If you’re a Millennial, you’ve probably heard this financial myth more times than you can count: “You don’t need to start saving for retirement until you’re 40.”
You’ve probably also heard that you don’t need life insurance, along with a slew of other money myths. Sometimes these financial misconceptions are passed down from your parents. Other times, they are perpetuated by social media, what you see on TV, or just plain old word of mouth.
Every generation has its own share of money myths. Regardless of whether you’re a Baby Boomer or a Millennial, you’re probably out of touch with your finances in some way or another. So, how can you discern fact from fiction?
That’s where we come in. We’re here to help you sort through some common generational money myths. By doing so, we’ll hopefully help you make more informed financial decisions – without being swayed by false information. Take a look.
Myth: They’re not up to speed with Fintech.
Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are typically 53 to 71 years old. The first smartphone came out around 2007, when the youngest members of this generation were 43 years old. Because boomers did not grow up with modern technology, they’ve carried around this technologically out-of-touch reputation for quite some time now.
It’s partly true. For instance, maybe your mom or dad has never downloaded a budgeting app before, or your uncle doesn’t even know what an app is. You certainly can’t blame your grandparents for not trusting Internet banking or emerging financial technologies. It’s not how they grew up.
“Baby Boomers aren’t known to be the most tech-savvy age group, in a financial or broader sense,” says Jennifer McDermott, a consumer advocate for personal finance website finder.com.
But, here’s the kicker: Boomers sometimes do embrace Fintech, and this is why you can’t lump all Baby Boomers into one category. According to a survey by finder.com, 17 percent utilize mobile payment services like Venmo and Google Wallet. According to McDermott, this shows that this older generation is embracing new money tech tools.
So, if you (or your parents) are Baby Boomers and still trepidatious about using your phones or mobile devices for banking, don’t feel compelled to go overboard and start using multiple new apps all at once. For budgeting, for instance, you can try something simple, like Mint. And, if you’re new to online banking, look no further than an intuitive, smart option like a Chime account.
Myth: They’re the most financially responsible generation.
Generation Xers, born between 1961 and 1981, are precariously sandwiched between Boomers and Millennials – the awkward middle child with the uncertain financial identity. Boomers reaped financial benefits from the fiscally prosperous era following World War II, and Millennials aren’t old enough to contend with money challenges like looming retirement and raising a family while caring for aging parents.
For this reason, Gen X is often called the “sandwich generation.” And this sandwich generation, which often balances multiple responsibilities at once, is also often considered the most financially responsible generation.
“Given they didn’t reap the economic benefits of the Baby Boomer generation, yet have more responsibilities than their Millennial counterparts, Generation X is usually seen as being the most careful with their savings and spendings,” says McDermott of finder.com.
But, upon digging a little deeper, we found that this isn’t always the case. Other generations can be just as fiscally responsible and often don’t have nearly as much financial stress or debt as Generation X.
A recent survey by credit bureau Experian revealed that the average Gen Xer has more than $125,000 in cumulative debt – from student loans, mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and more. This has left about 39 percent of Gen Xers stressed out and pessimistic about their financial future, according to another financial survey by TD Ameritrade.
Before you get even more worried about your financial outlook, keep in mind that you can make changes – starting right now. Here are steps for Gen Xers to take:
- Meet with a financial advisor to rethink your retirement plan
- Readjust your tax withholdings through your employer
- Build a new budget with a renewed focus
- Start an automatic savings account that compels you to save
As the youngest crop of adults – born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the Internet, smartphones, and online banking. Because there are so many generation-specific financial myths for Millennials, it was hard to choose just one myth. So we decided upon two.
Myth #1: They’re lazy, entitled and don’t care about work.
Millennials, also known as Gen Y, get the worst reputation where money is concerned.
“One of the biggest money myths about millennials is that we’re all wasting our income on avocado toast and the latest iPhone,” says Yasmin Purnell of money blog The Wallet Moth.
But that’s not entirely true. Millennials often struggle financially and, as a result, they have learned to save money rather than blow it on frivolous things.
“Millennials have grown up in some of the toughest financial conditions there has been in decades. They are having to make a living on a much lower income,” says Purnell.
In fact, Millennials struggle with crippling levels of student loan debt and this is nothing short of a financial epidemic. In 2017, for example, the average recent college graduate has over $37,000 in total debt – more than most entry-level jobs pay in one year. All told, we’re faced with a $1.45 trillion student loan problem, which rivals the country’s national deficit. Couple this with the fact that Millennials often work side hustles to diversify their income streams or start companies, and you can put this myth to rest.
“Not only are the younger generation holding down jobs, they are also the most likely to have a second job, or side hustle, to supplement their income,” says McDermott.
In finder.com’s survey, one-third of millennials (33.3%) earn money on the side, ahead of Generation X at 26% and Baby Boomers at 16.6%.
Myth #2: They don’t think about the long-term.
“Live for today and spend like there’s no tomorrow” sounds like a Millennial manifesto you’ll find on some Instagram or Facebook meme. Let’s continue with this theme: Gen Y is impulsive and short-sighted, they don’t care about anything past their immediate goals.
Although there are certainly those who fit these stereotypes, Gen Yers are more financially conscious, and better with their money than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, according to a study by Charles Schwab. The study pointed out:
- 34 percent of Millennials are more likely to have a financial plan than older generations
- 57 percent are more financially engaged, and actively involved in their portfolios
- 84 percent are more aware of their brokerage account fees
The study also found that older Millennials – those now in their 30s – are more likely to have a budget and an optimistic attitude towards money than those in their 20s.