Study: Millennials Pay a Total of $93k (or 45% of Income) in Rent by Age 30

by | BiggerPockets.com

Millennials: It’s hard to scroll through a newsfeed without encountering a new article about this frequently discussed demographic. One aspect of Millennials that has been heavily debated is their reluctance to buy homes. Is this due to a high burden of student debt, an unwillingness to follow the Baby Boomers’ “American Dream,” or an urgent need for flexibility (and perhaps a fear of commitment)? Whatever the combination of reasons, it’s clear that many Millennials are putting off home purchases and instead pouring their funds into rent—at a rate higher than you might expect.

A Whopping $93,000 in Rent by Age 30

How much does the average Millennial spend on rent before the age of 30—and how does that amount stack up to other generations? Using U.S. Census data, a recent study by RentCafe found that Millennials spend around $93,000 on rent over an 8-year period (from age 22 up to and including 29).

[This study included single people paying “average” rent on their own. All amounts were adjusted to 2017 prices.]

The Millennial average of $93,000 in rent represents more than what Baby Boomers paid by the same age—and it also represents a staggering 45% of their total median income (which is around $206,600 over the 8 years). In comparison, Gen Xers spent around 41% of income on rent, while Boomers managed to keep their rent burden to 36%. While both Gen Xers and Boomers made less on average than Millennials, they also spent less.

Millennials’ Financial Landscape

But why aren’t Millennials buying houses, you might continue to wonder. The jury’s still out. Economists have cited crippling student debt amongst other factors (somewhat) beyond Millennials’ control—but there’s also evidence suggesting that this generation spends more on certain non-necessities that didn’t tempt other generations, including Lyft and Uber, eating out, pricey Starbucks, city living—and yes, $18 avocado toast.

In fact, evidence suggests that younger Millennials, currently aged between 22 and 29 years, throw even more funds towards rent than their older generational counterparts. This group is paying a median of $97,400 in total rent by age 30, whereas older Millennials (aged 30 to 40) pay around $90,500.

A Rising Trend in Rent

Adjusted for 2017 dollars, Baby Boomers paid an average of $71,000 in total towards rent before age 30, Gen Xers paid $82,200, and Millennials shelled out $93,000. If that trajectory continues, Generation Z can expect to spend over $102,000 in rent by 30.

Furthermore, a reliance on technology may drive Gen Z to seek out expensive rental amenities to meet their tech-savvy demands. Or will they discover real estate investing, become a generation of landlords, buck all expectations, and live financially free? Only time will tell.

To read the full study and more about the methodology, visit RentCafe.com.

Do these stats surprise you? Why or why not? Where do you think renting trends will lead?

Comment below!

About Author

Allison Leung

A career writer, editor and blogger, Allison serves as the Director of Content for BiggerPockets.com. In the past, she has channeled her passion and curiosity for all things real estate into her jobs by working in real estate law and heading a blog about real estate market trends. Don’t ask about her dog, Ace, unless you want to see approximately 500 photos of his (adorable) face.

23 Comments

  1. Erik Whiting

    Very interesting article, thanks for taking the time to put it together.

    I was a little surprised given that this generation thinks they invented “house hacking” (i.e. what every generation before them called “roommates”) and supposedly like to share everything from cars to sleeping arrangements. All this and they still spend more per capita on housing? Strange. If I did my math correctly, $93,000 / 8 years / 12 months = $968 per month. That’s a ton of money spent on “flexible lifestyle.”

    I think eventually Millennials will want to get serious about building wealth, and the tried and true method of owning a house will be one of their first steps. I wonder if they’re waiting for the next bubble to pop? Most of them were too young to be serious buyers 10 years ago, but now that prices are surging again in many markets, perhaps they’re sitting on the sidelines waiting for bargains?

    As the article says, Time will tell… We live in interesting times, always!

    • Allison Leung

      “What every generation before them called roommates” = hahaha

      I think the difference could be that you could live with a few roommates but not own the property and therefore still be paying rent. The term “house hacking” differentiates the fact that you own it and are renting it to others. (Fine, maybe it’s also just a well marketed term these days.) 😉

      It will be interesting to see what happens. I’ve read articles (some by Brian Davis on this blog) about how the next mass exodus to suburbia is beginning to happen, so perhaps things will dramatically change as Millennials start having kids (later than their parents’ generation) and seek out what every other generation has eventually—housing in areas where they can actually afford to buy.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. ” May you live in interesting time !” Is that a curse or a well wish ? Could these trends be tied to Big Bank’s requirements and the Dodd-Franks consumer protection (ie down payment) requirements ?

    Thanks for the Article & data.

  3. Justin M Christian

    Is inflation even calculated into these numbers? Or even the long-term average for rent increases?

    $697/mo – (22-30 aged: 50 years ago)
    $1064/mo – (22-30 aged: Today)

    Those monthly cost differences seem fair and even some would say extremely positive if you take ~3% inflation into account.

    • Justin M Christian

      I think the problem is less on % of income spent on housing vs. the lagging compensation rates over the years for millenials vs. baby boomer when they were first starting out in the work force. I’d like to see how the starting compensation rates compared to inflation affects these graphs.

  4. Wow staggering numbers. Especially since I just calculated mine. I am 33 years old and moved out at 19. I have lived in pricey cities. Including Washington DC, Boston, Los Angeles and now Phoenix, AZ.
    full cost of my rent by my age range:
    age 19-33= $125,730
    age 19-29= $71,850
    age 22-29= $55,650
    So, at least I have been below the national average. But these numbers are terrible. Makes me want to give up city living and go live on a ranch in the middle of know where and sell locals crickets to fish in my bass pond.

  5. Jason Bergan

    I’m skeptical of the projections on gen Z, since the data I’ve seen suggests that they prefer space and aren’t as interested in the hipster downtown style as millennials. It’ll be interesting to see how that develops.

  6. Philip Katz

    That’s one way to look at it.
    How much would they have paid in interest, taxes, maintenance, commissions?
    I guess they would’ve come out ahead overall.
    There’s also issue of down payment, time to take care, and if you’re sure that’s the town you want to stay put in.

  7. Erika G.

    I am mid 30s and still renting. Pocket’s already hurting with it so I am thinking of buying a house this year. It is true the most millennials think they’re house hacking by getting roommates, but how long will you have a roommate? Would it be nice to get home to a place where you can have privacy and all that? Just a thought.

  8. Ryan D.

    “Is this due to a high burden of student debt, an unwillingness to follow the Baby Boomers’ “American Dream,” or an urgent need for flexibility (and perhaps a fear of commitment)?”

    You seriously think THESE are the reasons why young people aren’t buying houses right now????
    Incomes have been nearly flat for the last 20+ years, while housing markets have skyrocketed – in other words, housing has never been more unafordable than it is now. THAT is why young people aren’t buying homes, they are too damed expensive relative to their incomes!!
    Markets in every west coast metro area (Seattle, Portland, SF Bay, LA) are up >30% over just the last three years, while incomes have barely paced with inflation over the same interval.

  9. John Murray

    I rent to millennials and have 4 bed 3 bath houses in nice neighborhoods in Portland Oregon. This generation is smart and they know when they have a good deal. They pool their money and I don’t know exactly how many live there with BF and GF but they are good tenants. Some come and go but year after year they sign a new lease. There will come a time for them to leave once the market has hits $500K and reality will set in for them. Until then they make me wealthy.

  10. I am a millennial and I’m glad that I am! I own it. This was a very interesting article! I saw the $93,000 number and was like o shit! So of course I calculated my own money I have spent on rent since I went to college, and I’m about $52,000 at 28 years old. Ouch.

    I think it is important to actually have conversations with Millennials, person to person, instead of making assumptions about how we spend our money or presuming what is exactly financially crippling us. Homes were cheaper for our parents and jobs were more available because technology had not advanced to the level that it is now. I’m a huge geek that loves personal financial planning strategies and real estate so I might be in a different head space then most Millennials but my strategy right now for “building wealth” is NOT buying a home until I have all cash and investing LARGE amounts into the stock market. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad and I agree that having a mortgage is considered a liability. I know this is a hot topic, but I have student loans and THAT’s IT! In comparison, most of my friends have homes over 200,000 plus students loans! How is that smart? If one of them loses their job, they will lose everything with over 300,000 in debt plus normal bills. So if I have to rent a awesome apartment for $630.00 a month for a couple more years, while they pay mortgages of $1,200-$1,500, I’m cool with that.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Sara S.

      The key is buying the right size house right for you. Whatever you are paying in rent is likely 30% cheaper for the EXACT SAME THING if you owned it but you keep more of your money. If you can’t find a property to buy that costs you less than your current $630/mo, then definitely shovel money into investments and watch it grow. If you can buy a property for say $1000/mo but rent out 2 of the bedrooms to your friends for $300/mo each, now you’re only spending $400/mo plus building equity from other’s people money that could pay off your student loans in one full sweep if you sold or refinanced the house. Either way, the goal is keep as much of your income for you!

  11. Sara S.

    All those suckers.. I’ve never understood. I bought my first house in 2012 with just a measly $3000 down payment (the sign on bonus from my first job offer after graduating college). FIrst month’s rent and deposit to sign a lease required more money down. I thought no way. Got out of that trap as soon as possible.

  12. Marcus Lawson

    You have to understand high job movement of millenials, higher percentage seeking higher education, and simply stated rents skyrocketing. I moved home after college, but I also finished at 23 cause of grad school, so I guess my 22 college rent gets added to this number.

  13. Colin March

    Paying rent and building wealth are not mutually exclusive. Owning a home is not an investment, it’s a lifestyle choice. A key benefit to owning a home for those who have trouble saving is that the mortgage payment forces you to save through principal pay-down. What about the millennial who buys investment properties at a 15% IRR instead of using the money for a down-payment on a primary residence? The cash flow could easily cover his $1000/month rent.

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