Millennials are impulsive and want instant gratification instead of long-term financial gains.
Baby Boomers are behind the times and don’t realize how the financial landscape has changed.
Sometimes it seems like the generational conflict over finances never ends; lectures start with Grandpa at the family dinner table and end with his twenty-something grandson’s angry rebuttals over dessert. Neither party is flexible in their assertion that their financial philosophy is the correct one, and someone else inevitably has to change the subject when a heated intergenerational conversation turns to awkward silence.
The main issue with these conversations is that both parties are advancing incomplete positions. In all likelihood, the grandson’s approach to finances works – for his situation. The same is likely true for the grandfather. The intergenerational argument is an unwinnable one because financial strategies are dependent on a person’s stage of life and their individual financial situation.
Moreover, the current economic landscape must be taken into account when devising tactics for all generations, as strategies that may have served even twenty years prior might now fall flat. The buying power of the dollar has tanked in the last few decades; Business Insider reports that inflation has boosted prices by 784% over the past sixty years. Understandably, this makes it more difficult for younger consumers to buy homes, cars, or even get married.
Financial priorities change according to the economic landscape – and usually, that means shifts occur on a generational basis.
The following outlines a few financial approaches for each generational category.
Generations Y & Z (Millennials)
Teens to late twenties:
Millennials are only just beginning to learn how to manage their finances; they may be working their first jobs or finishing school. More often than not, they have a significant number of loans; in fact, the average debt burden for students graduating in 2016 was $37,172! As such, Millennials may need to put more of the money they do earn towards paying off debt and day-to-day expenses.
However, members of this generational bracket should also focus on making and sticking to a reasonable budget. They would benefit from setting up a savings account and depositing a set amount of money into it each month. Building credit history is vital during the teens and twenties, so Millennials would further benefit from making monthly payments and establishing a good credit score.
Thirties to forties
Members of Generation X typically have jobs, and often young families as well. Their priorities differ from Millennials because, as a contributor to TheWealthAdvisor notes: “Boomers and Gen X are further advanced in their careers and lives, they tend to have fewer concerns about day-to-day living.”
However, these individuals typically have greater investment obligations such as mortgages, college funds for their children, and their own retirement funds. As such, they should allocate their funds reasonably. Saving for a child’s college is wonderful – but not if it leaves the parent without a means to support themselves in retirement! Members of Generation X should be careful to observe their own financial needs by putting money away for retirement and medical and personal emergencies.
Fifties to sixties
Baby Boomers tend to save a little more than millennials, but often have more significant financial obligations, such as providing for elderly relatives or helping grown children. Additionally, this group needs to start planning for retirement in earnest by saving and settling on the kind of lifestyle they intend to pursue in their later years. Baby Boomers should also consider enlisting a financial advisor to help balance conflicting financial needs and plans. This strategic work shouldn’t be put off!
There’s no doubt that the generations have varying priorities and require different strategies as a result – so the next time that awkward generation argument picks up, put a stop to it!
Ajay Nagpal, the Chief Operating Officer at investment management firm Millennium. Ajay Nagpal supports social entrepreneurship through his work as a Board member of Echoing Green. Please visit his social entrepreneurship blog to learn more about that! Also, find him on Behance!