Millennial: it's not a one-size-fits-all term
I sometimes forget that, even though I’m in my 30s, I am still a millennial. The media often portrays millennials as 20-somethings who were born with iPhones in hand and social media at their fingertips.
Whereas, I remember not too long ago flip phones were high tech and my first social media encounter was with MySpace. This does not exactly match the version of millennials I see on TV and in movies most of the time.
When this topic comes up at family dinners my father is quick to remind me that me that I am very much a millennial and was his “millennium / Y2K problem”, since I turned 16 and started to drive on the first day of the millennium. The same day he was worried about whether his tech company was going to properly compute the transition from 1999 to 2000.
I recognize the Y2K event is something younger millennials probably do not remember or know much about - just like I don’t completely understand certain memes and Snapchat.
This gave me the revelation that, not only is financial advice discounting the difference between millennials and other generations but also the range of experiences within the millennial generation.
What exactly is a millennial?
It’s important to note attempts at hard boundaries around the start and end of generations are constantly disputed. Some say the age range for millennials is those born at the beginning of the 80s to those born in mid 90s (1981-1995). That means an age range from 23 to 37. Others say anyone born in the 80s or 90s.
When you really take into account these numbers and the cultural evolution and historical shifts over the last few decades, it should be common sense that financial needs and lifestyles will probably vary across the spectrum. And advice on these matters should take into account these differences.
Someone who was six when 9-11 happened is going to have a different view of the world to someone who was 20 and about to move to New York in 2001.
Younger millennials are probably more concerned with finding roommates, being able to afford rent and transitioning from college finances to more responsibilities of adulthood.
Many of their older millennial counterparts may be more focused on balancing living alone on one salary or supporting a growing family, while also savings goals and thinking about retiring.
The range of advice for millennials needs to reflect the diversity of experiences and range of expectations.
To highlight this, I asked a few colleagues what their biggest financial and savings concerns were. This is a very limited sample of the range of millennial experiences and opinions, but what is clear is that even though we fall into the same generation, our financial and investing situations vary across the board.
What is your biggest financial and savings concern?
The First Millennials (32+)
I feel I have crash coursed my way through my late 20s and into my 30s in terms of managing my finance. When I was younger it was about accumulating wealth and now it is about making what I have work better and smarter so that I can live comfortably and my future family doesn’t have to struggle. My parents worked several jobs into their late 60s to give me and my sister a comfortable life and I just don’t want to have to do that.
Financing my wedding and aggressively saving for a down payment, while still trying to have fun before having kids.
While I’ve always tried to max out my 401(k) contributions, I do not have much in the way of savings. I’d like to continue planning for retirement while creating a nest egg which I view primarily as a safety net.
The Mid Millennials (28-31)
The combination of living in Manhattan, upcoming weddings/bachelor parties in 2018-19, and paying off my credit card!
Am I saving enough? I have a 401k, a small savings account and an investment account, but is that enough? What are other millennials doing? Am I ahead of the game or behind?
What is the opportunity cost of saving more at this moment (today)? By saving more, am I giving up things now that I may regret in the future? A part of me believes there’s no better return on an investment than living the best quality life and spending time with my family and friends and this is expensive – and neglects the idea of saving. What’s the correct balance here?
The Last of the Millennials (23-28)
Due to NYC’s renting market, I am worried about ensuring I have enough money put away in case my rent spikes and I need to move. Depending on the market at the time I may need to have three to four times my rent saved by the end of my lease.
My biggest financial concern within the next 12-24 months is the transition from living at home to moving out and living alone. Although it’s easy to save money while living at home it’ll be an adjustment budgeting monthly on one income whilst trying to save for the future at the same time.