Millennials have to
endure many stereotypes. They are often labeled lazy, entitled and even narcissistic.
Zach Swartz, an older millennial himself and portfolio manager with BKD Wealth Advisors in Springfield, Missouri, isn’t sure the generation really deserves to be singled out in that way. “Sometimes millennials can be painted as very different from other generations when they’re not,” he says.
Case in point: the
money management mistakes commonly made by millennials. The following six mistakes aren’t so different from the financial gaffes made by older adults.
Misunderstanding Money Basics
Like other generations, millennials often have a limited knowledge of personal finance. “It starts with a lack of education in middle school, high school and even in college,” says Greg Oray, president and investment advisor representative at Oray King Wealth Advisors in Troy, Michigan.
The Council for Economic Education says only a third of states require high school students take a personal finance class to graduate. What’s more, a global survey published in 2017 found 1 in 5 American teens lacked basic financial literacy skills, placing the U.S. behind China, Belgium, Canada and several other countries. Without understanding how key concepts such as credit, debt and interest works, it can be difficult for millennials to make smart money management decisions. While online resources such as the popular budgeting app Mint, the government’s MyMoney.gov website and even U.S. News & World Report’s personal finance content are available to fill in the blanks, it’s largely up to millennials to teach themselves financial skills.
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Skipping a Budget
Millennials are in good company when it comes to making this particular money mistake. According to a 2016 study from U.S. Bank, only 41 percent of Americans use a budget. “It feels restrictive to use a budget,” Swartz says.
Young adults on their own for the first time may bristle at the idea they must limit spending. To combat this inclination, Swartz says millennials should shift their perception of a budget. “The way I think about a budget is tracking where money is going so I can make better decisions,” he says. Then, rather than limiting spending, your budget becomes a way to ensure money is spent on the priorities that matter most.
Not Saving for Retirement
Even when millennials have a budget, they may not be putting enough aside for retirement. “Make sure you have at least 20 percent of whatever you’re making put into a savings account and pretend it’s not even there,” Oray says.
With other more immediate expenses looming, such as student loan payments and even saving up for a down payment on a house, it can be hard to prioritize saving for a retirement that is decades away. However, financial experts say there is no bigger mistake than waiting to begin saving for the future. “For goodness’ sake, at least do as much to get your company’s matching money [in a 401(k)],” says Justin Halverson, founding partner of Great Waters Financial in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Many employers will match a worker’s contributions, up to a certain percentage, to a company retirement fund such as a 401(k) plan.
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Making Tax Mistakes
“No one is particularly well-educated about taxes,” says William Perez, a senior tax accountant with Visor, an online tax-filing and year-round advisory service. That includes millennials who may miss out on deductions for student loan payments or the Lifetime Learning Credit that can be used by those in graduate school.
Plus, young people may think they can get away with not claiming money earned through side gigs such as driving for Uber or reselling goods on Amazon. However, all income needs to be included on tax forms. “No one wants to pay more tax than they need to,” Perez says, “but no one wants to get a letter from the IRS saying they forgot to report something.”
Failing to Be Consistent
Swartz thinks many millennials have more financial knowledge than they get credit for. “In the clients we work with, most millennials have an appropriate sense of money for their age,” he says.
Where millennials go wrong is constantly flipping from one money management system to another. They may follow popular radio personality Dave Ramsey’s approach one month and decide to use credit cards the next. Failing to follow a single system can leave their finances disorganized and prone to other mistakes. “Find a method that works for you and your family, and just do it,” Swartz says.
(AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
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Living in the Moment
The underlying problem for millennials may be a failure to take a big picture approach to their finances. Saving money doesn’t seem as important to a younger generation that would rather live in the moment than plan for the future.
“We’re talking in generalizations here, but I don’t think they are as money-motivated,” Halverson says. Millennials often seem more interested in collecting experiences than in collecting investments. They may wonder why it’s important to stash money away when they could use it to live the lifestyle they want now. However, “not facing reality doesn’t mean reality isn’t going to catch up with you,” Halverson says.
Finance professionals say millennials are navigating many of the same issues as older generations. While they have added challenges of student loan debt and a society focused on living in the moment, millennials can also take heart in knowing that unlike Gen X and baby boomers, time is on their side.
(Getty Images/iStockphoto/Sergey Nazarov)
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6 Money Management Mistakes Millennials Often Make originally appeared on usnews.com