As a millennial entrepreneur and author, I’m often asked to comment on the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of my fellow millennials. As much as I struggle to quantify the innumerable experiences of 83 million plus individuals in a sound bite, what strikes me most about these exchanges is the image of millennials my interviewers seem to subscribe to – fresh faced college grads, naïve, entitled and lazy.
Though there’s much about the “trophy generation” stereotype I’d be happy to tear down, I’m not going to go into a full-blown defense of millennials here. But I do want to draw attention to one aspect of this millennial mental image that remains pervasive – even among millennials themselves. Youth.
The portrait of millennials as 18-22 year olds with nothing but time ahead of them is a notion I find problematic.
While there is indeed a large cohort of young 20-something millennials, they comprise the very tail end of the generation.
With Gen Z aging into their 20s, the oldest millennials, now in their mid 30s, are approaching middle age.
So why is the notion of millennial youthfulness so problematic? And how might it be hurting millennials?
While a 35 year old millennial certainly isn’t operating under the delusion that she is only 22, she may subscribe to the familiar notion of millennial youthfulness, gaining a false sense of “time security” that enables procrastination of critical long term planning.
In other words, the narrative of the millennial experience has been so shaped by this picture of youth, that millennials, regardless of age, may feel they have more than enough time to take action on long-term plans, even when they don’t. And the consequences of that perceived flexibility could be devastating.
Just listen to these millennials respond to questions about their retirement planning efforts in the latest episode of #TalkingTaboo…
It’s not just new college grads putting off long-term financial planning; the “I’ll get to it when…” mentality is pervasive among late 20 and 30-something millennials too.
As with all things millennial, the influence of student loan debt, rising living costs and stagnant wages cannot be dismissed, but if retirement planning continually fails to become a priority, as 20-somethings become 30-somethings and 30-somethings become 40-somethings, millennials will undoubtedly face a retirement crisis far greater than what baby boomers are experiencing today.
Recommended Reading: Can Financial Technology Stop The Millennial Retirement Crisis?
So, to my fellow millennials, let me urge you to dismiss these notions of endless youth.
Your greatest asset in building a secure financial future may be time, but that time is ticking fast and its’ value becomes exponentially more difficult to “buy back” as it passes.
According to Liz Weston over at MSN Money –
“Someone who puts $4,000 a year into retirement accounts starting at 22 can have $1 million by age 62, assuming 8% average annual returns. Wait 10 years to start contributing, and you’d have to put in more than twice as much – $8,800 a year – to reach the same goal.”
In other words, the sooner you start saving for the long-term, the less you have to set aside as you reap the benefits of compounding and long-term market gains.
The longer you say “not yet” and “I’ll get to it when,” the more you have to contribute later on just to catch up.
Recommended Reading: How to Stop Procrastinating Your Personal Finances
I know the prospect of saving enough for retirement is daunting, and goodness how the retirement landscape will evolve in the next 30-40 years as we work our way towards it, but there’s one thing we can all do in the meantime – start saving for it!