

For savers with a more diverse set of financial goals, setting up dedicated retirement and college accounts offer higher rates of return, as well as tax benefits.

While overall savings remain low in 2018, Millennials are turning it around. As this generation sets their sight on homeownership, their smart saving strategies today will pay off big for the housing market in the coming years.

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