The Cashless Generation

shutterstock_380003569.0A few weeks ago, I went to the Harvest Fest at Angry Orchard with some friends. There were six of us, conveniently, all millennials. We found a cheap Airbnb and took Ubers to the event–all very “millennial” moves.  We had a great time, listened to some awesome reggae, drank way too many ciders, and then it was time to go home.

As many of my fellow Uber riders know, whenever there is a big event in any particular location (e.g.,  a concert, New Year’s Eve in NYC, random festival in the middle of nowhere), the Uber rides become stupid expensive. At Harvest Fest, we thought we were prepared to outsmart these odds and not deal with the Uber price debacle. We found the contact info for the only local cab company in the area, gave them a call, AND left the concert 20 minutes early in order to get to a good spot for them to pick us up.  We totally had this, and were ready to get back to our nasty Airbnb, fully stocked with junk food to nosh on.

After waiting an hour and a half for an available taxi cab, the driver picked us up in an old minivan and was nice enough. By God’s grace we made it back to the Airbnb and it was time to pay him. Amazingly enough, the cab ride was only $20 and he only accepted cash. Here were, 6 working adults trying to scrape together $20 DOLLARS!!  We were counting $1 bills we found in our pockets, purses, and the corners of our cars.  When we were still short $9 after counting quarters and pennies, my friends decided to go find an ATM to get the rest of the cash.

And thus, the idea of writing about the ‘paperless generation’ was born.  I believe the above experience is a perfect example of how accurate this label for millennials really is. I mean, how is it possible that 6 employed, high-functioning adults couldn’t scrape together $20 in cash? There’s no way that was a coincidence or rarity amongst millennials, but I needed do some research to ensure that was the case. So, shocker, I googled it.

A few things I found:

  • The Independent Community Bankers of America did a study in 2014 that stated that, “about one in four millennials carries less than $5 cash on them seven days a week”.  True, I maybe carry one dollar at a time, maybe.
  • This study gave reasons for millennials not carrying cash such as “they see it as a liability rather than a safety net”, and “having cash in their pocket feels like it’s burning a hole in their pocket”.

Both of these statements I wholeheartedly agree with.  If I have more than $20 in my pocket, then I am sure I am going to lose it or spend it immediately. “Oh you want to get lunch? I’ve got it, I actually have cash on me today.” BOOM, and it’s gone, POOF!

Technology isn’t helping the trend.

For those millennials who do carry cash, Sophia Bera, a millennial who founded Gen Y Planning and is a member of the CNBC Digital Financial Advisor Council, said most of her friends carry some cash, but she rarely sees them using it as the first option to pay for things. It’s mostly cash for emergency situations, or cash for tips. “When I use Venmo it feels like magical money,” Bera said. “You forget that it is money, like any money, and that is bad.”

And after that traumatic stuck-without-cash experience, I have to go against the millennial trend and argue that we all should always carry with us AT LEAST $20-50 in cash.  Hide it in it wallet pocket, or behind the cover of your phone case, somewhere where it’s out of sight and out of mind -until you’re desperate and stuck in the middle of nowhere with a taxi driver who only takes cash… 😉

3 thoughts on “The Cashless Generation

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