Bottom Line Inc

Anyone Can Start Their Retirement Today—the Millennials Have


I did a video interview last week with financial expert, author and radio host Adriane Berg about retirement strategies and what she calls “Generation Bold,” the increasingly active, vibrant and youthful senior generation. We discussed things like later-in-life careers, saving strategies, work/life balance and following your passion. It occurred to me that the Millennials are, in some ways, already living their retirement dreams…and there are lessons to be learned from that.

We Baby Boomers have lived our lives presuming that there would be plenty—plenty of jobs…plenty of money…plenty of stuff. But that really wasn’t the case for many of us, given the assorted financial crises that occurred during our lifetimes.

Of course, we also rode the tide of the boom times with the excesses of the late 1980s and the McMansions of the 1990s. Boomers have received great enjoyment by acquiring and displaying “stuff” even if that meant they were locked into jobs they didn’t enjoy and going deeply in debt. We wear our exhaustion as a badge of honor—proud that we don’t sleep because we are too busy with all of the activities and obligations in our lives.

Phew…it’s exhausting.

But it’s OK, because the Boomers are looking forward to retiring in a beautiful place full of work/life balance, plenty of relaxation and grand fulfillment.

But let’s look at the Millennials. We “oldsters” love complaining about the narcissism of Millennials—their sense of entitlement…and their lack of personal responsibility because they were raised by helicopter parents. But we shouldn’t be so fast to judge them, because in many ways, the Millennials already are living the lives that many Baby Boomers dream about…and I mean that in only a good way.

One of the best things about retirement is work/life balance. Sure, many people stop working after they retire, but an increasing number of oldsters instead pursue their careers of passion. No more being saddled to jobs that they don’t like—they work for employers that fill their hearts more than their pocketbooks.

Millennials already are driven by passion and purpose as they move along in their careers. They want to work for companies that do good and give back to society. They want careers that fill their hearts as much as, if not more than, they fill their bank accounts.

And that leads me to my second point about Millennials. They have pre-downsized. Millennials aren’t into “stuff” the way that Boomers are. They don’t want our McMansions with multiple family rooms filled with several sofas, big-screen TVs and collectible-filled cabinets. For them, smaller houses with rooms that are fully utilized are quite fine, and they have no need for Grandma’s china or crystal. Millennials are so committed to “less is more” that they are leading the tiny-house movement, in which families live in homes less than 400 square feet, free from the financial obligation of a mortgage and free to pursue adventures. There are McMansions all over the country with master bathrooms larger than these tiny homes.

From a purely financial point of view, Millennials are “out-investing” older generations—85% of them participate in retirement plans, while only 77% of GenX and 75% of Boomers participate in these plans. They also are out-planning the boomers—75% of them track their expenses versus only 64% of Boomers.

Millennials have been growing up during the almost 20 years since the 9/11 recession and the slow recovery, so this crowd knows that the world can come crashing down in an instant and that Social Security may not even exist for them so they need to live for today and plan for tomorrow.

To be clear, this isn’t true for all Millennials…but as with all groups, there is a cohort that can teach their older brethren a thing or two about living life fully. As Adriane Berg told me, retirement planning has to start with your first job, creating the habit of saving for the future. It also seems to me that there’s no reason that everyone, not just the Millennials, shouldn’t be living their lives with some of those joyous elements of retirement. In particular…

Live in a place you love. Do you live where you would love to live when you retire? A place that supports your interests and your lifestyle? If not, is there a reason you can’t move to a location that lets you feel like you’re on vacation everyday? Can you find a job you love in a place like that?

Be inspired by your work. Does your job provide emotional satisfaction either in the company’s mission or in what you are doing at the company?

Create a spending strategy—not just a saving strategy. If you want to save money for later in life, then you need to have a spending strategy now. Create a budget, and stick to it. Allow yourself the things you need and the truly special items you want. More is neither necessary nor necessarily desirable.

Make that bucket list of life experiences, and start checking off the boxes. Corollary to item 3: Are you creating a plan that allows you to create special life experiences? Do you have personal goals on a “bucket list” so that you can be sure to schedule them and make them happen?

As I sit in my home office writing this and looking at 25 years of accumulated stuff on my bookshelves, I realize I have a long way to go when it comes to downsizing. But that’s OK, because I am inspired by my work…love where I live…and I am starting to work my way down that life experience bucket list.

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