Age changes your views on career, friends and love. It alters how you think about big financial questions, too: When should I retire, buy my first home, get my first credit card?
According to a new report from Bankrate.com released Wednesday, different generations of Americans disagree on optimal ages for achieving personal finance milestones. On average, younger generations, such as Generation X (ages 38-53) and millennials (18-37) tend to be more hopeful about when they can retire or buy their first car.
“Younger people are optimistic, and I think that’s great,” said Bankrate.com analyst Amanda Dixon. “But I think a lot of people need to be careful and be realistic in terms of their own personal situations.”
It turns out the ideal age to achieve financial milestones depends, well, on your age:
Age to retire: 61
Americans, on average, believe the best age to retire is 61. Younger adults tend to be more ambitious in their retirement age goals, according to Bankrate.com’s report. Gen Xers and millennials said their ideal age was 60 and 61, respectively, while baby boomers (64-72) and the silent generation (73+) are more conservative, estimating 64 to 65.
Dixon said that, though people need to think carefully about saving in order to retire early, the state of the economy might contribute to the younger generations’ hopefulness.
“It makes sense for a lot of people to feel good about where they are and what the future might look like,” Dixon said.
Age to start saving for retirement: 22
On average, 22 is perceived as the right time to start building a nest egg. Just as they picked the earliest retirement age of any generation, Gen Xers also selected the youngest age to start saving for their golden years. The Bankrate data found that 59 percent of Gen Xers think someone should ideally start saving for their retirement by their 21st birthday — which is a higher percentage than every other demographic.
According to Dixon, the 2008 financial crisis may have affected the savings preferences of many Gen Xers.
“Gen Xers are probably thinking back to the recession and where they were at that point,” Dixon said. “For a lot of them, they recognize that it’s important to have good financial habits at a young age.”
Age to buy first home: 28
Americans, on average, think 28 is a good time to start the journey of home ownership. Unlike the prior categories, the silent generation is the most aggressive when it comes to the ideal age for someone to buy their first home. While other age groups pick 28, the silent generation chooses 26.
Many members of the silent generation got married young, and “although they grew up during the Great Depression, they were adults during a period of economic prosperity,” Dixon said. “Buying homes at an earlier age was easier for them, in part because there were fewer people to compete with for housing.”
Age to open first credit card: 22
On average, Americans say the right age to get a first credit card is 22. Millennials set themselves apart from all other generations in how early they thought that should happen. While 63 percent of them believe individuals should open their first cards before they turn 21, only 37 percent of older generations agree.
Dixon attributes this difference to millennials being at a stage of life when they're making purchases and finding their financial footing.
“They understand the importance of building credit, and having a credit card is a great way to do that,” she said.
Age to buy or lease first car: 21
Twenty-one is the time to buy or lease a first car, Americans say. Millennials are more aggressive than other generations about when people should ideally do that, with about 14 percent thinking that individuals should buy or lease by age 18, double the percentage of other generations.
“I think millennials are thinking about independence” when it comes to cars, Dixon said. “They want to be able to do things on their own, and they want to be able to go out and have jobs.”