As the dad of two upstanding children of the millennials generation, I'm excited about their future as the embark on their journey to conquer the world. My kids turn 18 and 20 in May, and there is nobody more proud of their accomplishments than me. My daughter is about the graduate high school with a strong GPA, works part time, has interests in politics and diplomacy along with an enormous talent in the arts (theater, song and dance). She is off to college this fall.
My son is in junior college picking off all of his lower division work, and is excelling in science and math (physics, astronomy and calculus). He will move on to a much bigger and more challenging school in 2018. He is a runner, has a big heart and is often working long hours at his part time job. Ben is a saver, a good one at that - and is not as much a spender as his younger sister. He knows the value of a buck (maybe he learned that from his dad!).
The millennials have been branded with a label (unfairly?) of being entitled, lazy, mostly liberal and reliant on electronic devices. This generation has grown up with smart phones, the internet, instant photos and easy payment systems, not to mention chat and text for instant communication. A couple years back a poll showed millennials were quite pessimistic about their job prospects, but more recently are more encouraged on being hired for well-paid jobs if they finish college.
When the rubber meets the road and it is time to enter the workplace and be responsible, I have faith in this generation. But are they looking through the long term lens and seeing what they are going the encounter? It's not going to be pretty given the alarming and enormous debt burden on our country - which is only getting larger by the day. We are near $20 trillion dollars in debt, and who will end up paying for it? The millennials likely and the next generations to follow.
Many in the older generations have given up hope, saying there is no way the millennials will ever achieve enough wealth to live comfortably - not with the current situation as dire as it is. However, it is unwise to give up hope when there are solutions.
In order to create a safer and more secure financial future the millennial generation must start early and take some calculated risks, and not rely on the government or other sources for entitlements. Social Security may be out of reach (age limit increased) or gone altogether.
Yet, a recent article by CNBC said that millennials are not investing. Mostly they are confused about investing or want to know nothing about it. Sure, many say they do not have the discretionary funds or the cost of living is just too high. Heck, we can even use our mobile devices to initiate transactions, move money around and check balances 24/7. But the time is NOW to create a safer future. Many in my generation (the lost one!) got started with the 401K system in 1978, a brilliant way to save, and often with lower tax consequences.
The investment returns just from the SPX 500 over the past 40 years has been staggering. Most who took advantage and saved should have created great wealth for their retirement, whenever that comes.
This is the easiest and most care-free way to invest in their future. When I started my working career in 1992 I made sure to max out my contribution to the 401K, and was often matched by my employers. We call that 'free money', and that should turn on the light bulb for anyone at any age! Further, my family taught me the value of saving and investing, something I have preached to my children over time, but now is the most critical moment. They 'get it', and are eager to start socking away money to protect their future.
Next week we'll talk about how the millennial generation can save for their children and get them off to an even faster start!