THE MILLENNIAL PERSPECTIVE: We Just Want to Sit at Home

It seems as though a “Help Wanted” sign is hanging in the window of every other place of business these days. I hear the phrase, “nobody wants to work,” a lot as well. On the other hand, I also hear the phrase, “there are no good jobs available.” Did you catch the keyword? “Good jobs.” So, what exactly does that mean? These days, a good job can be defined as a lot of things. A job with lots of benefits like health care and retirement, a job with a reasonable, livable wage, a job that has added bonuses and perks, or one of the most desirable qualities a job could offer today…remote working.

As we all know, the era we are currently living through has changed the way a lot of things are done. In March 2020 millions of people across the country were sent home for two weeks in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As two weeks came to a close, many of those millions were ordered to remain at home indefinitely and work remotely. As the months went by many employers, especially larger corporations, started noticing a difference in certain things such as higher productivity and lower balances due on bills. They came to realize that the jobs they needed done could be done away from the traditional office setting and could save them money in the long run. This also allowed them to expand their teams and hire people all over the nation rather than only relying on talent in their local area, thus increasing the open positions in the job market. 

A recent survey conducted by Pew Research maps out the massive shift we are noticing in the job market and workforce as work-from-home jobs become more widely available. Stating that prior to the pandemic about 23% of people were already working from home. Now, two years later, nearly 60% of people who have the option to work from home are doing so. As the pandemic has evolved so have their reasons for staying home. At first a vast majority (64%) worked from home because their offices were not open while only 36% chose to work from home. This has now flipped and 61% are choosing to work from home and 38% are home because of office closures. 

Working from home can be appealing for a number of reasons. For some it may mean less distractions resulting in better productivity. You don’t have to worry about traffic and commuting, you can stay home with children if needed, you can accomplish passive household chores such as laundry, you don’t have to take time off to wait for a delivery or for pest control, you can work in the comfort of your favorite sweatpants, the list goes on. After we all got a taste of what it could be like it turned into something that a lot of people worked towards. There are plenty of jobs that cannot allow teleworking, and I am confident that as we progress through the pandemic and things start to get to the new normal those jobs will be filled. 

There are a lot of jobs available right now, but that doesn’t mean no one wants to work. So where is everyone? Why is no one pounding the pavement and turning in applications to these business with a help wanted sign on the window? Because they are sitting at home with their company issued laptops, working off a VPN (virtual private network) with their high-speed internet provided by their employer, whom they may or may not have ever met face-to-face. People have been working from home for years, but because of this shift, it is becoming more noticeable. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that teleworking isn’t the only thing keeping people from working in the public, there are a lot of other things that could be changed to make those jobs more appealing too. Millennials and Gen Z are known to be a force for change and I think this is no different when applied to the workforce. I believe we will continue to see this shift further along with a lot of other changes as the two generations become the majority of the workforce. 

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The Millennial Perspective: Know Your Worth

What makes a good manager and leader? There are plenty of different answers to that question depending on who you ask. Our 6th United States President, John Quincy Adams, once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I could not agree more. 

One of the things that has changed with millennials – and may be ruining work culture according to older generations – is job turnover. I remember being told that I would not be able to get a decent job if I started hopping around various places. This statement could not have been further from the truth. In the 11 years that I have been in the workforce, I have had a total of eight jobs. With each job change, apart from a few which we will get to shortly, I have left the position because of a combination of two things – better opportunity and poor management. These two reasons happen to be among the most common for people leaving their employment.

Let us start with the larger of the two causes for leaving employment – poor management. I, thankfully, learned early in my career that the way some of my managers acted towards their employees coupled with their lack of leadership skills resulted in most instances being resolved in the wrong manner. I simultaneously learned that other managers acted and resolved similar scenarios with employees in a much better manner and yielded better results. At the time I decided to resign from my third job, which was by far the most toxic workplace I have experienced, I knew my worth was not being appreciated through either the workplace culture or the pay that I was receiving. That was when I started to think about opportunity.

Here is a scenario that is, unfortunately, too common. A teenager is in their first week at their first job. The first half of the week has been dedicated to training. The business has certain policies about how much product is served to customers. The teenager, who is still learning the ins and outs of the job, accidentally gives a customer a little too much product and as a result, the manager on duty chooses to berate him in front of customers. Imagine you are that teenager, and this was your first experience at work. You would be embarrassed and disheartened. Would you make the same mistake again? It depends on the mistake and how easy it was to correct; however, you hope to never make the same mistake again. Would you be excited to return to work after that? Of course not! You would either wish you had a different job or, the more probable decision, you will get a different job.

A great leader would speak with the employee using a calm voice and explain why the rule exists including the impact of the rule overall to deliver the appropriate amount of product to customers. These situations should be about learning opportunities to build an employee’s confidence rather than the manager’s power and dominance.

Some of the most awkward moments for an employee is announcing her intention to leave the employer. When I think back to the moments where I have given my notice of resignation, a few key points stick out to me. One time my manager tried to tell me why leaving was a bad idea and how horrible my new job would be. That behavior was not helpful or professional. Another time my manager tried to talk me out of leaving for a stable, full-time job because she had a full-time position becoming available in the future for my skill sets. By adding, “we would hate to lose you” to the conversation required some thought. However, when I asked if she would grant me the new full-time position at that moment, she said “no.” My all-time favorite response to my timely and professional resignation notice was receiving a “not-so-nice” hand gesture in response to my notice. Was it in a playful manner? Sure, but it proved the point to me that the management team was unprofessional and fortified my decision to leave. 

Last night as I was watching Ted Lasso, a great show on Apple TV+, a character named “Higgins” said, “a good mentor hopes you will move on. A great mentor knows you will.” That really got me thinking about how poor managers do not hope you will move on. There have been two out of all eight jobs where my manager was happy for me and encouraged me to go because they wanted me to have better opportunities beyond what they could provide. One case was just a prospective job change, but I felt comfortable enough to approach my manager to ask them for advice on how to proceed. These two managers rank among the best managers and leaders I have ever had. They embody the type of leadership that John Quincy Adams is referring to in the quote from my opening paragraph and I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them

The correlation between employee turnover and quality of management is high. There is an old saying, “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.” Do not be afraid to recognize your own worth when your leadership does not. The moment you start to wonder if you deserve better is how you know you do deserve better. Next time you are hunting for a job, be weary of listings that you have seen multiple times. Should you find yourself being interviewed for a job, ask the right questions to determine if it aligns with a work culture that you desire. An easy question would be to simply ask how long people have been there to get a feel for the general turnover. Another means of success in finding the perfect job is to be honest with yourself, defining what you seek in a role. Take command of your current happiness and future security. Only accept a position that contributes to your satisfaction that you are making a difference in the lives of others.

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The Millennial Perspective: Planning Ahead

Disruption can arise at any moment and oftentimes there is nothing we can do to avoid it from happening. There has been a lot of disruption in the last two years and it has left countless people jobless, on unemployment, or sent home for a few weeks to recover from COVID-19. With the most recent COVID-19 spike I have heard stories of several people who feel that they cannot miss work because of the money they would lose despite being ill. It now seems that more and more people are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place, money or the safety of others. I am certain that the majority would prefer the latter. However, having a plan in place can make the decision easier.

Looking back at the start of the pandemic, employers were afforded the ability via tax credits to pay for an absence due to COVID-19. This allowed employees to stay home without having to worry about missing out on wages while even those who lost their jobs were able to draw unemployment at a higher rate than usual. With most businesses no longer offering “COVID pay,” employees have felt obligated to make the tough decision between going to work and being extra careful around others. This can easily become a liability for the company because of safety protocols and spiraling COVID quarantines which can force companies to temporarily close their doors because of staffing issues or to ensure the quelling of outbreaks. Thus, leaving all the employees to miss out on wages while forcing the company to miss out on profits.

Many who are sick are not able to know that they have COVID-19 because some may have simply thought it was the common cold or just allergies. Regardless of the cause of their symptoms, no one should be put in the position of having to determine if their symptoms are due to a relatively benign issue such as allergies or a contagious disease without being able to consult a medical professional or have diagnostic testing performed, especially now when the stakes are seemingly high. It is therefore important to have a plan for when life happens. Building a plan to save for a rainy day can be very intimidating for some. Working with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® (CFP®) can help make the task feel less daunting. A CFP® can often help you build a budget that is customized to your needs and can help you set aside money without stretching your account too thin.

Building these savings will not happen overnight. Some people may have to decrease their debts before they can save. Paying down debt with higher interest rates (avalanche method) or smaller balances (snowball method) is always a good place to start. By lowering the amount you have to pay each month you free up funds that can be set aside to start saving or even pay off more debt. Some people may prefer to pay all of their debts off before saving, but this doesn’t help out much when disruption arises and may indeed decrease their available cash for emergencies

My dad (the smartest man I know) frequently uses the phrase, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” That philosophy has really stuck with me these last two years with all the disruptions we have had in our day to day lives. It doesn’t sound very optimistic to always plan for the worst, but you never know what kind of disruption life will throw at you. It is never a bad idea to be prepared. No one has ever wished they were less prepared for when an emergency arises. No one ever wishes that they had planned and managed their finances without proper considerations. A CFP® has been trained specifically to look at each person as an individual and set them along the right path to plan for these disruptions while still living a lifestyle that is enjoyable.

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A Recipe for Relaxation

As we finish up the last quarter of 2021, we’re still battling the COVID-19 pandemic – and now flu season. Add in the storms, wildfires and smoky air, and busy holiday season and it’s a recipe for burnout. You are likely feeling a little bit of that burnout.

Forbes reports more than half of respondents to an Indeed survey are experiencing some form of burnout, up from 43 percent who said they felt that way pre-COVID-19. Among those respondents, millennials seemed most affected. The 2021 Forbes article reports:

  • 59 percent of millennials report experiencing burnout
  • 58 percent of Gen-Z reports feeling burnout
  • 54 percent of Gen-Xers report feeling burnout 
  • 31 percent of baby boomers reported feeling burnout

With the seemingly constant stress of the past 21 months, it’s important to practice self-care as we close out 2021.

Some ideas for self-care you can engage in to alleviate burnout, according to Psychiatric Times, are meditation and deep breathing, self-compassion, and maintaining a work-life balance. Another great method, and one of my personal favorites, is cooking! I know this doesn’t sound appealing to everyone, but it can always be worth a shot. 

Try learning a new recipe and making something from scratch for the upcoming holiday. One of my favorite recipes is homemade Spaghetti Carbonara with homemade spaghetti noodles. This year my family will be having an assortment of Italian dishes for Christmas dinner, so I will be making this for everyone to enjoy.

Here is the recipe if you want to give it a try:

Spaghetti Carbonara with homemade noodles (serves 6)

Noodles:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups of flour + additional for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  1. Create a nest with the flour on a clean, flat surface.
  2. Crack the eggs into the nest and add the salt and oil, careful not to let the eggs run out of the nest.
  3. Use a fork to carefully whisk the ingredients together in the nest while gradually working the flour in.
  4. Using clean hands, incorporate the remaining flour to the mixture to create a shaggy dough.
  5. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth. If the dough seems too dry, sprinkle a very small amount of water on the dough and continue kneading.
  6. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  7. Divide the ball into 4 pieces.
  8. Roll each piece into a flat oval.
  9. Use a pasta roller to roll the dough to your desired thickness or use a rolling pin to do the same.
  10. Cut each sheet of dough in half to create shorter sheets and dust each side with flour.
  11. Run each sheet of dough through your desired pasta cutter to create noodles.

Carbonara:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6oz of pancetta or thick cut bacon, chopped
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3.5 oz of freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/3 cup of pasta water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and fresh noodles. Boil noodles for about 3 minutes or until al dente.
  2. Collect 1/3 cup of pasta water and strain the noodles. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, Heat olive oil in deep skillet and add chopped pancetta or bacon, stir occasionally until cooked.
  4. While noodles and pancetta/bacon cook, beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl.
  5. Add parmesan cheese to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  6. Once pancetta/bacon is cooked, add cooked pasta to the pan. Remove from heat.
  7. Add egg and cheese mixture and pasta water to pan and stir well until a sauce forms.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If cooking isn’t quite your style, then hand the recipe off to someone else and just enjoy the delicious meal. 

To maximize the benefits of self-care and give yourself a break from burnout, do something that you enjoy and relaxes you, whatever that may be. By doing so we can step into 2022 ready to take on the world! 

Have a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!

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A Little Gratitude Goes A Long Way

Thankfulness versus gratitude. What does that mean? Well, they may have the same meaning at the end of the day, but lately gratitude has become something that holds a little more meaning. I am not sure if it has been the rollercoaster we have all been on for the last two years or not, but I have certainly noticed a theme on social media centered around that word and it has me thinking that some people may be onto something.

Gratitude has become more than just being thankful for something. It is as if it has become a lifestyle rather than a simple feeling. Sharing the things you feel gratitude towards on a daily basis has become a bit of a norm. It’s like intentionally starting the day on the right foot. Seeing the things that people are sharing can really make you think about the things in your own life that you are grateful for. It can be the simple things, such as being able to hear the crunch of the leaves when walking on a on a crisp Fall morning. The type of things that you wouldn’t look at and normally say, “I am so glad this is a thing!” Or it can be something big like being grateful to have a roof over your head.

I think that this can be especially healthy when we find ourselves getting upset. Imagine you are in a drive-thru line and it is moving rather slow. You expected to be through the line in under 5 minutes, but it has been 10 and you are not even to the first window to pay for your food. Something to feel grateful for in that moment could be having the opportunity to listen to the song on the radio or finish it while you wait. This kind of mindset can help you stay grounded and take your mind off the thing that is upsetting.

I want to challenge you to look around the room you are in and find at least two things you are grateful for and then continue to do so on a regular basis. The world can be such a negative place these days, so I think it is important to take a step back and find something positive to focus on for a moment, if not for our own sanity. Looking around my home office I am grateful my laptop that gives me the opportunity to work remotely and for my sticky notes that keep me on track each day. It can be so easy to find something to be grateful for if we just take the time to do so.

In the coming year, make a habit of finding one or two things to be grateful for and repeat this process every day. Do something that holds you accountable, like writing it in a journal or in a note on your phone. You don’t have to share it on social media like others do, but be intentional and start the day on a positive note. A little positivity and gratitude can go a long way and isn’t that what we all need after the last two years?

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The Millennial Perspective: Where is the bridge?

“When I was your age, I already owned a home, a car, and had no student debt. What are you doing wrong?” I am willing to bet that a good chunk of Millennials have heard something along those lines from a member of an older generation such as Gen X and Baby Boomers. Well, despite being the largest generation in the workforce and in the country today, we make a great deal less and hold a lot less wealth than the older generations did at the same age. 

Wealth is defined as the measure of one’s assets (what they own) less their debts (what they owe). The generational wealth gap has been a hot topic among Millennials for a few years now and as a result, there have been many studies done to determine just how big that gap really is. When the Baby Boomers were in their 30s, they collectively held a little over 21% of the nation’s wealth. The youngest Millennials are all nearing their 30s now and collectively hold less than 4% of the nation’s wealth today. That is a pretty big difference.

I also looked into the average wage earned by Baby Boomers in their 30s. The number on paper isn’t too far off from what Millennials are earning today, so you might think, “what is the problem then?” The actual break down of the value of the dollar is the problem. The average hourly wage for Baby Boomers in 1984 was $18.99 and today the average for Millennials is $19.32 only a $0.33 difference. However, you have to look at what the value of $18.99 in 1984 would be in 2021. That number is around $48, so that means that Baby Boomers made almost 40% more in their 30s than Millennials. Imagine what living off of $40,180.60 today versus living off of a little less than $98,000 a year would be like. The quality of life is vastly different.

Millennials are savings far less, if anything, for retirement and have far less assets than the older generations had at this age. This is because the cost of living is increasing much faster than what we are being paid. This is how the gap has grown to be so large. Millennials, and even Gen X, are not on track to hold has much wealth as Baby Boomers do when they are near retirement age. Speaking from experience, it can be hard to find a budget that works for the quality of life you want while still preparing for the future, but it helps to talk to a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to find a system that is right for you.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to the generational wealth gap when you really investigate it, including trickle down economics, so if you are looking for some light reading then I encourage you to dive in. I also believe that we have a long way to go before we bridge this gap. Until then, the next time someone starts a money discussion with, “when I was your age,” you have a couple of talking points to get by.

Resources:

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College Loan Confusion

College students have steep learning curves. In high school, they were tasked with doing well academically, participating in extracurricular activities, complying with the rules of their parents’ homes and, possibly, having a job. At college, they must decide what to study, how many credits to take, and other important decisions, while adapting to a new environment and learning to manage time, communicate with professors and administrators, network with peers, and manage finances.

A key aspect of finances for many college students is student loans. When scholarships, grants, income, and savings are not enough to cover the cost, students often borrow to pay for college. In fact, student loan debt just became the second highest consumer debt category, passing credit cards but still lagging mortgages. In 2020, student debt passed over $1.56 trillion. As part of the Covid-19, relief the government passed numerous student relief programs, but student loan debt continues to grow as the average student loan debt of the 2018 graduating class was roughly $29,200. On average, student loan debt in the us tops out at $32,731, with roughly 10.8 percent in delinquency or default. 

At graduation, accumulated debt may include:

  • Direct subsidized loans (the government pays interest while students are in school)
  • Direct unsubsidized loans (students owe interest while in school)
  • Direct PLUS loans (for parents and graduate students)
  • Perkins loans
  • State and private loans (usually co-signed with an adult) 

Different types of loans offer different interest rates and repayment schedules. The federal government finances some loans. Private lenders finance others. Some loans are need-based, while others are not. One option available now is to consolidate student loans on the private market. Companies have emerged offering lower rates to borrowers, but this comes with tradeoffs like giving up certain federal protections. 

There are a lot of details to understand and track when students borrow. That’s one reason many colleges and universities require student borrowers to attend loan counseling sessions before receiving loans. Unfortunately, the survey found few students retain much of the information presented:

  • 94 percent of students did not know their repayment terms
  • 93 percent were uncertain what type of loan they held
  • 92 percent did not know their current loan interest rates
  • 75 percent understood how interest rates work

A Brookings Institute study found about one-half of students underestimate the amount of debt they have and one-third cannot provide an accurate estimate of their debt. The survey concluded:

“It is clear from the analysis presented here that enrolled college students do not have a firm grasp on their financial positions, including both the price they are paying for matriculation and the debt they are accruing. Without this information, it’s unlikely that students will be able to make savvy decisions regarding enrollment, major selection, persistence, and employment. Without knowledge of their financial circumstances, a student with a large sum of debt might be unprepared to compete for the jobs that would pay generously enough to allow them to repay their debt without having to enter an income-based repayment program.”

Unfortunately, student loan confusion doesn’t end with college. In large part, that’s because there a multitude of repayment options for college graduates. The Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website offers an overview of the eight repayment options for Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loans. These include:

  • Standard repayment plan (fixed payments)
  • Graduated repayment plan (increasing payments)
  • Extended repayment plan (fixed payments over 25 years)
  • Income-based Repayment Plan (income-based repayment)
  • Income Contingent Repayment (income-based repayment)
  • Income Sensitive Repayment Plan (income-based repayment)
  • Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (income-based repayment)
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (revised income-based repayment)

Of course, the choices available for repaying private student loans are different and vary by lender. In addition, marketplace and peer-to-peer lending platforms make it possible to refinance and consolidate student loan debt, sometimes at lower interest rates.

Tax implications may also play a role into loan repayment decisions. Interest paid on student loan debt may be tax deductible. Earlier this year, Forbes suggested it could reduce taxable income by as much as $2,500 for some Americans. However, this article cautioned monthly loan payments could limit the ability of many young Americans to save for financial goals like starting a business, buying a home, or retiring from work at a reasonable age.

A college degree is almost a necessity today. Pew Research Center has reported, “On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment – from personal earnings to job satisfaction…young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education.”

When a degree confers so many benefits, borrowing to pay for college appears to be a reasonable choice as long as students make sound repayment choices. In a world where so many repayment options are available, graduates may want to work with financial professionals to accurately determine which repayment programs may be the most beneficial. 

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Millennial Perspective: The Most Important Investment

Millennials, many of us are nearing the end of our 20s and we will all be 30 or older in a short five years. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to make time to invest in yourself as we enter this new era of our lives. There are plenty of ways to do this and I will list them shortly, but they all center around self-care. Self-care is not something that our generation is unfamiliar with, so it should be easy, right? Let’s find out.

First things first, remember to value your loved ones. This can be biological family or a family that you chose. Lean on them when you need to and listen to what they have to say about life and growing older. There is a chance that they have gone through similar experiences as you and they may be able to help guide you through them. After all, they have helped us get to this point, so if it’s working why change it?

Next, learn something new. Have you ever wanted to learn a new language or start making pottery? Do it! What is stopping you? There’s nothing better than exploring new things and learning new skills. Now is the time to take advantage of the things we either didn’t have time for before or were too afraid to try.

Make smarter money choices. This doesn’t mean that you can’t spend your money on things that you enjoy, like avocado toast and iced coffee. This just means you should start looking at getting serious about that 401(k) you hear HR talk about all the time and working on a budget. This can be a big task to tackle, so do not be afraid to seek professional help. This isn’t something that your friends and family can always help with because we are all in different financial situations. You need to find something that works specifically for you and seeking the advice of a fiduciary and/or CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ can help.

Go wardrobe shopping. This is my favorite one, of course. However, don’t get carried away, remember the last tip? I mean invest in functional pieces that still express who you are and will last for years to come. My rule of thumb for this is to make sure to buy things that can be worn in multiple settings. Can you wear this shirt to work and to brunch and still feel like yourself? If so, get it! I used to only buy “work clothes” and “casual clothes”, but I quickly ran out of space in my closet, and I found that I rarely got to wear my casual clothes because I worked most of the time. 

Declutter your space. This one ties into the last one for me, but I don’t just mean clothing. Sometimes we can accumulate so many things that we don’t even use, so why keep them around? If it still has a good use, just not a good use for you, donate it. It may be just the thing someone else has been looking for. Take some time at least every couple of years to go through your things and free up some space. This task can be very cathartic. 

Talk to someone if you need to. Millennials are probably the first generation that openly discuss and support mental health care. If life starts to feel like it is weighing on you, do not hold those feelings in and just hope that things get better, and don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Everyone struggles every now and then and it is okay to not be okay. Talk to someone. A mentor, a therapist, your best friend, it doesn’t matter as long as you are comfortable opening up around them.

Spend time with yourself. Some people love alone time and others can’t stand it, but a little alone time can go a long way. Sit down and read a good book, write in a journal, binge watch a series on Netflix in one weekend. If you are really daring, go see a movie by yourself or eat alone at a restaurant. Take this time to really find yourself. We can often get caught up in the day to day and lose ourselves. It is important to take some time to yourself to decompress occasionally.

Last, but certainly not least, do not be afraid to fail. The word failure has been stained with negative connotations, but sometimes it can be a great thing. Sometimes our failures help us learn something new and, often, better. It presents an opportunity to rise from the ashes and take flight. Learn to embrace your failures and grow from them. Also remember that you can’t compare yourself to others. We are all on our own journey and we may fail where others succeed, but that does not mean they haven’t failed before or that you will not succeed.

As you can see, self-care doesn’t always mean developing a good skin care regimen or getting a massage. Though those things are still important. The main point to take away from this is to really invest in yourself. Our time to grow and have fun doesn’t just stop when you turn 30. Life would be pretty miserable if that were the case. So, as much as we would all love to be a twenty-something forever, life carries on. Besides, I heard that 30 is the new 20.

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Primed and Ready to Spend

For the past year-and-a-half, scientists raced to develop effective COVID-19 vaccines and governments and companies worked to make vaccines available. Today, seven vaccines are approved in 176 countries. More than 2 billion doses have been administered, and about 14 percent of the world’s population has been vaccinated. It’s a remarkable achievement.

While there is a lot of work left to do, the Centers for Disease Control offered new and more lenient guidance for fully-vaccinated people in May, and restrictions across the country are being lifted. The result has been a surge in social activities we used to take for granted. According to the latest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index:

“…Americans’ reemergence is moving full steam ahead. A majority have dined in a restaurant or visited friends and relatives in the past week – and these numbers continue to climb each week…At the same time, Americans are reporting small improvements to their mental and emotional health.”

One unexpected side effect of the pandemic is Americans spent less and saved more than normal. As a result, credit card balances are lower and personal finances have improved.

You know what they say about money burning a hole in your pocket.

Americans are ready to spend some of their savings. While some remain reluctant to venture far from home, others are ready to travel. The 2021 Summer Travel Index showed:

  • 63% of survey participants planned to take a trip in the next three months
  • 74% planned to travel in the United States
  • 13% will travel abroad
  • 29% have weekend jaunts planned 
  • 28% will be traveling for 10 or more days

People who aren’t ready to travel are spending, too. Morning Consult asked Americans what they were excited about doing as the economy reopens and found that 46% were ‘very excited’ to return to a ‘normal’ routine. The list of activities includes eating at a restaurant, socializing, attending parties or weddings, going to the movies, visiting amusement parks or museums, and attending concerts and sporting events.

While having extra money inspires many people to splurge, it’s important to keep a level head. Spending has risen sharply during 2021. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, spending increased:

  • 20.6% in January
  • 14.7% in February
  • 27.7% in March
  • 14.9% in April

While the idea of ‘revenge spending’ may be appealing, very few household budgets can withstand sustained increases in spending without significant increases in income. So, as you break free from pandemic restrictions, it may help to keep some basic principles in mind:

  1. Decide which savings habits you’d like to keep. During the pandemic, Americans saved a lot of money. The average household saved about $245 by not going out to eat, $1,400 by not vacationing, and almost $5,700 by not making major purchases, according to the Covid-19 & Finances Survey. Consider whether and how much to continue saving.
  2. Be aware of how much you are spending. When people have extra money saved, it’s just fine to splurge on something fun, especially after a long stretch of missing out on traditional everyday activities. Decide the amount to spend and then track how much has been spent. 
  3. Eliminate things that are not needed. During the last year, many people prioritized spending differently. Optional expenses, like dry cleaning, house cleaning, commuting, and happy hours, were eliminated. In some cases, the result was an increase in savings. Review your financial priorities to see if they have changed. 

Many people experienced financial insecurity during the pandemic lockdown. As a result, emergency savings accounts and other types of saving have become more important. If your financial priorities have shifted, be sure to talk to a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Spending less and saving more may help you build wealth and improve financial security.

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The Millennial Perspective: The Struggle is Real

You know the feeling when you can never seem to get ahead in life? You feel like you are always a few steps behind and when you feel yourself catching up, it seems like something slowly pushes you back again? Sometimes that’s what it feels like to be a millennial in today’s economy. We are pushed to attend college to get a good job later in life, but is that the reality we find waiting for us once we’ve walked across that stage? 

The number of millennials who have graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree and continue struggle financially is larger than you may think. According to a survey conducted by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), only 35% of millennials feel that they make just enough to cover their expenses and 63% state they would have a difficult time paying an unexpected expense of $500. While only 6% of millennials feel that they make enough money to cover their expenses and have disposable income remaining. This indicates that a good chunk of millennials aren’t saving any money because they possibly cannot afford to for a number of reasons.

This struggle to get ahead of your finances leaves some millennials feeling as though college may not be worth it. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars receiving an education, only to be left with a job that not even be related to your degree and outrageous monthly student loan payments? In the past, having a bachelor’s degree, even if you weren’t working in your preferred field, meant you would make more money. This standard has begun to shift, in many cases, and a master’s degree is the new norm. So, another 2-3 years of school preventing you from working, another tens of thousands of dollars for another degree and you still have no guarantee that you will work in the field you have studied or that you will make a decent wage. Seems pretty unmotivating, don’t you think?

So, does this mean that not going to college and immediately jumping into the workforce is better? This, of course, depends on the type of work you are pursuing. There are a number of jobs that do not require a degree that pay well and allow you to live comfortably. However, at the same time, there are plenty that do not. This means that even if you don’t go to college, you still run the risk of struggling financially even without a student loan payment depending on the types of jobs available in your area.

Of course, nothing in life is guaranteed, and we know this. Though, sometimes, it feels like the odds are never in our favor when it comes to finances and getting started in life when compared to the generations before us. I have no doubts that Generation Z, Gen Z for short, will experience similar or worse issues. All we can do is work towards changing this standard and hoping for the best for our children and so on.

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