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Millennial Financial Confidence and Social Media

6037 words (24 pages) Essay in Finance

26/02/19 Finance Reference this

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The Millennial Generation and Social Media: How online relationships affect Millennials’ financial esteem

Abstract

One of the largest generations in history is moving into its prime spending years. The Millennial generation, as a technologically savvy culture, is looking to reshape the economy, taking their unique financial experiences into the way they look to spend their money. Having lived through the 2008 Great Recession, however, Millennials are haunted by the unexpected obstacles an inconsistent economy poses. They exhibit immense distrust with financial institutions due to struggles during their financial upbringing, and are the first generation to have accumulated excessive amounts of student loan debt. Therefore, the Millennial generation takes pride in practicing frugal spending habits, making sure to put money into their savings account each month. However, Millennials are also heavily influenced by their relationship with their peers via social media platforms. The self-presentation theory can be used to explain why social media influences millennials, as the desire to receive social acceptance drives millennial behaviors. As statistical evidence has proven, Millennials feel a heightened sense of social acceptance when physical symbols of social adequacy are shown through “like,” “favorites,” “retweets,” or “share.” Millennials also place an emphasis on experiencing live events rather than material items, explaining that these events are more enjoyable when shared through social media. Studies have also shown that the positive reinforcement Millennials receive from “likes,” “favorites,” or “retweets,” weighs heavily into their monetary decision making. Therefore, the argument can be made that the relationships Millennials pursue through social media negatively influences millennial spending as photos and posts on their newsfeed encourage reckless spending, relying heavily on funds received only through their increased debt accumulation.

Introduction

Millennials represent the largest living generation and more than a quarter of the population at 83.1 million, surpassing Baby Boomers at 75.4 million (Cutler, 2015). Because of the Millennial generation’s massive size, understanding and adapting to their spending tendencies is imperative to a company’s growth financially as the generation currently commands an estimated $1.3 trillion in annual consumer spending (Eventbrite, 2013) Many studies have been conducted between the Millennial generation and financial institutions, identifying their experiences and attitudes which in turn help to shape how they interact with one another. Millennials, having lived through both the 2008 Great Recession and the digital revolution, are making constant decisions involving their money allocation. However, they are experiencing greater financial struggles. Millennials are the first generation in the modern age to experience high levels of poverty and unemployment, causing many to lose faith in financial institutions, and experience high levels of stress when allocating money from small, seemingly insignificant paychecks (Cutler, 2015). Due to these struggles, the Millennial generation takes pride in their financial planning, prioritizing conscious spending in order to avoid financial problems in the future, and feeling confident in their education to land them a successful career. However, the emphasis Millennials place on maintaining a social media deemed acceptable by peers is translating into harmful financial behaviors. In 2015, almost 50 percent of Millennial purchases were influenced by social media (Pagliara, 2017). Therefore, the understanding of the necessity to spend consciously is distanced by social media’s created desire to spend recklessly due to the emphasis Millennial’s place on media “likes” as a visual representation of social acceptance. Through a brief overview of the general Millennials’ financial outlook compared to generations prior, combined with both an analysis of how Millennials interact with social media and how social media influences their spending habits, an argument can be made and then supported that the relationship between social media and the Millennial generation negatively affects their financial stature.

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Literature Review

The Millennial Generation’s Overall Financial Outlook

To better understand the fundamental attitudes and beliefs Millennials hold regarding financial institutions, it is important to first compare the monetary characteristics of the Millennial generation to both itself as well as previous generations including Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. After comparing Millennials’ early-life economic experiences to those of Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, The Pew Research Center found that, while Millennials are the most educated generation in American history, they also serve as the first generation to have higher student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment combined with lower levels of wealth and personal income (Cutler, 2015). With the high cost of education, the Pew Research Center added that, as of 2015, two-thirds of recent bachelor degree recipients have outstanding student loans averaging near $27,000 compared to graduates two decades ago with student loans averaging only $15,000. A 2014 Wells Fargo Millennial Study conducted by Harris Poll found 42% of Millennials describe debt as an “overwhelming financial concern” as compared to only 23% of Baby Boomers. Furthermore, the study concluded that Millennials list student loan debt as their top concern while Baby Boomers focus on saving for retirement. Due to the burden of piling debt combined with difficulties landing successful jobs right out of college, Millennials immediately perceive a disconnect between the money spent on education and future earnings, developing a deflated, negative financial self-image early in their careers. A 2014 survey conducted by Pew found that a mere 42% of Millennials identify as middle class, a significant fall from the same survey conducted in 2008 where 53% of Millennials claimed themselves as middle class. Most significantly, however, the same survey also concluded that, in 2015, 46% of Millennials identified as low-middle to lower class, a notable rise from 25% in 2008. Contradictory to this statistic, however, the Pew Research Center found that 85% of Millennials are optimistic when asked about their future financially, saying they have enough to live comfortably now and plan to save enough to create a lifestyle they want in the future (Cutler, 2015). This statistic gives an insight to how Millennials view their future wealth, offering valuable information regarding their thoughts on how to spend their money today. While financial optimism is necessary for confident future spending, Millennials currently experience poor financial self-image, affecting their spending habits today as they are forced to make hasty decisions that will hopefully increase their savings so they will have enough financial support to spend generously in the future.

These statistics can be better explained through an in-depth analysis of the basic attitudes of the Millennial generation, identifying why Millennials perceive low financial self-image. Another study conducted by the Pew Research Center suggested Millennials experience greater institutional distrust than generations prior. When asked about the level of trust Millennials have in authority figures, government and financial institutions, and the general public combined, only 19%, or one in five, felt as if they can be trusted, a statistic much lower than 40% of Baby Boomers who responded to the same question (Cutler, 2015). This institutional distrust Millennials experience may be due to both current and previous economic experiences that have frightened them into becoming an innate generation of thrifty savers, while simultaneously being impulse spenders, a topic which will be discussed in the following analysis. The Great Recession in 2008 influenced the Millennial generation’s perception of economic institutions as many either struggled through the recession themselves, or observed the financial turmoil their parents experienced. Many Millennials describe the Great Recession as a warning to save now in an effort to survive unforeseen economic problems in the future. The recession also caused many Millennials to graduate into an environment burdened by high unemployment rates and undesirable salaries as jobs gained during the economic recovery paid on average 23% less than jobs before the recession (Boberiene & McLeigh, 2014). Emily Pachuta, head of investor insights at UBA, explained that due to the recession, “[Millennials] have a Depression-era mindset largely because they experienced market volatility and job security issues very early in their careers.” (Boberiene & McLeigh, 2014). Millennials are also skeptical when discussing government funding, especially when planning for retirement. A Harvard poll found that 51% of Millennials believe there will not be any funding available in the Social Security System by the time they retire. Additionally, a Wells Fargo Millennial Study found that over 50% of Millennials have already started allocating anywhere between 1% to 10% of their paycheck to retirement funding. Another Harvard poll noted that young people feel a disassociation between their priorities and the priorities of elected officials as they view effective results from political involvement as few and far between (Rampell, 2014). A 2014 article from the Grand Rapids Business Journal argues the 2008 Great Recession made Millennials timid about investing in financial markets, creating this desire for transparency and authenticity when dealing with companies and organizations (Marsh Private Client Services, 2015). Adding to their fear of financial crisis in the future, Millennials also struggle with the pressure of debt. As previously mentioned, recent graduates have significantly more student loan debt than graduates two decades prior. Among all Millennials, Wells Fargo found 47% of working Millennials are allotting 50% or more of their paycheck to certain categories of debt including credit card debt (16%), mortgage debt (15%), student loan debt (12%), auto debt (9%), and medical debt (5%). Because Millennials are allocating a large sum of their paycheck to paying off their accumulated debt, many are living paycheck to paycheck, leaving little to no cash left to spend elsewhere.

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After reviewing the statistical analysis of the Millennial generation’s experiences, thoughts and feelings regarding financial institutions and their own personal finances, exploring generic personality traits may find a direct correlation to between millennials’ innate behavior and their desire to maintain a positive image on social media adding which, therefore, progresses their poor financial experiences. As mentioned previously, Millennials are money-conscious due to the economic hardships they’ve endured. However, Millennials are also heavily influenced by social media, and the pressure to maintain a noteworthy lifestyle sometimes overrides their instinct to save. Social Media has affected Millennials in such a way that theorist have discussed they have become sub-clinical narcissists. Clinicians do not see sub-clinical narcissists as pathological, however there are traits of self-centeredness and self-love through the eyes of a personality psychologist. The perception of Millennials are self-loving, ambitious, technology savvy, and family oriented. Vaidhyanatha Balaji (2015) oversaw a study of a group of Millennials through a survey about subclinical narcissists habits. The survey revealed that they did not show a developing problem of narcissism even though Millennial scores were just above global average of subclinical narcissism (Balaji, 2015). Balaji summed up Millennials as “complex individuals who are part self-centered, part-social human beings.” Millennials are greatly influenced by positive reassurance, their need for constant attention and feedback. They are concluded to be very independent and self reliable while being conservatively confident. The combination of both slightly narcissistic characteristics and ambitious characteristics argues that the Millennial generation has altered the definition of a career. Millennials are less committed to following the traditional corporate ladder, and more likely to seek business opportunities that accommodate their own personal values, including flexible hours, autonomy, and control, while simultaneously proving they have the maturity to support themselves independently (Boberiene & McLeigh, 2014). On the other hand, a study conducted by the Family Office Exchange (2015) indicated that Millennials working for corporations feel they must be able to relate to their advisors on a personal level before they trust them in a business setting. The 2015 study also indicated that Millennials are less likely to listen to supervisors who speak in a demeaning or condescending tone. Instead, Millennials respond to supervisors who focus on establishing a relationship by asking personal questions about their interests, goals, and opinions and then sharing personal stories of their own (Marsh Private Client Services, 2015). Because Millennials emphasize engagement, the study argues that Millennials are driven by personal relationships, with a desire to showcase independence on the surface, however, wanting collaborative attention in the form of both positive, constructive advice and feedback (Marsh Private Client Services, 2015).

Theoretical Framework

Researchers have warned Millennials regarding their reliance upon social networking sites to reinforce personal self-esteem through boosted “likes” or positive comments from close friends as this behavior can result in the reduction of self-control both on and offline. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia Business School found that users who are focused on close friends tend to experience an increase in self-esteem while browsing their social network (Stephen & Wilcox, 2013). Afterwards, however, these users display less-self control which is evidently correlated to these individuals having higher body-mass indexes and higher levels of credit-card debt (Stephen & Wilcox, 2013). A study conducted regarding the use of Facebook and its effects in its users self-esteem found that Facebook only increased participants’ self-esteem when they were focused on the information they were presenting to others (Stephen & Wilcox, 2013). Keith Wilcox, assistant professor of marketing at Columbia Business School and coauthor of this Facebook research experiment, explained that, “We find that people experience greater self-esteem when they focus on the image they are presenting to strong ties in their social networks. This suggests that even though people are sharing the same positive information with string ties and weak ties on social networks, they feel better about themselves when the information is received by strong ties than be weak ties.” Keeping this information in mind, the study continued with its investigation on the relationship between online social network use and offline behaviors associated with poor self-control (Stephen & Wilcox, 2013). The results suggested that greater social network use is associated with a higher body-mass index, increased binge eating, a lower credit score, and higher levels of credit-card debt for individuals with strong ties to their social network (Stephen & Wilcox, 2013). Therefore, this study can make the implication that self-control is an important mechanism for maintaining social order and well-being, however, the desire for positive reinforcement on social media outweighs rational, controlled decision making.

To better understand the loss of control experienced through social networking site interactions, the self-presentation theory can be used to explain how influential social media has become during the management of an individual’s private and public self. Self-presentation is the process by which individuals represent themselves to the social world, occurring at both the conscious and the unconscious levels of cognition (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008). Self-presentation can be used as a means to manage the impressions others form of oneself, extending into strategic or tactical self-presentation, otherwise known as impression management, which occurs when an individual seeks to create a desired image of invoke a desired response from others (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008). Largely a prosocial event, self-presentation forces an individual to negotiate through social interactions in order to fulfill the psychological needs for social approval. Self-presentation is complex as it involves both the individual’s interpersonal cues such as the perceived responses of others, and the function of social situations in response to cues from the social environment (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008). Therefore, self-presentation is both an individual experience and a social phenomenon, highlighting the tensions between human interactions (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2008).

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Much of the content produced on social media is photographs, links and information posts used to present one’s online self. Self-presentation theory, as discussed previously, is considered to be motivated by the desire to make a favorable impression on others, or an impression that corresponds to one’s’ ideals, which an extend to the projection of an online identity (Herring & Kapidzic, 2015). Social media provides a platform for Millennials to explore the effects of their self-presented image on their peers. Generally, photo posts, as well as text posts occasionally, generate positive feedback and, thus, have a positive impact on self-esteem. Visual content is a central resource for creating an appropriate online impression, and an attribute many Millennials focus on when seeking social approval. Therefore, the self-presentation theory helps to support the hypothesis that Millennials participate in reckless spending in order to create an adequate online image when viewed by others.

Methodology

To determine the extent to which social media influences the Millennial generation’s financial stature, research will be focused on an analysis of statistical evidence regarding first, Millennials’ emphasis on the need to experience social acceptance on various social media platforms, then, on how social media influences the spending tendencies of Millennials’ frugal minds. The background information presented during the literature review was necessary to understanding how previous financial struggles have controlled the spending habits of the Millennial generation, training them to recognize the necessity to conscious spend in an effort to maximize a financial future. The statistical evidence will then support the argument that social media creates a divide between the understanding for frugal spending and Millennial actions as they are coerced into spending recklessly in order to achieve social approval from their peers via social media recognition.

Findings

Social Media and its Relationship to the Millennial Generation’s Social Acceptance

After reviewing background information on Millennials’ financial experiences, it is evident that Millennials have established an inherent necessity to save due to their poor financial self-esteem created by an immense amount of debt accumulation and financial distrust. However, I make the argument that Millennials are distanced from their understanding of the necessity to save due to their overwhelming desire to portray an over-exaggerated, lavish lifestyle on their social media sites. As subclinical narcissists who showcase self-sufficiency on the surface while subconsciously craving positive reinforcement from their peers through social media acceptance, Millennials have prorized their online relationships, placing an emphasis on depicting a life of interest within the social realm, and, ultimately, altering how they think about real world friendships and relationships. To better understand the impact social media has had on Millennial relationships, a brief background on how online interactions has influenced the dynamics of young people’s social lives is explored in the following analysis.

A 2016 study conducted by the Nielsen Norman group found that premature exposure to social media has influenced Millennials’ approach to friendships, relationships and self-image as their subtle online interactions have become explicit and visible, causing social contexts to become merged and entangled. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of teenagers reported having at least one social media account. However in 2010, just four years later, 73 percent of younger Millennials, around the age of middle to high school adolescents, and 78 percent of older Millennials, college-aged young adults, reported having a social media presence (Meyer, 2016). Today, approximately 90 percent of Millennials, both teens and young adults alike, have at least one social media account, many of them updating an average of four or more accounts at a time (Meyer, 2016). With the attention Millennials place on creating and maintaining positive online interactions, social media has also become a means of expressing the extent of personal relationships. For example in 2004, the social media site MySpace added a “Top 8” feature, which allowed for teens to manually choose their top 8 friends. They were soon after forced to remove the display feature because it became an anxiety-inducing decision for many young Millennials (Meyer, 2016). Other popular social media terms such as, “friending,” “Facebook official,” “likes,” or “favorites” are visible, quantitative expressions of the positive reinforcement Millennials feel toward a person, event, or opinion. A study conducted by researchers at UCLA explored the effects of social media “likes” on the Millennial brain. A “like” is a click made by a social media user that symbolizes an instant, outward expression of approval. The study found that, regardless of the basic qualities of the photo or post, Millennials revealed more excitement in the reward center of their brains when they viewed a photo or post with many “likes” (Meyer, 2016). Therefore, “likes” symbolize augmented social proof and acceptance, representing the peer pressure Millennials feel to remain socially intriguing. One of the most widespread instances of social proof gained from social media is the number of “retweets,” “favorites,” “likes,” or “shares” received on a photo or post (Tate, 2018). Social proof can be used to explain why Millennials worry about straying too far from the pack, or looking inadequate to comparison to their peers. As mentioned previously, Millennials crave group acceptance more than they desire individuality. Therefore, social media serves as a resemblance of what the group is doing, allowing for Millennials to learn what is deemed socially acceptable, and then find comfort in the recognition that their actions are “normal” (Tate, 2018).

Adriana Manago, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Santa Cruz who studies the social media tendencies of adolescents and young adults, explains that Millennials are using social media to establish their own agency and manage their relationships with their peers (Witte, 2017). Manago theorizes that Millennials use technology as a tool used to navigate their way into adulthood, explaining that young adults turn to social media to explore their place in the world around them (Witte, 2017). Therefore, social media helps Millennials feel more connected within the offline world as it provides a space for identity exploration, bridging the gap between the offline and online worlds. The online realm provides Millennials a platform to manage social contexts by practicing and participating in specific social behaviors without the pressure of visibly or physically backing their actions or remarks. When Millennials participate in social media activities, they are experiencing a context collapse, or the requirement to accurately perform varying social behaviors in order to appropriately manage different social media contexts (Boyd, 2014). For example, a Facebook post and an Instagram post may be the same message, however differ in the delivery depending on the platform’s audience or following. In other words, each distinct audience requires a different social behavior in order to interpret the post appropriately. Context collapse, as determined through various studies, is more complex for adolescent Millennials as they navigate an intense period of self-definition (Boyd, 2014). Millennials, therefore, have invented strategies to help them manage the merging of various social contexts, relying heavily on the approval of specific audience members on each social media platform they maintain. Boyd (2014) in her book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, found that Facebook is considered to be the most diverse in connections with audience members ranging from online seniors (65 or older) regularly operating their Facebook page to employers actively searching profiles for potential employees. Twitter was found to represent connections with special interests such as news, celebrities, musicians, or companies, and less with friends and family members (Boyd, 2014). Instagram was reported to be the most entertainment-oriented platform, primarily used for sharing photos of experiences or interests with friends and followers (Boyd, 2014). Therefore, Millennials’ decision on where to share photos or posts depends on the interests of the audience members following each platform, as well as the visibility of the post in order to render the most social interaction possible. When asked where to post a photo, one Millennial responded, “It depends on the quality of the picture, and who would see it. On Facebook it’d be primarily family, because those are the people who pay attention to my page. On Twitter, depending on the time of day, it might not be seen at all.” (Boyd, 2014). Therefore, the stress of managing multiple audiences across several social contexts puts pressure on Millennials to constantly maintain an acceptable social media presence.

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Social Media and its Relationship to the Millennial Generation’s Finances

As discussed previously, the money habits of Millennials allude to the potential for a better financial position than previous generations, as Millennials instinctively understand the necessity to save. Millennials continue to take strides toward a strong, self-sufficient financial future, with 58 percent prioritizing saving for retirement as an essential necessity (Riley, 2018). Another 71 percent of Millennials reported using tricks encouraged by financial advisors to set aside money in an effort to achieve specific monetary goals, while an additional 41 percent said they always allocated money into their savings accounts each month (Riley, 2018). The “Generations Ahead” study conducted by the Allianz Life Insurance Company (2018) found that 77 percent of Millennials feel financially confident due to their ability to consciously save, a drastic difference compared to only 64 percent of Generation X respondents when asked the same question. Similar to the Allianz Life Insurance study, “Generations Ahead,” the Wells Fargo Millennial Study also found that seven in ten Millennials, or 69 percent, feel more financially stable than others in their own generation, and 68 percent see themselves with a better standard of living before retirement than previous generations. Therefore, it can be concluded that Millennials reflect a higher financial self-image when comparing themselves to their own generations rather than to generations prior. This indicates that Millennials may be more inclined to spend recklessly in an effort to showcase falsified high financial stature, even if it is financed primarily through debt accumulation. Additionally, the Wells Fargo study concluded that 84 percent of Millennials feel they have the skills to be successful in their chosen careers, and another 78 percent confidently believe if they were to lose their job, they could find a comparable career with ease. Therefore, as Millennials feel more successful with their financial planning through innovative ways to build financial strength, they are becoming more confident in their abilities to spend wisely. However, Paul Kelash, vice president of communication and consumer insights for Allianz Life, explains, “The most significant finding was the dichotomy between Millennials’ ability to be successful in financial planning yet so vulnerable to social media and spending beyond their means.” Therefore, the pressure social media places on Millennials to maintain an appropriate presence contradicts Millennials’ appreciation for frugal spending, thus proving the power social media maintains over the actions and decisions of the Millennial generation. 

According to statistics and conclusions explained previously, an argument can be made that social media is influencing Millennial financial growth by indirectly encouraging them to spend recklessly. Contradicting prior statistical conclusions that the Millennial generation takes the financial planning lead when compared to other prior generations, the Allianz Life Insurance Company reports that 63 percent of Millennials consider themselves spenders, while 51 percent of Generation Xers and only 36 percent of Baby Boomers would consider themselves spenders (Riley, 2018). The following statistics help support the argument that Millennial financial growth is stunted by their exposure to social media. According to the Allianz Life Insurance Company’s “Generations Ahead” study, 88 percent of respondents believe social media creates more of a tendency to compare their lifestyles and wealth to others. An additional 57 percent said they spend money they had not yet budgeted for due to the influences from what they viewed on social media (Riley, 2018). Kelash explains that, “Millennials are more immersed in social media than past generations. Therefore, they could be swayed more than other cohorts by social media and the temptation to spend beyond their means. That could hurt them over the long term if they aren’t careful.”

According to a 2013 survey conducted by Eventbrite, when it comes to money, Millennials value experiences over material items. Eventbrite’s study found that the Millennial generation not only values experiences, but is increasingly spending time and money on events in an effort to live a meaningful, happy life. Through statistical evidence, it can be concluded that happiness for the Millennial generation cannot be gained through a lifetime of accumulated material possessions. Rather, a happy life is determined by the ability to create, capture and share memories in an effort to gain the recognition of social peers. Approximately 78 percent of Millennials choose to spend money on desirable experiences or events, with 55 percent of Millennials saying they are spending more on events and live experiences than ever before (Eventbrite, 2013). Therefore, Millennials crave more experiences, increasing the demand for real-life interactions. With the emphasis placed on gathering experiences rather than material goods, Millennial spending is significantly different when compared to the spending habits of generations prior. More than 8 in 10 Millennial respondents, approximately 82 percent, said they attended or participated in a variety of live experiences over the past year, including parties, concerts, festivals, or themed sporting events (Eventbrite, 2013). Further, 72 percent of these respondents even said they would like to increase their spending on experiences rather than material items over the next year, alluding to the idea that materialism will be replaced by the demand for real-life experiences (Eventbrite, 2013). Millennials also explained that these real-life experiences help shape their identity, holding more social currency than physical items as these events create everlasting memories. Almost 8 in 10, or 77 percent, of Millennials say their best memories are from an event or live experience they attended or participated in (Eventbrite, 2013). Interestingly enough, however, Millennials also explain that capturing these events on photo sharing apps like Instagram and Snapchat actually makes the experience more enjoyable. 60 percent of Millennials explain that experiences are better shared through social media platforms (Eventbrite, 2013). 69 percent of respondents also explained that attending these live experiences makes them feel more connected to other people, the community and the world (Eventbrite, 2013). Therefore, just attending the live event does not constitute the entire experience for Millennials. Millennials, instead, finalize their overall opinion of an event based on their ability to share and gain the approval of others via various social media platforms as research has proven that Millennials tweet, share and post more about the events they attend than any other generation.

One explanation for this necessity to spend money on life experiences comes from Millennials’ constant feeling of FOMO. Millennials are often critiqued for reckless spending and impulsive purchases due to what they describe as FOMO, or the “Fear Of Missing Out” on a situation (PR Newswire, 2016). Generated by the Millennial generation’s creative social media vocabulary, FOMO is a state of social anxiety an individual feels when peers or friends are enjoying activities without them, and is often triggered by social media postings (Meyer, 2016). The Allianz Life survey found that 55 percent of Millennials reported experiencing FOMO, while another 61 percent felt inadequate about their own lives and what they have due to the attention other users receive on social media recognized through “likes” or “favorites” (Riley, 2018).

As previous statistics have proven, portraying a successful adult life on social media heavily influences Millennials’ decisions to spend recklessly. Millennials have been criticized for diving headfirst into financial situations, assuming responsibilities without proper financial support. Shannon Lee Simmons, a Toronto financial planner for many Millennials, explains, “Those people with the new house on Instagram? They’re miserable.” (PR Newswire, 2016). Being a Millennial herself, Simmons understands the pressure to live an interesting life in order to be deemed as attractive or intriguing on social media platforms. Simmons advises her clients to prioritize debt repayment, live only within the boundaries their paychecks allow, and continually put money into a savings account each month. However, most Millennials are not honest with themselves about the cost of living these extravagant, Instagram lifestyles. An online survey conducted by Go Banking found that Millennials find it difficult to resist the urge to spend recklessly, paying for social events by relying on credit cards, borrowing from friends or family members, or sometimes even neglecting to pay bills. Additionally, as a Millennial myself, I argue that because debt has become an expected part of consumer spending and an innate aspect of the Millennials’ financial experience, Millennials are more likely to spend money they do not have with the expectation of paying it off in the future. I believe this is largely due to Millennial optimism, or the confidence Millennials feel regarding many aspects of their personal lives – such as the confidence they feel toward their expected success in their chosen career paths – and, therefore, help to lower the stress surrounding debt accumulation. Because Millennials have a tendency to impulsively spend, however, I make the argument that financial optimism is categorized as wishful thinking, or a means of resolving conflicts between reality and desire through pleasing imagination instead of recognizing hard evidence and rationality, and remains financially unsupported. The combination of reckless, social media-encouraged spending, debt accumulation, and wishful thinking reveals the immature side of Millennial spending, a side driven by the pressures to create and maintain an intriguing image within the immense, extremely competitive social realm. Therefore, social media has influenced the emotional spending of the Millennial generation, bombarding them with information on what their friends and followers are doing to such an extent that their prior understanding for the necessity to practice conscious saving is pushed out of mind.

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Further Discussion / Conclusion

Through the literature review’s analysis of the background of Millennials’ financial self-esteem and potential reasons why they resemble poor financial stature, it can be declared that the Millennial generation suffers from a lifetime of financial experiences causing predetermined feelings towards practicing frugal spending habits as a requirement for future financial wellbeing. However, as the content analysis provides expertise on how social media has influenced the way Millennials spend their money, convincing them of the necessity to achieve substantial social acceptance physically represented through their peers’ “likes” and “favorites,” an argument can be made and support that emphasizes the hypothesis that social media has negatively affected millennials financial reflection as attending live events only increases their debt accumulated. Although millennials lived through the Great Recession, have seen first-hand financial struggle, and are drowning in student loan debt, the temptation to spend excessive amounts of money on live experiences in order to have the opportunity to post on social media clearly outweighs the necessity for moderate, conscious spending and saving habits.

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