Common Cents Lab Unveils Millennial Financial Regret Spending Study
New study seeks to measure whether spending can make you happy
San Francisco, CA and Durham, NC – Sept. 12, 2017 – Common Cents Lab, a financial research lab at Duke University supported by MetLife Foundation, today unveiled its first ever Millennial Regret Spending Study.
“While it’s common to regret the last thing we ate, it may be equally common to regret the last thing we bought,” said Dan Ariely, Professor and behavioral economist. “The feeling of regret, while not pleasant, may serve as a teaching moment to help us understand what we enjoy and what we don’t enjoy. By systematically understanding the things people regret, we can design systems that encourage us to spend our money on things that make us happier.
Conducted in partnership with Qapital, a fintech app focused on helping people save and spend better, the new study surveyed 1,000 Americans between the ages of 20 and 36-years old to identify which purchases they regarded as either most regretful or most satisfying. Through this effort, the team of behavioral economists isolated four positive personal financial habits that others may emulate to improve financial wellness and fulfillment.
Put the Essentials on Autopay
Participants were asked to rate how satisfied they were about recurring versus nonrecurring expenses across a number of categories. Almost universally, millennials rated their regret roughly 10% lower for recurring items. Since most recurring items are paid automatically, the idiom “set it and forget it” may carry more meaning than we thought.
Like millennials, others can limit the angst of rent and insurance payments by placing them on autopay. At the same time, make the payments you’re most likely to regret more obvious by using cash or one-time payment methods.
Spend on Enrichment and Others
Millennials reported being most satisfied when spending on necessities (utilities, rent) or personal enrichment (community, education). The study also tracked what times of the week and year produced the most satisfying purchases. Seasonally, those purchases made near Thanksgiving and through the first two weeks of December produced nearly 90% satisfaction as compared to months like October and February that dropped below 50%.
The lesson is that guilty pleasures often come with a heaping of regret, and that the greatest fulfillment can be gained from purchases that enrich your own life or are made for others.
Limit Impulse Purchases
The data clearly shows a greater level of fulfillment (roughly 70%) for purchases critical to living such as rent, healthcare and groceries over impulse purchases (near 50%) like digital purchases, coffee shops, and fast food. Similarly, those purchases made on Wednesdays were nearly five percentage points more satisfying than those made on Saturday.
The takeaway is that decisions made independent of the pressure and the heat of the moment can improve your overall financial happiness.
Sweat the Small Stuff
That final tally for that $4 latte may be much more in the long run, according to the survey findings as Millennials tended to regret smaller purchases much more than larger ones. On average, respondents reported a high level of satisfaction for purchases taking up a larger portion of their monthly income.
“Individually, these lessons seem intuitive, but taken together as a lifestyle, they can provide a blueprint for living a much more satisfying financial life,” said Kristen Berman, co-founder of Common Cents. “Interestingly, these are lessons that can be applied regardless of income level as a guide to improved financial decision making.”
An infographic Millennial Financial Regret Spending Study is available by request or can be found by clicking below.
About The Common Cents Lab
The Common Cents Lab, supported by MetLife Foundation, is a financial research lab at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University that creates and tests interventions to help low- to moderate-income households increase their financial well-being. Common Cents leverages research gleaned from behavioral economics to create interventions that lead to positive financial behaviors. The lab is led by famed Behavioral Economics Professor Dan Ariely and is comprised of researchers and experts in product design, economics, psychology, public policy, advertising, business administration, and more.
To fulfill its mission, Common Cents partners with organizations, including fintech companies, credit unions, banks, and nonprofits, that believe their work could be improved through insights gained from behavioral economics. To learn more about Common Cents Lab visit www.commoncentslab.org.
About MetLife Foundation
MetLife Foundation was created in 1976 to continue MetLife’s long tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. Since its founding through the end of 2016, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $744 million in grants and $70 million in program-related investments to organizations addressing issues that have a positive impact in their communities.
Today, the Foundation is dedicated to advancing financial inclusion, committing $200 million to help build a secure future for individuals and communities around the world.
To learn more about MetLife Foundation, visit www.metlife.org.