Millennials. Those born between 1981 and 1996; ranging in age from 26-41 years old. VHS, Windows ‘98 startup sound, Blockbuster Friday nights, those never-ending strawberry candies at your grandmother’s house, watching “The Price Is Right” when you were “sick” at home from school, Nintendo 64 – the list goes on and on. Bring up nostalgia?
Millennials make up the largest generational group in the United States today. This segment of society has changed the world as we know it. Yet, there is one topic essential to living a contented life that most of this demographic was not properly taught growing up – how to view and steward your money, otherwise known as, personal finance.
Financial literacy, as defined by National Financial Educators Council, is “possessing the skills and knowledge on financial matters to confidently take effective action that best fulfills an individual’s personal, family and global community goals”. Financial literacy is extremely important to learn, as money seeps into all areas of our lives. Budgeting, saving, and investing are all issues you will have to address throughout your adult life. How you manage your finances is critical to your well-being!
Although there has been a recent push to better students’ knowledge of money and how it works, personal finance has been a vastly under-taught subject within the U.S. education system over the past decades. As a result, a majority of those under ≈40 years old were not instructed on the basics of money during their formative years. In turn, millennials often learn as they go, using a “trial by fire” approach. This isn’t necessarily the optimal way to approach your financial future!
There is a myriad of big life events that come between your twenties and forties, such as new jobs, buying a house, and having children. Do you have a process for how you make these kinds of choices? What about your financial decisions? Younger millennials may ask, “Should I pay off student debt, start investing for my future, or both? How do I make this difficult decision?” Older millennials often pose the question – “What is the best way to save for my kid’s college? or “Am I on the right track for retirement? How do I know?” The ramifications of these kinds of choices are long-lasting!
It’s difficult to make prudent decisions in one area of your financial life if you do not consider the full picture. A comprehensive financial plan should be the starting point for any money-related choice. Think of your plan as the “guardrails” by which you abide. Interest rate changes, stock market conditions, your cash flows, and other related matters should be viewed through the lens of your financial plan. A personal and workable plan is the #1 way to make informed decisions when it comes to the big (and small!) choices in life. Do you have your own financial roadmap to guide your decisions?
Some millennials take the Jason Isbell approach and “go it alone” when it comes to financial planning. Thoroughly managing your money matters takes time, expertise, and the sheer desire to dig into the many intricacies that financial planning brings. But others might say – “I lead a very busy life! How can I know I’m making wise financial decisions when I just don’t have the time to monitor and evaluate my choices?” If you don’t have the time or know why you are making certain financial decisions, it probably makes sense to seek outside guidance.
So, where do millennials get their financial advice? Research says all over the place – friends, family, or maybe even a “finance guy” on TikTok! If you are sick, you go to a doctor for help. Looking for answers on WebMD might tell you you’re dying, even if you have a common cold! People go to professionals because they expect professional advice that will improve their situation. The same applies for your finances.
All of this begs the question – where should one go for trusted, impartial financial advice? The first place to start is with a fiduciary. Simply put, a fiduciary advisor is one whose responsibilities are both ethical and legal – they are required to always act in your best interest as the client. An advisor should ask what your goals are, then work with you to help you achieve them. A quality advisor doesn’t just tell you what to do – he or she should help educate you as to why you are making certain decisions.
Humans are not wired for disciplined financial behavior – we are easily swayed by our emotions and biases. Take this year’s market for example – your 401k is probably looking more like a 301k! Watching your portfolio dwindle isn’t much fun. It’s only natural to want to “stop the bleeding” by selling your investments to go to cash. Did you panic and sell out? A prudent advisor will help hone your focus on YOUR plan and YOUR goals, not worrying as much about a market drop or simply beating a certain benchmark. Think of your advisor not only as a money manager, but also as someone who is there to keep your emotions in check.
Over time, your financial advisor can (and should) become a trusted friend that will walk alongside you through the inevitable ups and downs of life. Do you have this kind of person in your life right now? It is a great comfort to be able to confidently say, “he or she is looking out for my best interest, and I trust their judgment.” So, are you a millennial that doesn’t have a clear financial game plan for this upcoming year? Or do you have questions about how you could improve your money matters? Take the time to find a fiduciary advisor whom you trust. It may be the most important thing you do during 2023!
As originally featured in Northside Sun, January 2023 – Read full article
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