This post is was originally published on The Penny Hoarder
You probably scrolled across a pretty wild statistic recently: It claimed one in six millennials — 16% — has saved at least $100,000 in 2016.
That’s according to a Bank of America survey made exclusively available to USA Today.
I did an actual spit-take when I saw that number (with La Croix rather than coffee — I’m a millennial, after all). As my wife and I hurriedly tallied up our savings, even including home equity, we barely touched that total.
How could this be true? A sizable portion of a generation saddled with student debt and wanted for killing everything from cereal to bars of soap has still managed to save six figures?
Well, don’t freak out like I did, because it’s probably not true.
Millennials’ median net worth sat at about $11,000 in 2016, according to the latest Survey of Consumer Finances conducted by the U.S. Federal Reserve. And I was even more skeptical of the that $100,000 whopper after digging deeper into panel data from a government survey released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last year.
Indeed, a Penny Hoarder analysis of that data tells a much different story.
Millennial Retirement Savings Are Probably Way Less Than $100,000
First off, the Bank of America study only classifies millennials as those between ages 23 and 37 in 2015, which is skewed older than the accepted age range recognized by the Pew Research Center. The U.S. Census Bureau has a similar range to Pew, as does the CFPB survey, which collected millennial responses from those aged 18 to 35.
We found 12% of millennials are likely to refuse even answering how much they have in savings, according to a weighted analysis of CFPB financial well-being survey data. And I don’t blame them.
Overall, only 3% of millennials have $75,000 or more in savings. Even with the larger age range, it’s quite a stretch from the 16% that apparently have $100,000 in the Bank of America study.
A little more than a third of millennials — 37% — are likely to have less than $1,000 in savings, according to our analysis. And 12% of us have no savings at all.
It’s not much rosier for other generations, either. Sure, 13% of folks older than 34 are likely to have $75,000, but even for this more mature cohort, more than a third have $1,000 or less in savings.
When you look at all ages, more than half of those surveyed said they weren’t optimistic about their futures. It doesn’t have to be this way.
4 Ways to Pad Those Retirement Savings Right Now
See, plenty of people are in your shoes and don’t have $100,000 saved. But there are definitely steps you can take to be on your way to whatever your savings goal might be.
Try a few of our favorite hacks for tackling savings.
1. Start Robo-Investing With These Tools
OK, this sounds totally weird. You might be imagining a metallic bank teller, but robo-investing is actually a way of investing for the future without even thinking about it.
Stash will automatically pull money from your bank account with just $5 to start. You sort of trick yourself into saving, and by the end of the year, you’ll be happy you started it.
Acorns, which will give you a free $10 to start, automates your savings by rounding up purchases you make on a connected credit or debit card, then investing the change into a fund.
As for which one is best, that’s totally up to you.
2. Switch Banks and Make Money Off Your Savings
Aspiration’s Summit checking account, an online-only bank account, is a favorite around Penny Hoarder HQ.
There are no monthly fees, you can get reimbursed for ATM fees and Aspiration pays up to 1% interest on your balance. You could start socking away money for retirement in no time.
3. Get the Most out of Your 401(k)
Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.
Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.
There’s a robo-advisor for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.
A few of us Penny Hoarders use the service. It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.
After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.
4. Snag a Side Gig and Rake in That Extra Cash
One way to save money is to make more money. And as you know, that’s our specialty.
From online surveys to Airbnb to Uber and Lyft, here are 12 ways to save an extra $5,000 for retirement this year.
But most importantly, don’t get down when you see sensational news articles about how much your generation is saving. There might be more to the numbers than you think.
Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He doesn’t quite have six figures in savings, but he’s made a dent in his goals since starting this job.