Let’s start by acknowledging reality. I belong to the millennial generation and I’ll be the first to tell you we have a few flaws. We’re known for our short attention spans and our propensity to quit our jobs or run off to a new place to “find ourselves” at the drop of a hat. We tend to get our news through social media and find ourselves stuck behind our phones more often than we should. Despite our potential shortfalls, it’s important to accept that we’re not going away. In fact, according to a study by the Brookings Institute, we will account for approximately one-third of all adults by 2020. We could make up 75% of the workforce by 2025[i]. With that momentum in mind, it’s probably a good idea to start talking about what to do with us.
When I think about my peers, several roadblocks come to mind that could derail our financial futures. While these roadblocks feel unique to my generation, the general lessons are significant and transcend generations.
The single biggest monetary complaint I hear from my peers is the feeling of paralysis from student loans. It’s a significant concern. In February of 2017, Forbes reported, “Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt.”[ii] To make matters worse, the delinquency rate on student loans is hovering around 11%. We’re starting our careers by digging out of a hole, and not all of us are succeeding.
Whatever the source – whether student loan debt or otherwise – debt can produce financial paralysis without a well-crafted action plan to dig your way out. At Foster Group, we have conversations with clients about debt management nearly every day. If you’re feeling stuck, give us a call.
Save First, Spend Second
This lesson should be obvious, yet it appears to be a struggle for my generation. We like to go out to eat and buy expensive coffee. We have a habit of treating ourselves to many small extravagances, which tend to result in exhausting our bank accounts on a recurring basis. At Foster Group, we often use the phrase “Owe, Grow, Give, Live.” It’s a cash flow philosophy that comes from Kingdom Advisors, and one that could save millennials from overspending on coffee. With this philosophy, spending on lifestyle moves from first priority to fourth.
Owe – See the debt roadblock.
Grow – Save for your future.
Give – Support causes you care about.
Live – Buy your $5 latte.
Delaying Retirement Savings
In a classic millennial move, I quit my first job after a year . . . and I cashed out my meager retirement account on my way out the door. Short-sightedness caused me to pull the plug on an opportunity to make the most out of the time value of money, and I’m confident I’m not the only one to have made that mistake. In fact, one study claims 42% of millennials haven’t even started saving for retirement.[iii] Delaying saving could have a huge effect on the future value of our retirement accounts.[iv]
Source: [iv] Kiplinger.com: Start Saving Now
Additionally, neglecting to start saving for retirement could mean missing out on “free” money in the form of employer matched contributions.
Despite our desire for independence, we millennials have developed a bizarre affinity to be like our parents when it comes to our spending habits. We feel entitled to buy nice cars and expensive houses because we see our parents doing it. What we forget is that our parents have 30 years of wage growth and savings accumulation to justify the same purchases we’re trying to justify with entry-level wages.
Comparison is a vice that has existed since the beginning of time. “Keeping up with the Joneses” has resulted in all sorts of financial headaches. It’s important to remember that your financial situation is unique to you. The house your parents bought or the car in your neighbor’s driveway has no bearing on your needs and might not fit your financial plan.
I’ve been told millennials have an entitlement problem. When it comes to our overall financial picture, there’s likely some truth to that. We crave independence. While we can spin that as a positive quality in many ways, when it comes to our finances, it’s okay to ask for help. Whether you’re a millennial or nearing retirement, if you haven’t talked through your financial situation with a professional, now is a great time to start.
[i] Brookings.edu: 11 Facts about the Millennial Generation
[ii] Forbes.com: Student Loan Debt in 2017: A $1.3 Trillion Crisis
[iii] Time.com: 1 in 3 Americans Has Saved $0 for Retirement
[iv] Kiplinger.com: Start Saving Now
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