Reasons Why Chinese Millennials Have More Cash To Burn

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Xiao-jie is 21. A senior in college, she is one of six million people who traveled overseas during China’s Golden Week holiday (Oct. 1-7). Japan was her destination. The trip cost about 10,000 yuan (about $1,500), which her parents paid for. As the only child in the family, Xiao-jie gets pretty much everything she wants.

The same is true for her friend who traveled with her.

Xiao-jie and her friend are not alone. According to China National Administration of Tourism, more than 120 million Chinese traveled abroad in 2015, spending $194 billion. About half of those Chinese travelers were millennials–born after the 1980–and they accounted for two-thirds of Chinese outbound travel spending.

The travel industry is excited to target “wealthy” Chinese millennials. While some Chinese young people are from wealthy families, most of them are not. But compared to Western millennials, they have two significant advantages.

First, Chinese millennials aren’t indebted with student loans. Chinese parents save and spend as much as it takes to send their children to college. For example, Xiao-jie studies fashion design in a college on the outskirts of Hangzhou. Her parents pay for her education. When she graduates from college, she will have no student debt.

Most Chinese college graduates are in the same situation. According to Tuition.io, the average cost of tuition is $2,200 per year–relatively affordable to Chinese families. In addition, Chinese culture shuns borrowing. Student loans are unheard of and unavailable.

This is very different from the American millennial generation. Those in their 20s are overwhelmed with student loans, which amount to some $1.3 trillion. More than seven million student borrowers are in default and millions are still struggling to repay their loans.

Second, many Chinese millennials don’t have housing expenses. About 90 % of Chinese households own their homes, and 80 % of these homes are owned without mortgages or any other leans. For example, Xiao-jie’s family already owns two condominiums. Both were purchased with cash. Xiao-jie’s father works in a state-owned utility company. Her mother is an administrator for a hospital. Though not rich, they are a typical middle class family with a comfortable life.

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