Of millennial workers with an active 401(k), 43 percent expect to retire before the age of 65, based on data from T. Rowe Price. For Generation X — often defined as those aged 40 to 55 — that figure is 35 percent. While the T. Rowe Price survey targeted a privileged group, broader polls have turned up similar findings.
Members of Gen X are short on savings, so they may need to work further into old age. But younger people have time to turn things around: While they got a slow start, they are still under the age of 40. Millennials have begun saving more as they work in greater numbers and benefit from a record-long economic expansion.
There’s even a movement — Financial Independence, Retire Early, or “FIRE” — dedicated to frugality in pursuit of quitting the work force as soon as possible.
Scott Rieckens, 36, and his wife Taylor, 35, began following a FIRE plan in 2017. The couple, who have one child, ditched their leased cars and $3,000-a-month apartment in San Diego to move to Bend, Ore. They save more than 50 percent of their income and aim to have the $1.7 million they think they’d need to retire by their early 40s, though Mr. Rieckens doesn’t plan to completely stop working then.
He recently produced a documentary on the FIRE movement, released last year, which drew more than 10,000 people to screenings in over 200 cities. The audience skewed younger, Mr. Rieckens said, explaining that FIRE appeals to millennials partly because they have faced precarious jobs without pensions.
“You start to get this sense of lack of control, and fear,” he said. “You can take control of your life.”
The Rieckens may be extreme savers, but many millennials with means are prioritizing saving. According to a recent Bank of America survey, 25 percent of millennial savers had amassed more than $100,000, up from 16 percent in 2018.