Convincing Millennials to be Tortoises

One of the best things Boomer parents can do for their 20-something children—other than letting them live at home until they’re established enough to launch—is to encourage them to think long and hard about the kind of life they want when they’re 50.

This might be a challenge for young adults whose concept of the future is measured in weeks and months rather than years and decades. But the single most important thing to understand about planning for life after 50 is that it’s best to do it early.

That may sound surprising, because for most of us 50 has been a time to start retirement planning. But for Millennials, 50 may be only halfway through their lives. They may not want to stop working at 65 or 70, and they may not be able to even if they did.

Still, when young adults are facing debt, iffy employment, low wages and high rents, why should they start squirreling away money as soon as they join the workforce?

First, if you can imagine a certain future, you can make the sequence of decisions that facilitate that future: what secondary education you’ll need for the career you want, where you should live to find and/or keep that career, and what kind of additional skills you’ll need to thrive in that job, because what you learned in high school and college will likely become outmoded.

Other questions to consider: Will you want to start a business? Will you ever want to live abroad? Will you want to have a second career that has no relation to the first? Will you want to buy a house (or two or three)? If you have a family, how many kids can you afford? Where do you want to raise and educate them? Will you and your spouse both need to work to support a certain standard of living, and if so, what will you do about child care?

Next, if 20-somethings start saving as soon as they start earning, by the time they’re in their 50s or 60s they likely will have accrued the wealth that can support their plans for their later life, whether that involves full-time employment or not. Many financial experts say that saving 15% of your salary, starting as soon as you start working, is the best way to ensure financial security into your 80s and 90s. The good news is that by living longer you have a longer time span to build the wealth you’ll need to fund that longer life.

To help them understand why socking away 15% of their salary is the way to go, encourage your children and/or grandchildren to download William Bernstein’s free pamphlet, “If You Can: How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly.” It’s short, it’s frank, and it’s refreshingly not dumbed down.

Find it here:










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