Millennials have come of age in an era like no other in history. This generation has made its mark in a time period that’s been a supernova of information accessibility, interpersonal connectivity and technological disruption.
It’s no wonder this generation sees the world, and their personal/financial priorities, a little differently than previous ones. While baby boomers were shaped by the prosperity and growth of the post-WWII boom, millennials had a different set of experiences shape their financial attitudes: the Great Recession, skyrocketing higher education costs, longer life expectancies and later marriage/childbearing.
With this brave new millennial world in mind, we’ve compiled what we’ll call the New Financial Rules for Millennials. This unconventional advice may not fall directly in line with the way their parents and grandparents made their financial choices, but it fits with the lifestyles and life experiences millennials are trying to provide for themselves.
Millennial Advice #1: Outsource everything
Earlier generations focused on taking a DIY approach to life; if you could handle it yourself, you should. Asking for help or paying someone else to do your “dirty work” was a sign of weakness.
The reality for most millennials is that they just don’t have enough time in the day to handle everything on their plates.
Millennials have come of age in an always-on society and are at the beck and call of business even in the earliest stages of their careers. Whether multitasking when trying to relax at home or feeling pressured to check email on vacation (more than 60 percent of millennials stay connected to work while they should technically be unplugged), driven millennials can push themselves toward exhaustion and burnout by taking on too much.
By handing off responsibilities or requesting assistance in areas where they’re not the experts, millennials can better allocate their most precious resource — time — and use it to their advantage.
While this time-saving maxim applies to everything from lawn care to weekly Blue Apron boxes, it can be especially relevant for finances. What millennials don’t know about basic finance is probably costing them on a monthly basis.
Find a professional who can advise you on getting your finances sorted, whether it’s creating a monthly budget or figuring out how to allocate your 401(k) funds properly. By taking this step, you may be spending money to secure their services, but you’re also making it by cutting your monthly expenditures/losses, and growing your potential for revenue generation.
Millennial Advice #2: Question everything, including your education
Millennials are often the scourge of their workplaces because they’re well-known for asking “why?” Millennials have been raised to question everything, because they’ve grown up in an era of ever-expanding information and questioning is the best way to unearth authentic knowledge and bring about innovation.
One area in particular that millennials should be encouraged to question further is their education. An attitude of learning and curiosity is crucial to success, but the adage that “education is an investment” bears further scrutiny.
Student loans are the second-highest source of consumer debt. The average student graduates college more than $30,000 in debt; those who choose private colleges or postgraduate education incur even more.
Education is definitely valuable, but there are plenty of additional ways to access educational resources and continue learning besides taking on a mammoth student loan debt burden.
Consider education an investment if it has a high likelihood of producing financial returns based on your expected career field and trajectory. Otherwise, look for different ways to achieve the same educational goals, whether that means non-collegiate professional development, on-the-job training opportunities or employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs.
Millennial Advice #3: Plan to blow your money on travel
Millennials travel more than any other generation, for business and pleasure. It’s estimated that 20 percent of all international travelers are millennials.
Travel can be a valuable investment because of the way it shapes and changes your life. Spending money on things gives momentary enjoyment, while spending money on experiences creates long-lasting memories. The new experiences you gain become a part of your identity.
So, go ahead and plan to spend your money on travel. However, know that “plan” is the operative word here.
Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule a trip, putting it all on a credit card and crossing your fingers that you can figure out a way to pay it off in a timely manner. Start setting aside money every month into a fun account you can use to finance your excursions and create those lifelong memories.
Millennial Advice #4: Don’t be afraid to play with other people’s money
About 60 percent of millennials have saved nothing so far for retirement. Of those who have begun to save, many don’t think they need a proactive investment plan, or believe they don’t have enough money to afford insight from a professional.
Our advice is to consult with a financial professional, start saving right away and consider your company’s 401(k) as an avenue for safe investment, as well as a way to experiment and “practice” investing.
- Take all the money you can. If your company offers a 401(k) matching program, the company match is essentially free money. Take it and use it to grow your retirement fund. The younger you are when you begin saving, the more time your funds have to grow and the more opportunity you have to make intelligent investment choices. If you start saving at an early age, you can be a little more bold with your investment choices, rather than waiting until you near retirement age and having to play it safe because you’re worried your riskier investments could wreak havoc on your retirement goals.
- Don’t be afraid to play with it. Again, a 401(k) matching plan offers you free funds to add to your retirement treasure chest. If you choose, you can use this additional money to diversify and consider slightly more risky options than you might normally do with your own hard-earned dollars. By giving yourself the freedom to use this “found” money creatively, you can invest in the stock market to start growing your confidence and expertise. And, if you’re not immediately gaining high returns, you don’t have to become overwhelmed or distressed; after all, learning to invest well takes time.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help. In the same vein as outsourcing your basic financial concerns, don’t hesitate to connect with an advisor in the early days of your investment career. Many people wait until they feel they’re “rich enough” to ask for help, but you can actually do more and feel better about your investments if you start earlier. If you’re a HENRY (financial industry jargon for High-Income Earner, Not Rich Yet), a financial advisor can help you now, working with you to define your goals, create savings and investment plans, and determine the best way to move forward.
Millennials do everything differently, from ordering a pizza and hailing a taxi to finding a date. It’s no surprise this generation would take the same non-traditional approach to finances.
It’s important that millennials feel comfortable managing their money and making financial decisions, even if they choose to do both in a way that’s different from previous generations. If you’re a millennial interested in making wise money moves to position yourself for a secure future, take a look at our services and financial planning process.
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