Millennial Millionaire Mularkey

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Man oh man, some of you will believe anything you hear.

In an article titled Millennial millionaires just want to get rich, CNBC reported:

“A report from The Shullman Research Center, titled Millionaires Have Their Own Generation Gap, found that 23% of today’s millionaires are millennials. There are now about 5 million millennial millionaires. That’s half as many as the boomers. But it’s more than the older and more established Gen-Xers, who count only 4 million millionaires among their ranks.”

My take: No way. No freaking way.


Let me do a little of the math that too many people out there can’t seem to do. If the purported 5 million Millennials account for 23% of today’s millionaires, that means there are 21.7 million millionaires (let’s round it to 22 million since the article doesn’t report more specific numbers).

And If the purported 5 million Millennials is half the number of Boomer millionaires, that makes 10 million Boomer millionaires. The report claims that there are 4 million millionaires coming from the ranks of Gen Xers. Which means that there are 3 million millionaires from both the Silent (or Senior) generation and the one after the Millennials (which one source I found calls the iGeneration).

While this is highly unlikely to be the case, let’s assume for a moment that nobody younger than a Millennial is a  millionaire, so that the 3 million unaccounted-for millionaires comes from the ranks of the Silent generation.

What this report is claiming is the following millionaire penetration rates (number of people and number of millionaires in millions):

Generation          # of people     # of millionaires    Millionaire penetration rate 
Millennial          77.9                  5                  6.4%
Gen X               50.1                  4                  8.0%
Boomer              77.3                  10                 12.9%
Silent              40.7                  3                  7.4%

This doesn’t make sense on a number of fronts:

  • The millionaire penetration rate can’t possibly be almost as high among Millennials–who are first starting out on their wealth accumulation journey–as it is among Silent generation members who, although they are spending down their wealth, have have had 40 to 60 additional years of wealth accumulation behind them.
  • There is no way that one out of every 7.5 baby boomers is a millionaire.
  • According to an L.A. Times article, citing the Spectrem Group’s research, the number of households with net worth of $1 million or more, excluding their homes, is at a record 9.63 million.

A little Googling on the part of CNBC might have uncovered this discrepancy in the estimate of the total number of millionaires in the US. And pushing a few buttons on a calculator might have raised some questions about the allocation of millionaires.

But I don’t blame the media for this stuff. I expect them to blindly publish anything that they think will get them viewers or readers.

No, I blame people for not questioning this stuff. You’ve got to stop believing–and to stop tweeting–every number that some idiot in the media reports.

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