The instafamous millennial who just posted themselves taking a selfie with their $5 matcha has a wallet just as slim as their waist. Scrolling through the countless selfies of 90’s babies rooftop brunching and escaping to the tropical islands on a Tuesday, makes us question – what is behind this curated mirage of wealth that millennials are showing off? Does a #selfcaresunday post outweigh the thoughts of saving for a timely retirement? Recent reports by LendEdu and Credit Karma gave us insight on the financial mindset of today’s young adult, further intriguing us on the interconnected social and financial structure of today’s technology-driven world.

First, let’s unpack some wealth stats:

  • Nearly a quarter of millennials believe they will be less wealthy than their parents in their lifetime. LendEdu
  • 35% of millennials live with their parents. – Business Insider
  • 40% of millennials spend money they don’t have to keep up with friends. – Credit Karma
  • 73% of those who went into debt to keep up with their friends typically keep it a secret. – Credit Karma
  • Two-thirds of respondents feel buyer’s remorse after spending more than they had planned to on a social situation that they later regret. – Credit Karma

This makes us think deeper about the average millennial’s priorities. Are those extra hours at the office spent with an intention to save for retirement or to afford the staging for that perfect Instagram selfie at a trendy new cafe?

The social culture developed around technology has amplified a desire to show off luxurious lifestyles in return for likes. When someone likes an image you’ve posted on social media, your body releases a flood of dopamine in the heart of your brain’s pleasure center. That “like” gives your body a euphoric reaction, as if it were a drug. This drug has affected our society in a web of interconnected aspects – our social and financial behaviors being at the forefront. For example, studies show that millennials feel pressured to spend money they don’t have. This ranges from travel, music festivals, weddings, sporting events or social activities such as dinner and drinks with friends. They believe that being a part of these events and flaunting a curated mirage of wealth both physically and digitally is a form of success. Comparatively, older generations may define success as a college degree.

How To Be A Power Player in The Game of Wealth

In Tony Robbin’s book Money: Master The Game, he writes “At its core, money is about power. But on some level it’s just an illusion.” What is behind the illusion of money for a millennial? Is it entirely about status of self or is there rational thinking for the future involved? It seems as though power and success has become measured through the number of followers one has on their Instagram. As proven in the statistics above, this craving to show off wealth for attention has had a domino effect on our social perceptions, daily habits and financial behaviors.

Now, while we can’t escape these societal pressures, we can learn to play the game.

Here are five easy tips, by leading experts Chris Reining and The Penny Hoarder, that you can do to become a REAL millennial millionaire, not just play one on the gram:

  1. Your future self will want to retire – Invest at least 10% of your annual income.
  2. Think twice before buying a house – it’s not always the best long-term investment.
  3. Don’t rush to get graduate degrees that aren’t necessary and strategize your student debt with your student loans advisor( check out income-based repayment plans.
  4. Talk about money with your support system – together you can work to make a well-rounded financial plan for short & long term success.
  5. Start investing your money with an investment app like Stash – You can start small with just $5, plus the automatic withdrawal system takes another worry off your to-do list.

Climbing The Wealth Pyramid

Sherry Turkle wrote in her book Alone Together, “Getting that text was like getting a hug”. The digital attention we receive has become an addiction, thus impacting our social and financial behaviors. Society is built within a social pyramid fueled by wealth. It’s no surprise that those curating their luxurious digital lifestyles are thought to be powerful and successful. However, as the recent reports suggest, this lifestyle millennials are flaunting is all but a game. But you know what they say – Don’t hate the player, hate the game.