Old at heart? Quiet life of the average British 20-something in 2017

23 February 2017

  • Average 20-something earns £20k, has savings of £2.5k and worries about their looks
  • Sleeps for only six hours a night, yet finds two hours a day for social media
  • Graduates have more than four times the debt of those who didn’t attend university

The average 20-something is a homely sort, still living where they grew up, often still with family, spending much of their time on TV or social media – and typically more inclined to relax with friends and family than have a big night out, according to a recent study.

Nationwide Savings carried out the research as part of a series of insights into the lifestyles of a range of age groups, to better understand how they live their lives, where they spend their money and what they aspire to achieve.

Financially responsible
The survey of 2,000 Brits aged 20 – 29 uncovers a generation where two thirds (65%) would rather socialise at a friend’s house than spend unnecessarily at a pub or club. This could be because, though they earn an average of £19,186 after bills, they are left with only £210 in monthly disposable income.

And when it comes to attempting to save, the choice seems to be between housing or holidays, with a third (32%) trying to get a deposit together for a mortgage, perhaps because 30 per cent still live with family. Some three in ten (30%) are focussed on saving for a holiday, a quarter (24%) putting cash away for a rainy day and one in ten on stockpiling funds for a wedding.

But despite best intentions, debt is a reality for most in this age group, with the two thirds who went to university saddled with four times as much debt as those who did not - £20,515 versus £4,721.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, Nationwide’s Head of Policy for Mortgages and Savings comments: “Our research found a generation of twenty somethings under pressure and in transition, but sensibly working or studying hard, and saving for their future - whether a deposit for their first home or a holiday. In some ways this seems a far cry from the stereotyped free-spirited youth of the 60s and 70s.”

Under pressure
Money dominates the list of common worries shared by many twenty-somethings, with most worrying both about being able to save (55%), as well as having enough to last until the end of the month (50%). Two in five (40%) are concerned about their body size or shape, while more than a third (36%) worry about getting onto the housing ladder. Other common anxieties include managing the bills, health and fitness, and not achieving in life. With so much angst, it’s perhaps little wonder that almost half (47%) report say they suffer sleepless nights every week.

Young at work
More than two in five (42%) of 20-somethings told Nationwide they work, although not in their ideal job; a further one in five (19%) were either studying or unemployed. But more than a quarter (27%) were happy to report they were comfortable in their chosen career. The average salary in this age group is £19,186 – though almost a fifth (18%) earn less than £10k and one in ten earn more than £30k. The research highlights that 20-somethings typically work 31 hours a week, although 15 per cent work more than 40 hours.

How 20s spend their time and money
While almost a third (30%) still live with family, two in five (38%) rent and just over a quarter (26%) are buying their own home. One in five (22%) have children and more than half have a pet (52%) – most likely to be a dog (54%). For those who drive a car, a modest Vauxhall Corsa or Ford Fiesta are the most likely models of choice. Twenty somethings are most likely to take one holiday a year, either in the UK (41%) or abroad (40%).

When it comes to keeping fit, the average 20-something exercises for three hours a week, and prefers running and going to the gym above all other sports. Each month, they typically spend seven nights at home watching television or films, go to the pub twice, spend two days out with family, arrive late for work once, eat at a restaurant twice, go once to the cinema or theatre and have two disagreements with their partner. More than half (55%) prefer to socialise with existing friends, while meeting new people is only a priority for seven per cent.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell continues: “It’s little wonder then that friendships and relationships, conducted both in person and online have become such a focus, along with a social life that doesn’t cost.”

Square eyes
In a typical month, 20-somethings average seven nights-in watching television or films, though more than a third (37%) often spend eleven or more in front of the box and two in five (39%) admit to binge watching TV on occasion too. Almost two in five (39%) watch online, a quarter (26%) on demand and one in 20 (5%) through You Tube – leaving less than a quarter watching on live television. They view an eclectic mix of programmes, with Big Bang Theory the most popular (mentioned by 39%), closely followed by Great British Bake Off (36%), Game of Thrones (34%), I’m a Celebrity (29%) and Planet Earth (27%). And as for films, 20-somethings most enjoy the Harry Potter saga (cited by 43%), Bridget Jones’ Diary and Mean Girls (33% each).

Social state of mind
The average 20-something has 15 friends, though a third (34%) have only five or fewer. Asked how they usually communicate with their friends, more than two thirds (70%) use Facebook, 57 per cent communicate in person or via WhatsApp, 35 per cent use their phones and a quarter (25%) use Snapchat. Including the time spent communicating with friends, the average 20-something spends two hours a day on social media, though one in eight (13%) admit to spending more than four hours a day tending to their accounts.

Looking out for love
While more than two thirds (68%) are in a relationship, only one in six (16%) are married or in a civil partnership, a third (32%) are living together and one in five (20%) are in a relationship but not living together. The average length of a relationship for 20-somethings is 4.2 years, although a third (31%) have been together for six or more years. One in six (16%) met their partner through work and one in seven (13%) via a dating app. Just five per cent regularly go on dates, according to the research.


  • Average income of £19,186.40 annually
  • Typically work 31 hours a week
  • Has £210.07 of disposable income each month
  • Has £2,543.82 in savings
  • 29 per cent have a mortgage
  • Takes one holiday in the UK each year
  • Six in 10 go to / went to university
  • Students / ex-students have a total debt of £20,514.86 excluding mortgages
  • Non-students have a total debt of £4,720.66 excluding mortgages
  • Most likely to drive a Vauxhall Corsa or Ford Fiesta
  • Has 15 friends
  • Gets six hours sleep a night
  • 22 per cent have children


  1. Saving money
  2. Having enough money
  3. What body shape and size you are
  4. Your health
  5. Getting on the housing ladder
  6. That you don’t seem to be achieving much in life
  7. Bills
  8. Eating too much rubbish food
  9. How fit you are
  10. Getting a job


  1. The Big Bang Theory
  2. Great British Bake Off
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
  5. Planet Earth


  1. Harry Potter Saga
  2. Mean Girls
  3. Bridget Jones’ Diary
  4. Love Actually
  5. Bridesmaids


  1. Ed Sheeran
  2. Adele
  3. Beyoncé
  4. Taylor Swift
  5. Sia

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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