Why age-old financial advice needs updating for millennials

Why age-old financial advice needs updating for millennials

If you keep up with trending financial advice, you might have seen some buzz about how millennials should have two years’ salary saved by the age of 35.

This is advice has spurned some mockery with countless "by age 35" memes and tweets.

Maggie Sullivan outside the Taj Mahal

Maggie Sullivan outside the Taj Mahal

I am sure it is not the intention of the professionals and writers that promote this advice to create a backlash or become a sensationalized meme.  This is simply age-old advice that has been a standard for generations. 

However, given the reaction of the younger generation, it might be time to re-evaluate those standards. How do millennials' finances look by age 35 now? I recently turned 35, and while saving has always been important, a combination of a difficult job market, shifting cultural norms, and my personal priorities, means that my savings "by age 35" might look a bit different.

Many millennials, including myself, entered into the workforce in or around the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. My first job out of college was a casualty of the Great Recession and I was let go shortly after Lehman Brothers collapsed.

I was jobless in the height of the financial crisis and during one of the worst job markets in history. It took me almost nine months to find another job. It was even longer before I was able to start saving again. This is not to mention that salaries in the years that followed were pretty stagnant as the market recovered.

I don't know if this was a fallout from the financial crisis and having to be flexible for job opportunities or just my restless nature, but in the time since college I've moved across four major cities in the United States. 

Relocating from Orlando to Dallas to Austin and then to New York was costly, and meant money I could have saved was used to make sure I was always able to be where I felt I needed to be. 

I also fall into the same category as a lot of millennials in that I'm not rushing into a marriage or sharing my space anytime soon. This means I don't have someone to split expensive NYC rent and expenses with.

I also - like a lot of millennials - love to travel and spend money on experiences over savings. I am fortunate to have been to more than two dozen countries and am only a handful of states away from visiting all of the United States.

My story is not a unique one. I believe I am an example of the type of millennial that makes this advice outdated. For millennials, "by age 35" has changed. And for many of us, our "by age 35" savings consist not just of cash and investments, but of ups and downs, excitement and friends. 

We need financial advice to shift from what you should have to what you should do. I know I need to make this a focus and even though I cherish all the experiences that have built my own "by age 35" savings, I'm ready to start contributing more money and investments to it.

 

App review: Splitwise (2 stars)

App review: Splitwise (2 stars)

Financial things I wish I'd known before moving to New York

Financial things I wish I'd known before moving to New York

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