Their job market is not the greatest; their salaries are not as high as in better times; they have loads of college debt. Yet, millennials as a group remain optimistic about their futures. And just like every other generation, there are those who move into adulthood with good financial sense and those who do not. There are, however, some patterns that are a bit worrisome about this generation regarding their personal finances. If they are to have a comfortable retirement 40-50 years from now, they need to avoid these eight financial mistakes.
Not Saving Early On
College loan debt makes it difficult for this generation to save, and yet it is really critical to start to save early, especially if salaries are not going to improve over the next decade or two (and there is not much to indicate that they will). $100 dollars saved at the age of 22 can easily become $9,000+ in 40 years. Millennials need to be reminded of this fact often, so that they establish a routine of scheduled saving throughout their work lives.
Not Establishing an Emergency Fund
Even if they are in savings and investment plan at work, millennials make a grave error if they do not get “liquid” money put away as soon as possible. While some advice that everyone should have three months of living expenses in a savings or money market account, others state that six months is really better. There are always emergency expenses that arise – a car dies; a job is lost; a medical expense that insurance doesn’t completely cover. Pulling money out of retirement savings, particularly a 401K, comes with big tax penalties, and it is almost never replaced. And once money is taken from that emergency fund, it should be replaced as quickly as possible.
Not Setting a Reasonable Budget
No one hope to be financially healthy unless they have a budget, but millennials are not that keen on budgets. Being able to create and manage a budget, however, allows people to understand exactly where their money is going and where they can cut when things get “tight.” Creating a budget and setting a specific amount aside for savings allows that $100 that turns into such a nice amount in 40 years. There are fixed expenses, variable expenses, and then, hopefully, an amount left over. Divide that by four and there is the amount that is left of expendable cash each week.
Not Investing Enough
Millennials are “gun-shy” about the market. They have seen their parents and grandparents endure the “dot.com” crash in the late 90’s and the great recession that hit in 2008. They don’t trust the market, and they don’t trust investment advisors – they see them as nothing more than salesmen. Over the long-term, however, investments in less risky funds can realize great returns, as long as the thinking is long-term – 30 years’ worth of long-term.
Not Taking Advantage of Maximum Employer Match
Many large companies have a retirement savings plan with a matching benefit. They will allow an employee a certain maximum to put into that plan and they will match that amount by 35 – 50%. If a millennial is not putting in the maximum amount to get the maximum employer match, then s/he is leaving “money on the table.”
Racking Up A Lot of Debt
It’s tempting. Millennials tend to like to travel; they spend more time on leisure activities than previous generations; they do want new eco-friendly cars, some of which come with hefty price tags. Those credit cards begin to “fill up,” and it’s too easy, with a regular payment history, to get more. Pretty soon, the credit card, student loan, and major purchase debt reaches a point at which nothing is getting saved. This is disastrous over the long haul.
Not Getting Insurance
Maybe it’s their optimism; maybe it’s because they see insurance as something that can always be purchased at a later time. Big mistake. As soon as a millennial couple has a child, life insurance is an absolute must, on both spouses if they both work. The loss of income from the death of either spouse can be financially disastrous.
The other type of insurance that is pretty critical is disability insurance. Some employers carry this on their employees, but it drops as soon as that employee moves to another position. Purchasing a disability insurance policy is just as important as life insurance. Most private policies will provide 80% of one’s income during the disability period.
Not Setting Up a Roth IRA
This beautiful retirement savings plan is actually much better than a regular 401K. While it is after-tax money that is invested, all of the money that this investment earns over 40 years of work, is never taxed.
Millennials have lots of time, and that is a great thing. They will work longer than their parents and have more years to save and invest for retirement. The fact that they do have so much time, however, tends to give them the belief that they can always start saving down the road. What they have to realize is that every penny that they can save and invest now will compound and give them a far better retirement. It’s hard to think long-term when one is young, but it is critical.