Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 03/25/18 3:22 PM

Feature: Millennials and money


Nothing more, nothing less
As the earlier generation watches, the millennials streamline their spending pattern, readying to join the economical mainstream. 

I’ve had a millennial in my life for some years now but it took me a while to mark the clear-cut differences in our spending pattern.

I was chatting with our cook, my daughter listening in. The cook told me tomatoes were going at a steal deal in her neighbourhood, Rs 12 less per kg than at our vegetable shop. “Buy me some, I’ll make puree,“ I told her excitedly. At which, my daughter turned to me and grinned. “ My generation would never for a minute think of Rs 12 as big savings. Not even for ten kgs of tomatoes“ she said. “

A week later, she was dropping me off at my favourite watch repair shop. “Honestly, Ma, “ she said. “It`s not a battery- change thing, there`s some serious malfunction in the watch, I think. Don’t keep trying to repair it, junk it. Buy a new one. It`s just a watch.“

Generation gap. And that’s when it struck home with force: it is a generational thing. The Millennials   definitely think differently from us Baby Boomers and there`s no getting around that.

After which, I started to pay a little more attention to the way my millennial spent her money. She doesn’t live with us so when I`d go over to her apartment,  I`d study it, look for patterns. Food was a major expense and not just any kind of food, either. There was at least three kinds of cheese, a paper sack of sticky rice and a pack of almond milk in her cupboard. I found white rice tucked away in an inner shelf but nary a sign of tur dal! Did these two young women, my daughter and her flatmate, never eat sambar?

The harder I looked, the more clearly a pattern emerged. Apart from the indulgence on food and fuel for her car, this millennial of mine was eternally saving and investing, for the trips she loves to take every chance she gets off from work. Clothes were not so much an indulgence as a necessity because she is a reluctant shopper. And so it goes.

KIRAT RANDHAWA, 30 LAWYER/DELHI: My big spends are on holidays and air tickets for the holidays.

Now look at the numbers: according to a UN survey (2011), India has a whopping 700 million millennials, nearly 60 per cent of the country`s 1.3 billion citizens, under the age of 30. Apparently, 57 per cent live with their immediate family, with only 22 per cent having set up on their own, according to a 2013 JWTIntelligence survey of millennials in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The Silent Generation (born between   1925 and 1942) have mostly retired to their recliners, watching the antics of the young in less-than- amused fashion. The Baby Boomers (born between 1942 and 1964) have chosen to either adopt amusement as their reaction or are vociferous in their scathing criticism of the next generation`s way of life.

And the Millennials, the children born between 1982 and 2002, are living the good life to the hilt….let tomorrow take care of itself!

SRIVIDYA GANESAN, 27, STUDENT/BANGALORE:  I have a baseline for a standard of living. Once I reach there, I won’t be bothered about how well- off my peers are.

Deconstructing millennials. Their spending patterns differ a lot from other generations. They are very matter of fact about money (though one 26-year-old woman said money  was a tainted evil  thing) and lay emphasis on stuff like a constant upgradation of electronic gadgets, but then they also use them a lot more than many of the older generations do. Eating out and travel, both domestic and foreign, is of vital importance to them, as is online shopping.

SAMIR MADHAVAN, 28,  DATA SCIENTIST/BANGALORE:  80% of my purchases are made online. 

A majority of them willingly give to charity, some even chip in for family pujas. Quite a considerable number of them like what they hear from the mouths of new age gurus, though not too many of them actually make the effort to attend a satsang or meeting. Quite a large number have turned to Buddhist chanting or Soka Gakkai.

ANKITA PODDAR, 28, BUSINESS PARTNER/CHENNAI: Minimalism is the ultimate aim.

By and large, this lot seems low maintenance. I shop cheap and cheerful, a 36-year-old female professional says.  They are more Hum India shoppers than Fabindia ones and really don’t seem to want to dress to impress. Stressed out from high octane jobs and miserably long commutes, they may melt down easily but have no problems going to shrinks or counsellors and paying for that, too, if Employee Assisted Counselling won`t pick up the tab.

MOHAN RAM, 31, PARTNERSHIPS MANAGER/BANGALORE: I know the importance and value of money but I don`t obsess about it. 

The more affluent millennial still does not want to seek out a government job for himself, though there are families where the civil services, banking and the defence services are a tradition and faithfully followed.

SHYAM NAIR, 35, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR/BANGALORE: Money is a means to an end, the end sometimes being well-planned holidays.

The millennials put their money where their passions are, and of course, the plethora of apps help. Some give their decisions a lot of thought, others just go for it. Travel is an ubiquitous part of their lives. One 30-year-old professional says: Travel being a passion, it becomes   the reason to ensure money keeps flowing in.

This could be an impulsive trip to the outskirts of their city for some hot air ballooning or paragliding. Or, they may want to climb up to Machu Picchu; they save, scrounge, beg, borrow and head out there. They want to attend a music fest in Goa, a theatre fest in Mumbai, (a trip to the ballet, says an 18-year-old student) and when they tell you they will eventually buy a Tesla or a Prius, you believe them because there is zeal in their conviction.

NIRANJANA MENON, 26, SENIOR ASSOCIATE AT LAW FIRM/DELHI: I would like to go one better than my colleagues because it is a clear indicator of my professional capital which of course, comes with more money.


A holistic lot. Another thing: holistic assessments seem to go over big with the millennials. They are able to cut through the glib patter and look at the core of matters, judge whether something is really genuine and worth their time, attention and money. Once they are convinced, they go into it happily, as increasing numbers of crowd-funded ventures reveal.

PRASHANT NAIR, 35, PROGRAM MANAGER/BANGALORE: Money is just a means to live the good life. And the good life definitely includes financial independence.

Riding on the wings of youth, this lot doesn’t factor in a future riven by illness. When they fall ill, they see a doctor and usually it’s a doctor close by, or one recommended by a colleague or friend. Most of the millennials are far from home so chances of seeing the family doc are slim and that kind of loyalty is fading out, too. However,   gym visits, health walks, marathon runs are all par for the course.

NAVANEETH NAIR, 28, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR/MUMBAI: I make it a point to set aside 25-30% of my budget on savings instruments.

More millennials in their thirties are unmarried; staying single or marrying late is quite the norm for them. More than 50 per cent aren’t comfortable with the idea of getting married, and 65 per cent feel it prevents people from living the lives they want.

ZORAVAR SINGH JAMWAL, 36, ARMY OFFICER/KUPWARA: I`m careful with money, I put thought into what I spend and why I spend what I spend.

Do they want big fat Indian weddings? Well, yes and no. some old-money millennials skirted this question, saying they`d go along with whatever kind of wedding their elders planned for them. Others were emphatic in their repudiation of glitter and glitz, saying they want to pay for their own weddings.

RISHA SHETTY, 27, ART DIRECTOR/MUMBAI:   Money? Something that comes and goes. You earn as much as you can spend!

One interesting find was that rather than a revolving sets of values, penchants, likes and dislikes, today`s millennials seem rather set in their chosen ways. This is the path they have chosen more after some thought, and they have no desire to relinquish it too soon.

RAHUL MARAR, 21, STUDENT/CHENNAI: Being rich enough means whenever my little sister asks me for something super expensive, I can buy it for her without thinking twice.

So, let`s look at the stats again, shall we? All millennials seek opportunities for rapid growth. 59% of millennials aspire to be uber-wealthy but 31% are grounded enough to realise that right now, they need to be careful with their money. 47% want to dress in haute couture but a full 48% are grounded enough to shop the high street for bargains. Mumbai leads in millennials making unrealistic purchases,   with most of the north Indian A and B towns close on its heels. When one 27-year old professional tells me, “ I am a material girl in a material world, “ she is being realistic.

Indulgent parents. Visits to the hair stylist, beauty parlour are all pegged under   personal upgradation and considered vital to the millennial`s wellbeing. Watching a film or an EDM concert and then discussing it over dinner is a popular pastime. Eating out still rules (so does going Dutch, more often than not) but surprisingly, owning the latest gizmo is no longer a major aspiration. That, of course, could be because most of the well- to- do millennials already own the latest gadget, either bought with their own money or gifted by indulgent parents.

VANI SUBRAMANIAM, 27, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST /BANGALORE: My father currently sets aside some percentage of my income and manages it.

This then is another facet of Millennial India: their parents shore up their bank accounts, gift them small and large (mostly large) items any chance they get, sometimes manage their investments for them, too.

SHILPA G, 24, DENTIST/TRIVANDRUM: I work hard to reach my goals but I`m a spontaneous spender.

Do they max out their credit or debit cards? Not really,  but this could be less a reflection on their fiscal prudence than the fact that the earlier mentioned indulgent parents often give them their own credit cards. Surveys show that pocket money (anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000) is almost always blown up by the month-end by millennials all over the country.

DARSHANA KARIEN, 21, STUDENT/BANGALORE: I believe a person should live within their means but when I have hard cash in my hand, it is quite difficult to save.  

When it comes to just what the millennial spends on, the gender difference raises its head. Girls spend a lot on clothes, cosmetics and beauty treatments; boys   drop their dosh on gadgetry, computer games and their vehicles. Money is spent equally by both sexes when it comes to accessories, the  latest  cellphone, gym membership, holidays.

Where commuting is concerned, though some do talk of taking the Metro,  most call a cab, sometimes an auto. A share cab is their idea of budgeting.  And for all those who drive their own vehicles, the monthly gas bills make a huge dent in their budget as does groceries. So basically,   it`s gas and groceries,  eating out and cellphone bills that make up the millennial`s spendsheet.


ANUPAMA RAMACHANDRAN, 36, FREELANCE WRITER FOR FILM AND TV/MUMBAI: I hide away anywhere between Rs 500 to 2,000 in the house. It`s usually unearthed for emergencies. 

Not big on savings. So much for spend. Savings, however, is still a black hole and not too many venture near that black hole. The intention is to start saving at some unspecified future date. What`s more, the millennials don’t seem in the least worried about the lack of savings, though one 35-year-old  did say that he worries about `how much savings will be savings enough.`

PRIYA RAY CHAUDHURI, 32, COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGIST/KOLKATA: I personally do not have a savings habit. I just have emergency funds in my account that I do not touch under any circumstance.

This sits oddly with the fact that almost all of them do have a financial plan of some sort, a definite plan on how to make money, become rich, spend that money. Millennials in their thirties actively seek financial planning. Here again, the gender difference raises its head: women save more than men.

MANDHAKINI JAIPRAKASH, 32, PROGRAM MANAGER/HYDERABAD: Earlier I invested only to get tax benefits but now I’ve started investing small amounts in mutual funds every month.

In 2017, 46% of the world`s millennials (aged 18-24) surveyed by GoBankingRates had no savings, up from 31% in the previous year! India`s millennials  seem to be doing better in that regard. On the whole, they are an upbeat lot, riding high on hope, optimism, anticipation and ambition.

PIYUSH AGARWAL, 30, PRODUCT MANAGER/BANGALORE: While I do keep a check on how the people around me are doing, it`s more to ensure I`m not getting the short end of the stick.

 NOTE: All statistics from the internet. This study is of a cross-section of urban millennials.

 This was the SUNDAY HERALD cover story on 25 March 2018.



Deccan Herald Sunday Heraldgeneration differencesMillennials and moneymillennials` spending patternSheila KumarSunday Herald

Sheila Kumar • March 25, 2018

Previous Post

Next Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *