How Gen Y Can Stop Fearing the Financial Future and Start Preparing

What Millennials Fear: Financial Uncertainty

When reading Allison Bell’s article, 7 Statistical Snapshots: The Millennials, over at, I found Point #3 to be particularly interesting:

Good news for insurers and agents: Employees who are part of Gen Y are very concerned about the effects of unforeseen events affecting family financial security.

  • 54% fear employee premature death
  • 65% fear the possibility of an occurrence where a principal wage earner is no longer able to work because of disability or serious illness
  • 63% fear extra costs not covered by medical insurance that result from a serious illness
  • 72% fear having enough money to pay bills during a period of sudden income loss

Well, that rings true. Job loss is a big concern among many of my friends. More of my peers waited to leave jobs, even ones they hated, until they were positive they had something else lined up. Very few are willing to take the leap without something in place. Others are worried about health care costs, even healthy friends, particularly if they don’t have health insurance. I haven’t heard too many of my peers verbalize concerns about dying, but then the majority of my friends are still single or recently married, so there isn’t the “who will take care of the family if I’m gone”-worry setting in yet.

So Are Millennials Planning Ahead?

What I found very interesting was that this information was followed by Point #4, which asked whether or not millennials are planning ahead.

Most aren’t.

You’re not surprised. Neither am I. For whatever reason, despite our generation’s fears and anxieties about our financial futures, very few of us are preparing for them. Not enough young people are saving; not for the short-term, not for the long-term. Note these stats from this article pulling out some key points of the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey:

  • Only 66% of workers report saving for retirement (down from 75% in 2009);
  • Even among retirees, only 68% have ever saved for retirement;
  • The percentage of workers who are currently saving for retirement is just 58% (down from 65% in 2009);
  • Sixty percent of workers have saved less than $25,000
  • Thirty percent of works have less than $1,000 saved

Millennials, now is the time. With a little help, saving for retirement and putting aside a small emergency fund doesn’t have to be that painful.

Ok, I’m Ready! But…Um…What do I Do First?

Questions about where to start? Whether you should save or pay down debt? An excellent blog post just came out to address this very question. Rob Berger over at Doughroller has a lot of good stuff to say in his post Should You Pay Off Debt or Save for Retirement? It’s a short article but the advice is solid. Remember, every circumstance is different, but he offers a good plan for answering the question “where do I start?”. His suggestions:

  1. Invest in a 401(k)/403(b) up to employer match. Why? It’s free money!
  2. Start your emergency fund (this is where you start if you’re employer offers no match). Plan for at least 1 month of expenses (personally, in this economy, I say strive for 3 months if you can).
  3. Pay down credit card debt
  4. Once all the steps above are complete, take a balanced approach to debt repayment and savings

He acknowledges that not everyone agrees on #4, and you have to make the decisions that are best for you. But there’s something to be said for balance. Yes, pay down the debt…start with the debt that has the highest interest rate (car before student loans) but also take time to set aside funds for retirement and other money to build up your emergency fund to the 6 months of expenses level.

I’ll say it again – everyone is different with different financial situations. But Millennials, look at the numbers. The majority of us are anxious about an unsound financial future yet we do nothing to prevent it. Listen, you can do it. You CAN do it. We can do it. And given all the resources online (personal finance resources are all over social media – I’ll pull together a list for you of some of my favorites in a future post), you can find plans that work for you, that make it easier.

What About You?

Do you worry about your financial future?

Have you started preparing for the future financially?

What steps have you taken to make your financial future sound?

How do we get more Millennials to start preparing now?!

Image Credit: Keith Ramsey at Ramberg Media, Flickr

Who Are We?: The 1980-2000 Generation

Who are we and what do you call us?

Ever wonder what other people are calling you?

If you were born between 1980 and 2000, you may have heard yourself referred to as any one of the following:

  • Generation Y (or “Gen Y”)
  • The Millennial Generation (or the “ME Generation” or just “Millennials”)
  • Generation Next (I’ve never really like this one, have you?)
  • The Net Generation
  • The Echo Boomers (prior to doing a little research today, I had not heard of this one)

As a child of the ’80s, I only recently started hearing these terms applied my generation. People have been using them for some time, so it could be I just started paying attention. Often I heard us referred to a “people in their 20-s” or “young adults”. It occurred to me that I needed another way to refer to my peers, especially when describing them in my blog.


If I had to pick one of the references above, I would call us Millennials. For those of us born in the early-to-mid-’80s, the change of the millennium was a significant time in our lives. Most of us were in our mid-to-late teens, morphing from tweens listening to boy bands to soon-t0-be high school graduates planning for college or careers. This was the time we all, as they say, “came of age”. (A phrase full of meaning. After all, who wasn’t forced to read “coming of age” stories in middle school literature classes – think Great Expectations or No Promises in the Wind – and discuss the full ramifications of what it means to be “of age”? I always felt anyone who “came of age” was mature to the point of being practically decrepit  and vowed to skip the process entirely).

The Pew Research Center, among many other entities, has studied Millennials and published a series of reports in 2010 on who we are. Pew had this to say about millennials:

  • They are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of youth in the nation’s history. Among those ages 13 to 29: 18.5% are Hispanic; 14.2% are black; 4.3% are Asian; 3.2% are mixed race or other; and 59.8%, a record low, are white.
  • They are starting out as the most politically progressive age group in modern history. In the 2008 election, Millennials voted for Barack Obama over John McCain by 66%-32%, while adults ages 30 and over split their votes 50%-49%. In the four decades since the development of Election Day exit polling, this is the largest gap ever seen in a presidential election between the votes of those under and over age 30.
  • They are the first generation in human history who regard behaviors like tweeting and texting, along with websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, not as astonishing innovations of the digital era, but as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for understanding.
  • They are the least religiously observant youths since survey research began charting religious behavior.
  • They are more inclined toward trust in institutions than were either of their two predecessor generations — Gen Xers (who are now ages 30 to 45) and Baby Boomers (now ages 46 to 64) when they were coming of age.

Pew Research Center, by Scott Keeter and Paul Taylor. December 2009.

Millennials Infographic

(Because I Know You Didn’t Read the Bullets Above)


Created by:

Most of my peers would not be surprised to find we’re an ethnically diverse generation or that we find tweeting and Facebook usage the norm. Sometimes I think we do forget that what we think are just “the next steps” are all part of very recent stunning technological advancements.

Why Do I Ask?

I bring up the topic of our generation’s name because a great deal of what I will be writing about in this blog will be directed at individuals in their 20s and 30s. Whether we’re discussing personal branding among young people, millennials’ social media usage or the personal finance habits of the under-30 crowd; it will help to have one word to use to refer to this group of people. In this blog, I think “Millennials” will be that word.

We’re a fascinating group, and I’m sure I’ll comment more about studies related to us in the future. For now, if you see a title with the word “Millennial” in it and you were born between about 1980 to 2000, just know that I’m talking to or about you.

What do you think?

Which name do you like best for this generation?

Image Credit: Jeroen van Oostrom,