So much has been written about millennials and our finances, but like any other generation there’s a range of extremes that may or may not apply to such a huge group of the population. That being said, there are some very real challenges that face this generation. Here we tackle some of the biggest challenges millennials face and address what can be done about them.
Student Loan Debt
Here lies the first and biggest challenge that millennials are known to be up against, and it’s a real doozy. In fact, the average American in her 20s has over $22,000 in student loan debt. It can feel overwhelming and hopeless to take on these debt payments while starting out on an entry level salary or in many cases, still searching for a job. Yet we do nothing to educate students as to their options to pay for college or their options for their student loans once they have taken them out. If you are in this boat, please realize that you do have options. Refinancing your loans can make a big difference to your overall interest expense or your monthly payments.
With the addition of the internet and social media, it’s definitely easy to get swept up into lifestyle goals that may not be realistic. A life full of wanderlust, subscriptions boxes and fancy dining options does anything but inspire frugality. Millennials are spending more on eating out than any previous generation and it’s not surprising when you think about our lifestyle compared to that of our parents. We’re getting married and having a family later and later, which allows for more nights out on the town with friends. We also work more hours than the generations before us, which leaves less time and energy to cook meals and pack lunches. It’s all about convenience and relationships, but those two things certainly seem to take a toll on the millennial budget. If you’re feeling like you’re ready to tighten the purse strings, but are having serious FOMO, challenge your friends to join you in cutting back for a week or a month. Organize an old school potluck instead of a night out. Your budget will thank you and so will your friends.
Lack of Retirement Guarantees
Millennials have watched as our grandparents and parents have retired and here’s something most of them had in common: a regular fixed and determinable monthly income. Whether they were drawing on the pension, receiving social security income, or some combination of these, they knew exactly what they were entitled to and when. They also never had to worry about outliving these benefits because they were guaranteed as long as they were alive. Nowadays, pensions are all but nonexistent for millennials and social security seems like anything, but a guarantee. How do you begin to know how much you need for retirement and how to save enough when you’re still playing catch up after paying all those student loans? Planning for retirement is more complicated than ever and short of getting an annuity, there’s a lot of math involved.
Need for Financial Education
Not only are these real and significant questions and challenges, but they’re also questions that expose a larger issue at hand. There is a real need for financial education that is just not being met in the U.S. Millennials have questions and don’t necessarily know how to find answers. There’s a general feeling that financial planners are for when you have money to invest, but what do you do when you feel like you will never get to that point? My hope is that someday we will have nationwide financial education in all schools, but until then you have some options. There is always the self-study method, or there are even money coaches like myself that are here to help educate you so that you are able to understand your financial options and how to best move your finances along. No matter how you choose to educate yourself, know that the time you spend on your finances will literally pay dividends for you down the line. Be your own advocate because the only person who can decide what to do with your money is you!
Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook
Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.