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Men in their 30s are spending more, saving less

May 04,2018
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Once or twice a month, a 32 year-old office worker surnamed Kim pulls on the Valencia sneakers he bought last winter for 1 million won ($930) and heads to a concert. He spends 60 to 70 percent of his 2.5 million won monthly salary on weekend entertainment and shopping, only saving 10 percent of his income to one day buy an apartment.

Kim is not alone. A 36 year-old office worker surnamed Park leads a similar life. Park recently spent 1.5 million on a projector and a smart speaker for his room in his parents’ house. He typically spends 30 to 40 percent of his monthly salary on entertainment or food, putting aside 25 percent for the future.

“Currently there’s no marriage in my future because I have no girlfriend,” said Park. “While I currently live with my parents, I plan on one day living in a rented home.”

Kim and Park are not unique. Men in their 30s are opting to spend a growing chunk of their income rather than saving.

Their spending isn’t limited to the luxury goods sold at department stores, but increasingly at specialist stores and on expensive hobbies.

The change in spending patterns among men in their 30s is part of a larger lifestyle change among young adults in Korea, with the growing popularity of a “You Only Live Once,” or YOLO, outlook that focuses on immediate satisfaction over long-term rewards.

According to Hyundai Department Store, last year spending by male customers in their 30s rose 1.7 percentage points on-year to 13.3 percent.

Younger male consumers are increasingly opting to buy products that were once more commonly seen in the shopping baskets of middle-aged men. More high-end wristwatches were bought by men in their 30s than those in their 40s at Hyundai Department Store for the first time ever last year.

High-end dinnerware from brands like Royal Copenhagen is also selling well as more men invest in hobbies like cooking.

According to Shinsegae Department Store, last year men in their 30s accounted for 7.8 percent of sales, a 0.2 percentage point increase compared to the previous year. That same group of male consumers accounted for 14.1 percent of sales of high-end goods, up 4.4 percentage points compared to 2016.

Lotte said it has also been seeing similar changes. Between 2013 and 2017, consumers in their 30s accounted for roughly one-third of customers, but men now account for 25.1 percent of shoppers in their 30s, up from 23 percent in 2013.

Men in their 30s are also becoming major consumers online.

Last year male consumers in their 30s accounted for 20 percent of sales at online shopping mall 11st, 4 percentage points higher than the previous year.

The most popular items were gadgets including laptops and cameras, and automotive products.

But men in their 30s were also busy buying t-shirts, sneakers, high-end watches, chicken breast, moisturizers, smart watches, cleansing foams and other personal grooming products.

Younger male consumers are also shopping for much more expensive items.

Last year men in their 30s accounted for 31.4 percent of BMW buyers, up 24.7 percent from 2012.

“Because of rising apartment prices that have made it difficult for young people to purchase a home and a delay getting married, more people are choosing to improve their lifestyle,” said Kim Jeong-hyeon, a manager at BMW Korea.

Some experts attribute the increase in spending to the psychological impact of the difficult job market that people in their 30s faced when they graduated from university a decade ago. Consumers in their 30s, who spent most of their 20s searching for a job, feel like they deserve some kind of reward for their struggle.

According to a 2015 study of people in their 30s by Statistics Korea, 44.2 percent were unmarried. That was triple the 13.1 percent of 30 year olds in a 1995 version of the same study.

At the same time, the number of men in their 30s that own a house has been shrinking.

“Those that were born after 1980 do not consider the conservative values of marriage and starting a family to be a must, but instead a choice,” said Lee Eun-hee, a professor of consumer studies at Inha University. “Young people are more interested in spending for themselves than for the greater good of families or the larger community.”

Lee added that this is particularly so as those that were born after 1980 grew at a time when the economy was doing relatively well and many were the only child in their family.

Kim Nan-do, a professor of consumer studies Seoul National University, said that those in their early and mid 30s do not want to sacrifice their lives on work as their parents did, but are more concerned with having a good work-life balance.

“They have the tendency to refuse the collective culture of the past industrial era,” Kim added.


BY KIM YOUNG-JU [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]