Savings advice for millennials  

My sister-in-law, Malu, is the baby of the family. We love her to death, but she’s a walking stereotype of a millennial.

She’s just now finishing college – at the age of 26 – and is so wrapped up in social media, I’m nearly certain she would go through the cold sweats and seizures of withdrawal if you took her iPhone away.

Malu had an appointment to get her wisdom teeth removed, and my wife was busy at a kiddie birthday party. So, I volunteered to drive her to the dentist.


Live-Streaming Surgery

Midway through the surgery, I decided to peep through the window to make sure everything was under control. I didn’t understand at first what I was seeing. She was awake and had her arm outstretched with her iPhone in hand.

She was live streaming her dental surgery on Instagram.

Why would you broadcast that? Who would want to watch it? And why on earth didn’t the dentist crank up the nitrous oxide to knock her out and stop that nonsense?

Big Expectations

We may never have answers to these questions.

But this incident does remind me of a relevant study I saw published last month.

TD Ameritrade commissioned a survey of 1,500 American millennials aged 21 to 37. More than half (53%) expected to be millionaires someday, and the median expected age at retirement was just 56.

Among the millennial men surveyed, the expected age of retirement was 53.

Savings Behavior

The average age at which they expected to start saving was 36. So, apparently, they intend to hoard a lot of cash in a 17- to 20-year window in early middle age.

In my opinion, that particular stage of life also corresponds to your child rearing years, and every parent knows your expenses go through the roof when children come along.

So, unless you become an overnight YouTube millionaire, reaching those financial goals is going to be a challenge, in my view.

Fully 28% admitted that they don’t expect to retire at all.

Getting Real

Unfortunately, this is a lot more likely to be realistic.

A different study published earlier this year by the National Institute of Retirement Security found that 95% of millennials were not saving adequately for retirement and that 66% had not saved anything.

And roughly half of the millennials with access to a 401(k) or similar plan at work don’t currently contribute to it.

Great Recession

In my view, millennials really have had a rougher start in life than most of us due to the exploding cost of education, low starting salaries at the beginnings of their careers due to the lingering effects of the 2008 meltdown, and ridiculously expensive housing costs relative to incomes.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably not a millennial. We know the demographics of our readers, and chances are good that you’re a baby boomer or a gen-Xer.

But it’s likely that you have millennial kids, grandkids or even younger siblings that are struggling to save and accumulate wealth. Here are a few things you can do to help:

  1. Encourage them – in fact, nag them incessantly – to stuff as much money as they can into their 401(k) plans. At a bare minimum, they should be contributing enough to get the full employer match (generally 3% to 5% of their pay). Ideally, they will get close to maxing out their contributions at $18,500.
  2. If you have the means to do so, incentivize them to save by offering to match. For example, for every $5 they put into a savings account, you kick in an extra dollar. This is obviously more appropriate for teenagers or college kids than young adults with careers, but you get the idea.
  3. Teach them the importance of diversified income streams. Yes, the market “always” goes up over the long-term (or at least it has thus far). But if you really do want to retire at 56, you need to have the income to pay your bills.

Photo Credit: Pictures of Money via Flickr Creative Commons