Today’s post focuses on a fundamental challenge we’ve dubbed, “The Millennial Money Challenge”: how do millennials face new challenges in the personal finance realm (compared with other generations)?
To tackle this question, I’ve asked my friend Joe from Holberg Financial to cover the topic on my site before I answer the same question with a future post on his site. I met Joe recently in Chicago and we instantly clicked. We shared the same concern about financial issues currently faced by people today. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did.
The Millennial Money Challenge
As a generation we’ve been called a lot of things: Millennials, young professionals, generation Y, babies of those in generation X, lazy, hardworking, entrepreneurial, the best, the worst, and pretty much everything in between.
We are a tough crowd to define precisely in terms of our characteristics, our thought processes, and the way we view and interact with each other and the world around us. We grew up using technology in its various forms: we learned how to use the computer, iPods, and then how to store things in the mythical “cloud.” Once we learned those things, we taught our parents and grandparents how to download music, buy things online (yes, grandma, it’s safe to buy things online), and how to use texting, Facebook, and Instagram.
We are fast-moving, unique, tech-savvy, and we face tons of new challenges that previous generations haven’t quite had to deal with which leaves us looking for answers to novel issues, especially some key challenges that are impacting us financially. In this post, I’ll highlight what I believe to be the three largest and unique challenges facing Millennials as it relates to their finances:
On a brisk fall day, I opened my phone up, read an email, followed a link, clicked a button and miraculously a delicious sandwich showed up for lunch in just 7 minutes! My jaw dropped. It felt like magic. Whereas it took our ancestors months to harvest a loaf of bread, it took me less than 10 minutes to have bread, cheese, and pastrami handed to me from a driver who delivered it at lightning speed.
Experiences like this are now so commonplace they are more taken for granted than for extraordinary. Uber, Lyft, Amazon, and countless other apps are there waiting for your one-click decision then boom – a ride shows up, a book is delivered, or a plane ticket is purchased.
It’s never been easier to buy things and I love it, but it is a double-edged sword because as easy as it is, it also is designed to get us to spend more and more and more. The apps and the one-click options remove us from the decision-making process and lower the deliberation barrier that we would otherwise apply if it wasn’t so easy to buy.
This “one-click syndrome” is a particular challenge for Millennials precisely because we use these apps and services the most. We are so technically oriented that spending money becomes so easy that we don’t often really know how much we’re actually racking up in terms of credit card debt or decreased savings (average credit card debt in America: $8,000. Average savings in America: 50% of people have less than $1,000 in savings).
“One-clicking” is awesome right now, but it can add up and be not-so-awesome when we look back at our bills or our statements. There are some easy ways to address the one-click syndrome: unlink your accounts so you can’t make impulse purchases or be more judicious about tracking your spending on a platform like mint.com. Unlinking yourself and hampering your one-click ability will be painful at first, but it can be a great temporary or long-term way to work on controlling spending, which can then open up opportunities for accelerated savings increases or debt reduction.
Drowning in Debt
Millennials are the first generation that has been saddled with an immense amount of student loan debt. The average amount of debt upon graduation is skyrocketing so much so that the numbers are increasing at a dizzying rate that’s hard to keep pace with. $20,000, then $25,000, and some estimates are now approaching $30,000 in student loan debt upon graduation on average – the trend shows that this burden will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.
Student loan debt can be beneficial as it gives millions of people the means to obtain an education and we should always remember that a college degree has value in and of itself for the sake of learning and advancing our own personal knowledge, even if in retrospect we don’t think it has enough value to justify the cost.
Practically speaking, if you have debt though, you’ve got to deal with it which can make other opportunities fall by the wayside insofar as we end up putting off things like travel, home ownership, or building long term savings as we struggle to pay the monthly student loan bills.
Fortunately, the government has increased the number of repayment options in recent years and my company, Holberg Financial is partnering with a great student loan benefits provider, Peanut Butter, who helps companies pay a portion of their employee’s student loans as a way to help employees pay off their student loans faster. You can learn more about how we’re partnering to solve this massive issue on tech.co.
Homes on Hold
The American Dream is arguably shifting quite a bit. A white picket fence, 2.4 kids, a dog, and a home aren’t necessarily what we want as Millennials. We like to travel, experience new things, and a lot of times we are totally okay putting things on hold while we figure things out, gain new skills, and learn about ourselves. The chronological formula that went “graduate, get married, buy house, have kids” is slipping away as more people opt for their own path.
In that vein, many people are more transient and less ready to settle down early on so buying a home gets put on hold. This isn’t inherently a good or bad thing, but many people still want to buy a home and we saw first hand in the Great Recession how badly the housing market can get quite quickly, which can make it harder to buy said home.
Renting has its advantages of course, but in the long run, owning a home helps you keep way more of your wealth than renting since you are building equity in your home rather than paying a landlord where the money goes down the proverbial drain.
Right now, Millennials face the challenge of amassing the necessary down payment amount especially in light of the increased student loan burden, but it’s worth pointing out that by saving consistently over a longer period of time can help Millennials build up a down payment amount that gets them into not only the right home, but at the right time.
We love challenges
While we’re different from previous generations in many respects, one commonality that I see between Millennials and previous generations is that we all love solving big challenges. We put a person on the moon, built the internet, and we will continue to face huge personal and societal challenges as time goes on. Millennials face many different personal financial challenges than previous generations as exemplified here, but we will continue to try to solve them in the best way possible.
Each day we can work towards our Millennial Money Challenges, but I’m of the opinion that we can come up with some great solutions to these challenges and many more as unique and new as they are.
Founder & CEO