The times, they are changing; life is very different for today’s youth, otherwise known as Millennial’s. Their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents lived in a seemingly different world; one without smart phones, laptop computers, and online bill pay. Those of you born into Generation X, Baby Boomer, or Silent Generation know what I mean. You did not grow up with today’s available technology and skepticism may be keeping you from hopping aboard the technology train. You paid bills your bills the old fashioned way with a checkbook, envelope, and a stamp. But is there more to how you pay your bills aside from your generational upbringing?
A recent report from a New York City-based market intelligence research firm, Packaged Facts, shows that other demographic factors may affect how you pay your bills. The report suggests that your behaviors and preferences are driven not only by your generational upbringing, but other factors such as income and education levels. It is clear from the report that different demographic factors play an interesting role in how we pay our bills.
According to the report, “Millennials, may well be the first generation in America that is truly downwardly mobile.” Think about your day; how many “smart” devices do you use? I wake up check my smart phone, fire up my laptop to check in with all of my “social” networks, get my news from online newspaper subscriptions, and well the list goes on and on. As a member of Generation X, I didn’t “grow up” with all of these devices, however learned the benefits and ease of use along the way. The Millenials don’t know what it’s like to live without smart phones,. laptops, and MP3 players—they learned from birth.
For example my son, a millennial, has played with “electronic devices” since he could walk. He learned how to efficiently manage a computer at the age of four, make calls on a cell phone at the age of three, and today expertly uses an ipad in his classroom.
The sad truth uncovered in the report is that on average, Millenials are earning less than previous generations when they were the same age. Today’s high rates of unemployment, sky rocketing student loans, and credit card debt are the grim reality for many of today’s youth.
The report uncovers that the higher your education level the more likely you are to pay your bills online. Consumers who didn’t graduate from high school are more likely to pay their bills in person, suggesting that many may not even have credit cards, or that this demographic is waiting until the very last minute to pay the bills. It’s interesting to see how education plays a role in how we pay our bills.
My assumption would be that those without a completed high school education missed out on the computer skills necessary to participate in online bill pay activities. Their lack of knowledge fosters fear in the security features and logistics of how online bill pay or EFT actually work.
For example: I have a very good friend that is a high school drop out. They view anything done electronically as “evil”. Even though they earn a decent income from a trade learned in early adulthood, their financial aptitude is not comparable to their college educated co-workers. Each week they take their paycheck to the bank, even though direct deposit is available through their employer. Their bills are paid via mail with a hand written check, an envelope and a stamp.
Conversely, a college graduate has been educated on the use of technology and knows enough about how it works to feel comfortable using it to perform daily tasks such as paying bills or making purchases online.
For example: I prefer to receive my paycheck via direct deposit and pay all of my bills online. I like the ease of use, cost savings, and security it affords me. As a college graduate I was immersed in some technology, however as a member of Generation X much of my technology education was learned in my post college years.
What role does income play in a consumers decision on how to pay their bills? Statistics from the report suggest that lower-income Americans opt to pay their bills in person while higher income Americans are utilizing online and automatic bill pay via devices such as smart phones.
Assuming both sides are of the same generation and have similar educational backgrounds why would this be the case?
When living on a limited or fixed income every dollar counts; living paycheck to paycheck is the norm. Paying bills in-person ensures they have the cash available and aren’t at risk of facing overdraft or over the limit fees when online bill payments are used.
Older Americans living on fixed incomes or social security are often more likely to pay bills in person; their preferences are based on their generational upbringing as well as their income level.
Those earning higher incomes enjoy the ease of use afforded by online bill payments and are more inclined to “automate” their entire lifestyle. Their “life” is in their smart phone, so why should their finances be any different?
It is clear that all three factors affect a consumer’s decision to utilize online bill payments as a way to manage their finances. Today’s economic conditions remain difficult; high unemployment rates, masses of consumer debt, and the foreclosure crisis have many Americans worried about paying their bills; whether its online, in person, or in the mail.
If you are struggling with consumer debt it is important to seek debt help and develop a plan that works for you to improve your financial situation.