Every now and then I come across something really inspiring. The other day, it was an article titled “My Millennial Manifesto,” which published on the Huffington Post.
In the article, Matt – the founder of Distilled Dollar and a licensed CPA – talks about how, after World War II, people started working for major corporations and worrying a lot less about their finances. After all, why worry about your finances when you can get a steady paycheck and pension from the company you work for?
But after a while, Matt writes, something very bad happened: “we lost sight of who we were.” Older generations stopped passing down valuable information to their kids about how to start a business, how to manage their money, and how to best plan for their financial future.
“It wasn’t [that] long ago [that] people used to build their own businesses. Not because they were driven by a sense to be self-employed, but because it was necessary not only to survive, but to thrive. Every day patrons used to know about personal finance because everyone had to be entrepreneurial. They could not rely on corporations to make decisions for them. There were no large government safety nets.”
However over time, that started changing, and people forgot how to manage their finances. They focused instead on accumulating material possessions and wealth, and they lost their sense of purpose.
The result is an entire generation of people (myself included!) that knows very little about how to start a business, how to invest, or how to best prepare for their financial future.
But thankfully, all is not lost. After many (many) years, this is finally starting to change, and it’s changing with us.
Contrary to being “entitled” and “whiney,” Matt points out that millennials are empowering a new generation by “re-learning what prior generations [already] knew.”
And he’s right! Everywhere around me, I see it.
Motivated by credit card debt, student loans, and a lack of savings (including emergency and retirement), millennials are driving change by starting conversations about money/transparency, challenging their purpose, and questioning society’s endless need for consumption.
We have realized that companies don’t have our backs the way they used to. Pensions are small or nonexistent. 401k company matches either prevent employees from being eligible immediately, or they have long vesting schedules. And wages have become stagnant.
We have also realized that there’s more to life than the 9-5 desk job. That we’re wasting precious time and energy working for corporations and earning salaries that can’t guarantee our retirement, let alone give us work that we love or time away with our families.
But most importantly, we have realized that we can take back control. That we can re-learn personal finance and embrace a renewed sense of purpose in order to build the life we really want to have.
I see this through:
- The Minimalist Movement, which inspires people to live a more meaningful life by ridding themselves of life’s “excess” in order to focus on what’s really important – like happiness, fulfillment and freedom. (I highly recommend their podcast or documentary if you’re interested).
- The Tiny House Movement, which gives people an opportunity to escape the vicious cycle of debt by saying no to six-figure mortgages and embracing a life of more time and freedom.
- The FI/RE (financial independence/retire early) movement: (This one is probably my favorite). Tons of millennials have realized that if they save huge chunks of their salary now, while they’re young, they can retire in their 40s – or earlier! Popular finance blogs like Mr. Money Mustache, 1500 Days, Frugalwoods and the Financial Samurai have all showed that if you save as much as 50% of your salary in your 20s, you can become a millionaire much faster – freeing you up to pursue new hobbies and interests.
- The “Start Your Own Business” movement: Okay, I made up the name. But it exists. Fortune published an article earlier this year saying that millennials have launched twice as many businesses as baby boomers, and they’re launching them at a younger age (20-30 vs 30-40). Although technology has certainly played a role, experts have pointed that with the average college-loan debt hovering around $26,000, many millennials have had no choice but to strike out on their own.
Taking Back Control
Many journalists and financial execs have claimed that there is no hope for our generation. That we’re doomed to become the most taxed, the most indebted, the most overworked, underpaid….never able to retire… blah, blah, blah. However, I disagree.
With all of this chirping in our ears, I think more millennials than ever are saying “Hey, wait a minute! I want to build my life and my career on MY terms. So what do I need to do to get there?” For many of us, the answer isn’t in longer hours and more pay. It’s in taking charge of our money earlier so that we can control it instead of letting it control us.
By embracing personal finance and learning everything we can about it now, we can regain control of our lives, keep ourselves out of debt, spend less than we make, and live a more meaningful life.
The choice is yours.
–P.S. Cheap Wine and Coffee now has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest page. For anyone wanting more conversation than the blog allows, I post on Facebook and Twitter daily and hope you’ll join me!