Millennials and the Sharing Economy

Cardinal Financial September 14, 2016 | 3 min read
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How the nation’s largest generation is impacting the global economy.

According to a 2015 U.S. Census Bureau survey of the country’s population, Millennials (born between 1982–2000) now make up 83.1 million of the American population. That’s 7.7 million more Millennials than there are Baby Boomers alive in the U.S. as of June 2015. The growth and emergence of this huge generation has the country talking about how Millennials are making their mark on the greater economy. As we witness more and more Millennials heading into their 20s and 30s, we can expect to see them make some big-time purchases. However, to the surprise of many, they are not buying as much as they’re sharing.

Driven by Circumstance

Having grown up and graduated high school (and even college) during an economic recession, many Millennials learned how to save money and spend wisely. Their penchant for a frugal lifestyle can be linked to their struggle to enter the workforce and their tendency to boomerang back to Mom and Dad’s. Such an inclement economic climate—coupled with the burden of thousands of dollars in student loan debt—has made Millennials reluctant to spend and accrue credit card debt. These factors set the backdrop of the Millennials-and-the-sharing-economy scene.

Guided by Technology

“Technology” is quite the buzzword these days—as it should be. Look around and you can probably point out at least five pieces of technology. Its impact on the modern world has been steadily increasing—something Millennials are not surprised by or afraid of. Raised in a time period that began with cassette and VHS tapes and is now ruled by the smartphone, Millennials’ lives are marked by the use of and dependence on technology.

One particular advancement that they have adopted is the cloud. With cloud-based systems like Google Drive and Dropbox, sharing is made easier than ever. Access to this type of technology is simple, easy, and usually free—all you need are credentials and an Internet connection. Millennials would rather embrace the cloud than purchase and install software that will occupy space on their devices. And companies are catching on. Sharing-goods services like Airbnb and Uber are thriving and gaining traction in this rapidly growing cloud-based society.

Motivated by Attitude

As this unique generation emerges, so do more studies on its attitude and behaviors. For Millennials in particular, the general attitude is not work harder, it’s work smarter. They live by a mindset that favors speed, efficiency, and strategy. They value access and convenience (which may indicate why they love technology). The idea of sharing goods and services is attractive to Millennials because they can enjoy the benefits of usage without the responsibility of maintaining or other burdens of ownership.

All About Access

In sum, the benefit of a sharing economy is that it allows consumers to have access without ownership, which makes for maximum convenience at low cost. Given their circumstances, the technology age, and the generational attitude, it’s no wonder Millennials are taking advantage of the sharing economy.

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