A Look At How South Floridians Handle Financial Freedom


Merrill Edge recently released its spring report. We reached out to Andrew Wilson, Consumer Banking & Merrill Edge Region Executive to explain what the survey revealed about locals and their saving/spending habits.

  1. Tell us a little bit about the survey. Who did you poll? What was the goal?

Our semi-annual, nationwide survey, takes an in-depth look at the financial concerns and priorities of mass affluent Americans. Designed to examine financial patterns, the report serves as an example of generational behavior and regional behavior, giving perspective on financial tendencies of a variety of Americans. In this latest edition, we discovered that millennials are striving for financial freedom, focusing less on retirement.

The latest Merrill Edge Report surveyed over 1,000 Americans, including an oversample of 300 South Florida residents between March 21 – April 5, 2017.

  1. The report states millennials and South Floridians have a lot in common. In what ways?

The report found that the majority (63 percent) of millennials are looking to save a set amount of money or income necessary to enjoy their desired lifestyle—compared to the majority (55 percent) of Gen Xers and baby boomers who are saving so they can leave the workforce. Similarly, the majority (53 percent) of South Floridians are also saving to achieve financial freedom and flexibility—whether for a future home or an upcoming trip—millennials and South Floridians both prioritize the short-term over saving for retirement or a workforce exit strategy.

The great news is that millennials are saving – in fact, when we examined the national data, it shows that millennials are saving 36 percent more than their counterparts. The interesting takeaway is what they are saving for.

  1. The report states South Floridians could improve their everyday spending habits. How?

The local data showed that South Floridians are more likely than any other market surveyed to prioritize designer fashion, season tickets and plastic surgery/cosmetic enhancements over saving for their financial future. What’s concerning is, like national respondents (42 percent), four in 10 South Florida residents are saving less than 10 percent of their salary, including 9 percent who don’t save at all. That’s a big number – nearly 50 percent of South Floridians are saving less than they should, and this has left many feeling unprepared for life’s “what-if” scenarios. More than 50 percent of respondents felt unprepared to meet their financial goals if they had children, got divorced or outlived their significant other. On the other hand, South Floridians indicated that they see the importance of saving, with 62 percent of residents believing that individuals in the U.S. should be required to save for retirement, and 45 percent believe financial education should be required.

The great news is that like freedom, flexibility greatly appeals to South Floridians, as nearly half (47 percent) of local respondents say that they manage their investments through an online or mobile portal. Recognizing this growing tendency, we launched the Merrill Edge Guided Investing platform earlier this year. The platform combines expert insight with the convenience and flexibility of online management to allow investors to create a customizable portfolio that is built and managed by professionals.

  1. What are South Floridians spending their money on?

The report found that South Floridians prioritize lifestyle over retirement. In other words, South Florida residents are shifting their long-term savings goals to achieve their desired lifestyle instead of leaving the workforce. In fact, the majority of South Floridians are likely to spend their money on travel (81 percent), their home (76 percent) and dining out (67 percent).

  1. What is the difference in spending/saving habits in millennials vs. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers? 

Millennials are the first generation to consciously plan for financial freedom—the amount of savings or income necessary to live their desired lifestyle—instead of retirement. This drastically differs from the majority of Gen Xers and baby boomers who are saving to leave the workforce. This shift illustrates a broader mindset of how millennials continue to redefine life’s milestones, including how they prioritize landing their dream job and when they want to start a family. It is a ‘FOMO’ (fear of mssing out) mentality that drives many of these decisions, which are apparent in their spending habits. The majority say they’re more likely to spend money on travel (81 percent), dining (65 percent) and fitness (55 percent) than save for their financial future.