Young People, Just this Once, Listen to Me

I am going to sound old here—the kind of old that makes one of my two millennial daughters tune me out. Without saying so directly, she has made it clear that she prefers our relationship to be “advice-free.”

But for the rest of you millennials out there, here’s my simple advice: Save Early. Save Often. And if your company has a retirement plan, sign up.

My plea isn’t about numbers, it’s about habits. If I’ve learned anything sitting at the table with clients and prospective clients over the last…ouch, 34 years…it’s that those whom I will call “grinders” (middle-income folks who started forced savings plans early in their careers), eventually carved out pretty good lives for themselves.

Typically, the grinders come into our office with a balance sheet consisting of a sizable retirement account, perhaps a modest brokerage account, and a home with a reasonable mortgage balance. It’s the retirement account (typically built out over three-plus decades) that sets them apart. Once we have an understanding of a grinder’s financial picture, we are usually able to tell them they have a good chance of enjoying a secure retirement.

If I’ve learned a second thing in my career, it’s that life gets in the way. Most of us start out with good intentions. We want to make good financial decisions, but often adopt an attitude of “Once I get through this, then I will start saving.” The problem is that cars, houses, kids, college, and unexpected setbacks make the act of “getting through this” an endless treadmill.

But not for grinders. They quietly and methodically overcome these obstacles, while others with a similar demographic profile don’t, turning their goal of retiring at a reasonable age into a pipe dream.

If you are a ‘xennial’ (ask our own xennial Travis Meyer for definition if needed), or even a regular millennial, you have plenty of time to carve out a reasonable path to financial freedom. So don’t make excuses.

Check out this MarketWatch article for a quick primer on retirement plan funding choices, including Roths, IRAs and 401ks. And with that, I’ll turn off the advice button and let you determine the next steps for your financial future.

Speaking of advice, I will close by stating that my daughter (without my prodding) does participate in her company’s retirement plan, and she’s a good saver. Perhaps in some abstract way, our advice-free relationship is working.