Young Adults Are Trying to ‘Hack’ Their Way to Financial Stability

From the lack of affordable housing to the cost of higher education, members of the millennial and Gen Z generations face a slew of obstacles to building personal wealth.

A recent report shows that many of them are trying to “hack” their way to their financial goals as a result. Insurance marketplace Policygenius surveyed roughly 4,000 U.S. adults in October, finding that millennials and Gen Zers are employing creative strategies, some popularized by social media, in an attempt to get a financial foothold.

6 widely attempted money ‘hacks’

Policygenius asked respondents whether they have tried any of six personal finance “hacks” listed in the survey: day trading, infinite banking, maximizing credit card rewards, “cash stuffing” (envelope budgeting), no-spend challenge and extreme couponing.

More than 60% of millennials (ages 27 to 42) and Gen Zers (ages 18 to 26) polled by Policygenius said they have tried at least one of those. For context, that’s a much greater share than the 20% who said that they owned real estate, which has been traditionally been seen as the primary way to build wealth.

By comparison, only 36% of Gen Xers (ages 43 to 58) and baby boomers (ages 59 to 77) said they have used a hack.

Millennials were the most likely to say they’ve maximized credit card rewards — defined by Policygenius as mixing up credit card use to build reward points — with a quarter saying that they have used this hack.

The most popular hack among Gen Zers was the no-spend challenge, a viral social media hack that entails spending as little as possible for a set period of time.

Cumulatively, 25% of younger adults said they tried “infinite banking,” or borrowing against a whole life insurance policy. With this strategy, policyholders overfund their policy so they can use it as a line of credit and essentially act as their own lender.

About 32% of younger adults also said they’ve dabbled in day trading, which involves buying and selling securities like stocks on the same day in hopes of gaining fast profits.

Smaller shares of millennials and Gen Zers said that they’ve tried cash stuffing, a trendy budgeting strategy that involves putting cash into envelopes earmarked for a person’s expenses, and extreme couponing.

Should you try a personal finance hack?

These hacks can be fun ways for young people to experiment with their finances, and sometimes they do lead to short-term gains or shored-up savings balances. But some strategies can do more harm than good, like day trading.

This can be risky because you can’t predict the market, so your chances of losing a lot of money quickly are high. Plus, if you day-trade with money that you borrowed and lose it, or don’t make the profit you expect, you could fall into debt and face even greater financial consequences.

While many younger adults seem to be learning about certain hacks from social media, keep in mind that the internet is not always reliable. Always be cautious of advice that promises to help you get rich quick, and remember that there’s no substitute for basic skills, like budgeting, when it comes to building a solid financial foundation.

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