Millennials Are Screwed Financially (But They Don’t Have To Be)

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Why We’re Screwed

Being a CPA, you know I have to start off this tirade with the financial implications of having been born a part of this cursed generation. Growing up as a millennial, we were sold the life path of going to college, getting a good job and working long enough to build up a pension that could sustain us financially for the rest of our days. Well, I don’t know how well this life path has worked for you but it’s yet to make me wealthy and this is due to three main obstacles that just about every millennial ends up facing these days with the first being student debt.

Given that most of us are pushed in the post-secondary direction, probably because our parents don’t want the embarrassment of having a kid who didn’t go to college, we subject ourselves to thousands of dollars of debt before our prefrontal cortex has been fully developed. This is to say that when we are signing over the first four years of our adulthood, we have yet to develop the cognitive ability to process how futile a situation we are getting ourselves into. As I’ve said before, degrees these days are subject to double inflation — their prices are rising while their values are dropping. Sadly, I wasn’t smart enough to realize this when I began college a decade ago but for those younger than me I hope that this sheds some light on what you are getting yourself into when pursuing this expensive piece of wallpaper.

Unfortunately, many young adults are still following this traditional path and are drowning themselves in debt to do so. As of 2021, the average student debt in the US was just under $38,000 and this alone is enough to cripple most young adults’ finances for decades to come. In fact, I truly don’t think people realize how debilitating this level of debt can be and part of the challenge of actually repaying it leads me into the next reason why millennials are screwed which are the embarrassingly low wages companies are paying these days.

A few months back, I was having a discussion with my boss about our first years in our respective careers. During the discussion, I asked her what she was earning when she graduated college back in the year 2000 and she laughed and said $40,000, a fraction of what she makes today. When she shared that amount, I became instantly enraged as that was exactly how much I started making 15 years later with a decade and a half of inflation working against me and a masters degree under my belt! Now, while this is just anecdotal evidence of how screwed millennials are when it comes to our wages, research supports this fact. While paychecks have grown over time, purchasing power over the last four decades has barely budged which makes getting ahead financially an extremely challenging obstacle to overcome!

But, at least as millennials, we are not being constantly reminded of the unfortunate situation we are in, right? Not quite. The next hindrance to our financial and mental well-being is the comparison anxiety stemming from the external factors around us. Every day, we are being told that we are not good enough. We feel this way when we are subjected to advertisements of expensive items we have no shot at being able to afford or when our parents keep asking us when we will finally stop renting and buy ourselves a home. Each one of these reminders plunges the knife deeper into our backs as we continue to try to stay afloat financially.

Now, some of the older generations around us often downplay the struggles we face, citing that we have all the technology and access to information we could ever need to win big financially. Quite frankly, they aren’t wrong but what they fail to consider is just how distracting these life changing pieces of technology can be. I mean, between your mom texting you 50 times a day, tinder sending you notifications of new matches 10 times a day, an experience I have yet to enjoy, and the plethora of other distractions we face, it’s honestly surprising we get anything done these days.

Unfortunately, one symptom of this technologically advanced world we live in that very few millennials even attribute to their struggle is how little patience our generation has these days. Let’s face it, we’ve grown up with instant texts, instant meals and more recently, Amazon prime delivery so it’s no wonder that we have a hard time waiting on anything these days.

So, as you’re probably coming to realize, as millennials, we face quite the uphill battle when it comes to our ability to excel financially. However, I’m a cup half full kind of guy and I think that while there are many obstacles we need to be aware of and manage, achieving significant financial results is entirely possible. As such, let me now share with you what I think is the key to sidestepping all of the issues I’ve previously shared and streamline your path to financial success.

The Solution

I believe that if you want to break free of our generational curse and see the financial results you want in life then you must become what I call a millennial money manager. As a member of the 3M society, there are three core areas you must master if you want to ensure that you avoid the financial purgatory that many of your fellow millennials friends will face for the entirety of their lives.

These three core areas are what I refer to as the 3Is and trust me when you master all three you will definitely be seeing your net worth rising at a rapid pace!

The first element in the 3I model is introspection. Now, I am no psychology major, because I knew that flipping burgers was not something I wanted to do for a living, but I believe that being introspective, or more specifically, spending more time thinking about yourself is imperative to getting ahead financially.

You see, as I already mentioned, most people these days are being bogged down by the social media world we live in today and not only does the content we consume have the ability to degrade our mental states but is also incredibly effective at stealing our time. I’m sure you’ve been guilty of spending time thinking about why you don’t own the things you see people have on social media or why you’re stuck at home while people your age are traveling the world full-time. I know you’re having these thoughts and feelings because I’ve had them too. So, this is why the first step in becoming a millennial money manager is to minimize your social media use.

Unless you are using social media to build a brand or business then I recommend limiting your overall phone use to less than an hour a day. In my experience, this will not only dramatically improve your mental health but will also free up a surprising amount of time which you will need as a part of the second focus area of the 3I model which is your income.

We’ve already gone over how disappointing wages presently are for people our age and as such you need to focus your attention on ways to supplement how much you’re presently earning. While you could tackle this issue by fighting for a slightly bigger raise, in my experience, your two best paths to meaningful income increases are leveraging side hustles and online businesses.

Now, of course pursuing either of these routes will take a good amount of time and sacrifice but the financial benefits they will yield will be well worth the effort. I know for myself personally, my investment of three years into YouTube has now allowed me to make a full-time income on the platform with less than 5 hours of work a week which is why I know that you too can be successful in building out reliable streams of income to complement what you’re already earning at your 9–5 job. However, keep in mind throughout this process that you’re not striving to make this money just to say you’re a high-income earner. Your goal with this money should be to use it as a catalyst towards your future rich life. How do you do this? You guessed it, you invest!

The final element you must attend to as a millennial money manager are your investments. One of your biggest advantages as a millennial is that time is still on your side as you must lean on this advantage as much as possible if you want to get ahead. This is why, if you aren’t already, you should make investing a regular part of your financial hygiene.

Now, these days there are so many investing options to choose from that anyone new to the investing game can easily become confused and discouraged. Hell, even as someone who spends most of their waking day consuming and creating financial content, I too find many of these investments rather perplexing. For instance, do you put your money into an up and coming coin or do you take the tried and tested approach to wealth by slowly building up a real estate portfolio?

My preference is to invest in low-cost index funds. This is because they require minimal research and spending less time listening to earnings calls and reading MD&As gives me more time to raise my income and ultimately increase how much I can contribute to my preferred funds every month. However, this isn’t to say that this approach is the best approach. I have friends who have leapfrogged me financially by investing in the right cryptocurrency and I have other friends who are making my salary in rental income alone. I believe that the asset classes you understand best are the ones that will yield you the best results and as such I recommend you study up on those that interest you the most and leverage them in your quest for greater wealth.

Once you have the 3Is in place, in my opinion, all there is left to do is be patient and await your future rich life. While taking this approach may have you living like few others, I can promise you that you’ll be smiling when your bank account looks vastly different from theirs down the road!