Why Millennials can’t just take any old advice.
Anyone else feel as though they are making more money than ever, but also finding it more difficult to save their extra earned money, plan for retirement, and be able to afford to live the American Dream? You’re not alone. According to an NBC News/GenForward survey from April, approximately three out of four millennials in the U.S. have some form of debt. (1) This means more money is going to minimum payments and less is going toward saving, retirement, and enjoying life!
Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room – most people are dealing with a lot of debt before they even start their first job. Student loans and credit cards are the main reason that millennials feel that they can’t gain the financial ground to do things such as buy a house or start a business. “Almost 40% of Americans are loaded with credit card debt — with an average amount of $16,000 — and another 37% of the under-40 crowd have student loan debt, at an average of $40,000.” (2)
As an advisor it makes it challenging to help clients save for short-term or long-term goals. These debt obligations must be paid, but people also need to think about their future, like saving to buy a home or planning for retirement. Many Millennials are even putting off starting a family based on their debt balances and level of career success.
Product Life Span and Must Haves
I know people that still have their TVs from 1985! Yes, you have to get off the couch to turn the volume up or down (GASP…I know, the horror!), but it still works. It’s hooked up to cable and is in color! These days things just aren’t made like they used to be. I’d put $100 on the fact that no TV produced today will still be working 33 years from now. We’ll have to follow up on this post in 2051 to see if I’m right. Today we need to replace “necessary” items like televisions, appliances, cell phones, etc. more often than we used to.
The amount of things that we need has also increased. 50 years ago it was common to see one car per household or one wall phone per family. Now, it’s the norm for one family to have several cars, at least one cell phone per person, a TV in every room, iPads, video game consoles, laptops, and the list goes on. As the quantity of what we allegedly need goes up, but the quality of the products goes down, we only find ourselves buying more, more often. This makes it challenging to save because the money is going toward material purchases instead of in the bank.
The cost of housing continues to increase. The housing market has surpassed pre-crash prices and is still rising. For younger Americans, this makes it a challenge to meet other financial obligations and think about taking on the responsibility of a mortgage payment. Because saving up the money for a down payment is challenging, people end up renting. This gets them into the cycle of spending a good portion of their monthly income on their apartment, which often results in further hindering their ability to save money to buy a home.
Also, many people feel they are simply not ready to buy a home. Maintenance, repair costs, taxes, insurance, and other variable costs are intimidating to first-time buyers and will keep them in the rental market for a significantly longer time than generations before us.
A 2017 GoBankingRates survey found that most “young millennials” — which GBR defines as those between 18 and 24 years old — had less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. Nearly half had nothing saved at all. To make matters worse, the share of millennials with $0 in savings is on the rise. In 2016, 31 percent had $0, compared to 46 percent in 2017.(3)
How can people save when they barely make enough money to pay monthly bills, rent, and put groceries in their cabinets?
As an advisor, retirement planning with younger clients can be a challenge because it seems so far away. There are so many immediate needs or drains on their finances that thinking about what life will be like in 30 years and how much money they will need to support themselves can be difficult to grasp. A large difference in how people are preparing for retirement comes down to the companies they work for.
Today people have to rely on their own contributions to company plans like a 401(k) instead of being able to retire knowing they have the support of a corporate pension. As the shift of responsibility from companies to individuals increases, we see a larger gap in what people need for retirement and what they actually have available to them when their paycheck stops coming in.
Millennials are entering the workforce later due to more years in school or changing careers. Think back to a time when the majority of people would graduate from high school and go straight to work. They were making money at 18, had no debt, and the housing market was substantially lower than it is today. It would be no shock to see someone married with a family, in a house they owned in their early to mid-20’s. That sounds crazy to Millennials! This also reflects how much longer this group is waiting to start saving for retirement and ultimately building assets on their personal balance sheet to support them in the future.
So what do millennials want?
Financial flexibility, to pay off debt, and be able to buy a house and/or start a business.
How can those goals be achieved?
Get serious about your money.
Know exactly how much is coming in and how much is going out per month. In other words, create a budget. I know “budget” is considered an ugly word, but it doesn’t have to be restrictive. If done correctly, it will actually give you more financial freedom than you have right now. Know how much you have per month to spend on “fun” and don’t go above that to put yourself into more debt or spend down your savings.
Set goals and write them down.
If buying a house is your number one goal, make your financial choices to reflect that. Missing a few weekends away or eating out less isn’t the most exciting option, but when you’re able to cook dinner for friends and entertain in your new backyard, you’ll be happy that you prioritized and stuck to your plan!
Talk about money and look at what your friends are doing.
Are they struggling with these same things? Money and finances are still taboo to talk about, but they don’t have to be. See what other people are doing to spend less and save more. Share stories and ideas. Host a potluck dinner and save money by not going out one weekend night.
Work with a professional.
Nothing beats asking an expert. At the end of the day, personal finances can be confusing and overwhelming. There are a lot of moving pieces and most of us have never had any formal education on this important subject. Look for an advisor, coach, or financial guru who will give you honest, unbiased advice on how to get your personal finances on track toward your personal goals and make sure they aren’t just trying to sell you financial products if that’s not what you need.
Remember, save early and often! Playing catch up never wins!
If you have questions – feel free to reach out!
Kevin Stoddard is a LPL Financial Advisor with Stoddard Financial in Quincy, Massachusetts. Stoddard helps clients throughout New England to identify, plan, and execute strategies designed for securing their desired financial future. With their Financial Wellness @ Work program, they engage, educate, and empower employees by helping them to understand and appreciate the value of their benefits package. You can find Kevin at confidenceinretirement.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
- Millennials and Long-Term Debt: How a Generation Ended Up in a Rut. cheatsheet.com, June 28, 2017.