Study: Millennials Are Financially Stressed To Impress

Study: Millennials Are Financially Stressed To Impress

A study by Wells Fargo reveals millennials are falling into societal pressure to appear more financially successful than they are.

A new study by Wells Fargo has revealed that millennials are obsessed with looking as though they are financially well-off despite mass layoffs, inflation, and student loans burdening their pockets.

Fortune shared the results. Participants who, while making at least $250,000 a year and relatively affluent, still feel pressured to promote a luxurious lifestyle, whether through their cars, clothes, or vacations.

Fifty-nine percent of participants shared that they feel an urge to keep up with the Joneses through their appearance and assumed lifestyle. A similar majority also agreed that high inflation had impacted them, increasing the cost of living.

“Affluent millennials are, in fact, working hard and gaining financial success,” Emily Irwin, managing director of advice and planning for Wells Fargo, told Fortune. “Yet they’re grappling with this external image, and as a result, there’s a growing trend to present themselves with an image that isn’t reflective [of] their actual financial situation. For some, it could be even be a ‘fake it until you make it’ mentality.”

Social media plays a significant role in this decision to exude a wealthy status, fueling the money dysmorphia that places millennials further in debt with no space to be honest about serious financial strife. According to Irwin, a shift in public attitude from displaying wealth to being vulnerable about one’s financial state could ease the rising costs of looking like money.

“It’s a vicious cycle because most people are reluctant to talk about their actual circumstances, and instead it’s the image of ‘I’m living my best life,'” Irwin said. “Now, it would be great if the trend would segue into: Share what you’ve done to be so financially responsible. How freeing it would be if everyone ‘put their cards on the table’ and not receive judgment or embarrassment.” 

While the racial makeup of the participants was not disclosed, Black Americans are even further impacted by debts, unable to accrue wealth at the same rate as their white counterparts . As Black Americans have over $11,000 more in non-mortgage debt on average, the racial wealth gap is also a factor in how millennials of all backgrounds engage in the societal pressure to live luxuriously—or at least appear to.