The Millennial Perspective: The Sustainable Lifestyle

In recent years the idea of being eco-friendly and sustainable has grown more popular in many areas of life. A lot of Millennials and Gen Z, who have spearheaded this movement, strive to live a more sustainable lifestyle to create a better world for the future generations. When many people think of eco-friendly, recycling is often the first thing to come to mind. Recycling has been around for centuries, but it only became popular in the U.S. in the mid-1900s. However, as science advances we have found that recycling isn’t as great as we once thought. You may have heard of the three Rs and the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid. These two concepts come together to layout the best practices for living more sustainably.

When looking at the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid, recycling falls in the middle. Not the worst option, but not the best. Recycling is the process of converting waste into new products. For example, sending plastics to recycling plants to be processed and turned into new products. However, even though this is a good practice, it is not considered the best for a number of reasons. For starters, not every product is recyclable and there is not a lot of education around recycling which leads to items being dumped instead. Recycling is also not accessible to everyone. The 2021 census showed that only 32% of people in the U.S. recycle. Many larger cities and states require residents to recycle and provide the necessary tools to do so, but most of our nation does not require it and a lot of places do not have sites available to drop off recycling for those that choose to do so.  As a result, the majority of people do not recycle and those recyclable items end up in landfills where they can take decades, or even centuries, to decompose.

Just above recycling on the pyramid you will find the option to reuse. Reusing, in my opinion, is the most popular, easiest, and most accessible of the three Rs. The name is self-explanatory, reuse various products. For example, reusing your shopping bags, plastic and paper alike, rather than throwing them away when you get home from the store. Reusable products have become widely available to the point where you can find a reusable option for most household items. Reusable zip lock bags, water bottles, coffee pods, dryer balls, “paper” towels, diapers, and even personal hygiene products are some examples of reusable products that you can purchase. However, even though reusing is better than recycling it is still not the best. Many reusable products won’t last forever and will eventually need to be disposed of or, ideally, recycled. 

Next up on the pyramid we have “reduce.” Reduce is not the top of the pyramid, that would be “prevent,” but I think that the two options go hand in hand. Reducing waste is the practice of limiting the amount of waste you create. Reusing products is a great way to prevent and reduce waste in the long run, but reducing waste goes so much deeper than that. Using more sustainable products can help prevent and reduce the amount of pollutants and other forms of waste, such as chemical waste, which can have grave effects on the environment. Another great way to reduce waste at home is to practice upcycling. 

Upcycling is the practice of taking an item that would otherwise be disposed of and turning it into something useful that can be reused overtime. A great example of upcycling is taking a plastic container, such as a ground coffee container, and using it for composting. This prevents the container from ending up in a landfill and reduces the waste created by food, like banana peels or scraps from chopping vegetables, and turns it into something useful. Upcycling is also very popular when it comes to clothing and furniture, especially in the form of thrifting. 

As you can see, the three Rs have a lot of benefits, but one of the big ones that we haven’t discussed yet would be cost savings over time. I will be honest, some reusable products can be on the pricier side, but you don’t have to dive in headfirst. Buy a couple things when you can manage it and think of it as an investment, like a house without a monthly payment. Let’s say you spend $30 on a couple of reusable water bottles and use them everyday in lieu of buying a case of 24 disposable water bottles, which are usually around $4. If you drink the recommended amount of water every day (64 oz) that would be about four bottles a day, meaning one case wouldn’t even last one week for one person. If that were the case, then you would be spending roughly $20 per month on bottles of water, so in less than two months with the two reusable water bottles you will break even and save a little over $200 a year. While saving money is a great benefit, the biggest and most important benefit of living sustainably boils down to creating a better environment that will remain habitable for many generations to come in both the near and far future.

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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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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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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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Millennial Perspective: Walking the Tightrope of Life

Do you ever feel like you are teetering too close to one side when trying to balance your life? For many millennials, this may include work, family, social life, and school. It can be a lot to handle sometimes. So, what can we do to help ourselves get balanced? Well, there are a lot of things to consider and to try. The process of finding balance may include a lot of trial and error. However, when you find the right match, it will have been worth it.

Planning the activities in your life may be the most common way to balance life. When it is all on paper, or on a virtual calendar, you can see the balance more clearly. Let’s say you have to work from 8 am – 5 pm every Monday through Friday. Pencil that in your calendar, long term. Now you can work around it and add family time, social time, or school, whatever is relevant to you. Remember, just because you have empty spaces around that set block, does not mean it has to be filled with something. Prioritize your time in a way that allows you to get through your to-do list and makes you happy and comfortable. Be sure to leave yourself some down time too because we all need to take a breather occasionally. Don’t forget that life has a tendency to take an unexpected turn. In this case, you may need to move things around, but this way you can look at your calendar and make time for everything in advance with a little less stress.

Boundaries can also be helpful when trying to balance life. It can be rather difficult for some people to “unplug” these days, especially with the growing number of work-from-home jobs. When you are working at home it feels strange to take a day off or even just clock out at closing time. Some people even have this struggle in a traditional office setting. This is where your boundaries come into play. You must draw that line of when you stop working and pick up the next part of the day, which for many is family time. This can also be flipped. Many people may run into their family life interfering with your work life. For example, when I was a little girl, I would walk home from school, and I would often call my mom as soon as I walked in the door. I would tell her that I made it home okay, but being the chatty person I am, I would usually carry on a conversation for several minutes. This is where I crossed the boundary into my mom’s work life and brought her family time to her job. My mom is a very kind woman and, of course, never told me to stop calling. However, as an adult that now works full time, I understand how that could have been frustrating at times.

It is okay to tell people “No” sometimes. You cannot make everyone happy. Learning to say no gives you the power to manage your life in a way that works best for you. If you are planning to work on schoolwork, but your friends asked you to go out for the night, say no. You can meet up with them at a time that is better for you. If you are in the middle of something and a co-worker asks you a small favor, say no. Even if feels uncomfortable to say at times, it is okay. Once you give “no” a chance, it will feel more natural over time, and it can be key for reducing stress and balancing life. It also means that when you say “yes,” it will hold more power!

Remember that there will always be something to do as long as life goes on. So, next time you feel yourself getting off-balance, try some of these methods. We, fortunately, get to dictate our own lives, so why not make it a little easier on ourselves? No matter what strategy works for you, finding that balance can lead to less stress and a better quality of life. 

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The Millennial Perspective: Financial Literacy

As I get older and the more I work in finance, I find that many younger clients around my age are in the dark on many practices and basics of money management, such as investing, creating a budget that works specifically for them, and saving money. This all boils down to a concern about the education we may or may not have received about financial literacy in our school days. This also brings up the concern for the generations that will follow us and the advice they are receiving around this subject. 

Without this knowledge of how money works in the real world and how it should be managed can set a lot of people up for failure. There are plenty of programs available to purchase that will teach you different ways to pay off your debts and manage your money. However, those programs can be expensive and are often sought after when it is too late. Currently in the United States, only 17 states require financial literacy courses in their curriculums. While Oklahoma happens to be one the states that requires this course, depending on who may teach the course and what their background in finance may be, the information may not be conveyed in a manner that is thorough and engaging. 

These are the kinds of courses that need to be taught by someone with experience in economics and finance with a curriculum that is designed to allow students to make their own choices based on real life situations. They need to be able to get a glimpse of what real money management and decisions are like, so that they can learn from the lessons and apply it later in life. For example, my senior year of high school, my school offered its first ever “Financial Literacy” course. The course was 16 weeks long, was considered an elective and was not required, and was taught by the World History teacher. He did not have any kind of professional financial background and the most I learned in that class was how to write a check and that 10% of what we make is ours to keep. We did not learn about the importance of saving money, we did not learn about the stock market or how to invest, we did not learn about retirement, and the list goes on. The thing is, I already knew how to write a check because that was still a fairly common practice at the time. Also, telling a room full of teenagers that 10% of what we make is ours to keep without any kind of real context or any kind of knowledge about building a budget that works for us is dangerous word play, especially in today’s economic state.

I cannot speak for every student in that class or in the classes that followed, but I can tell you that I definitely gained a confidence in that class and just knew that I had it all figured out. Well, I did not, and it is something that I have struggled with for all of my adult life. Who is to say that if I had a better, more qualified, teacher or if I had learned lessons that would really benefit me in the real world that my situation would have turned out differently? This is something we will never know, but it doesn’t negate the fact that these lessons are a cornerstone and should be handled as such. These are the types of lessons that should not come at a cost to anyone, especially at a point in life when the cost could break you. These lessons should also not be solely placed on the parents to teach. In a lot of cases the parents are also not professionals and while they might have some great advice, they may not be able to paint the bigger picture outside of their own personal experience. 

Of course, the wise thing to do for those in my generation that did not receive the ideal financial education, is to seek the advice of a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ who is also a fiduciary. A lot of times, these professionals will offer complimentary consultations to help you get on the right page to managing your money in a way that is designed for you and your specific needs. This can be far more beneficial that buying into a cookie cutter, for-profit program that may or may not work in the end.

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Millennial Perspective: Planting Roots in a Pandemic

As a millennial, buying a home is already hard enough. Trying to save up enough money for an average 6% down payment, trying to determine how much home we can afford, trying to find the time to house hunt, and battling debt to income ratio. Now we are dealing with a seller’s market with some of the lowest interest rates we have seen in years and a pandemic. Many of my fellow millennials are trying to take advantage of these low rates, but it has been a bumpy ride for a lot of us. Throughout this article I will recount my personal experience buying a home as well as the experiences of others in my generation in the past year.

Let us rewind to March of 2020. I know, this is not the best month that we have all had, but it was certainly looking like it was going to be for my husband and me. We had found a home that we both loved at a price point that was perfect in a buyer’s market and we were prepared to take this giant step towards this milestone. We settled on an offer with the seller, signed a contract, and we were on our way. Then the pandemic hit. 

Our situation completely changed. We were no longer in a place where we could get the home. Thankfully, our sellers, lender, and realtor worked with us and we were able to essentially pause the whole process. It was only supposed to be two weeks, right? Then two weeks turned into a month, then two months, and so on. When we finally got back to a place where we could proceed, my husband and I ultimately decided that the time was not right and we needed to wait until COVID-19 blew over, so we ended our contract. 

Ending our contract and losing the opportunity turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we also decided to move closer to family. Not being able to see anyone and not knowing if we may ever see them again due to a deadly virus makes you think about where your heart is meant to be. We packed everything up a few months later, moved across the state, and devised our new plan. We would rent for another year and look at plans to build our dream starter home the following summer. Then the market flipped, and construction costs rose nearly 130%! It was back to the drawing board for us. 

The small community we are now living in is growing and many houses on the market are new construction. Since this was no longer a viable option for us, we would need to find a completed home, but any homes that were listed were typically off the market within 24 hours, were pocket listings, or they entered bidding wars which drove the price up tens of thousands of dollars. This made our search a little tricky. Thankfully, an opportunity to buy a perfect home fell into our laps. We are now back on track to buying our first home. It feels that we got lucky.

I have seen many of my friends post on social media or reach out with the news that they have also found a home. It is great news, and it makes me happy to see so many people in my generation finally able to reach this milestone. I have discussed experiences with several of them and their stories sound very familiar. They spent countless hours searching for homes on sites like Zillow and Realtor.com with little luck. When a home is found and an appointment is secured to view it, it is off the market. You do not get a lot of time to think about the investment you are about to make and practically must sign an offer within hours of viewing the home. The whole task can be very daunting compared to last year’s market. However, with today’s low rates it is something that we simply cannot pass up.

All this to say, hang in there millennials. The timing for buying a house is perfectly imperfect right now. Do not get yourself down if a home falls through. It just means that something better is waiting for you around the corner. Buying a house is a huge step and you do not want to get roped into something that you will regret. Keep searching and the right opportunity will come to you!

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The Millennial Perspective: Climbing Everest

Do you ever feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? Do you wonder how much of that weight may be lifted without the stress of growing debt? Me too! I’ve always said, “We live in America so we will always carry debt. That’s just the way it is.” But should it be? It doesn’t feel like the mindset I or anyone should have when looking at our lives. A vast majority of our country has some sort of debt. With all of the factors of life that affect Millennials differently than other generations, this can feel especially defeating.

If you combine the average student loan debt, credit card debt, mortgage debt, and car loan debt among millennials you’re looking at about $285,000 total. That’s a big, and kind of scary number. This isn’t to say that every millennial has debt in each of these categories. So, let’s break that number down. On average, millennials have about $30,000 in student loan debt, $5,000 of credit card debt, $232,000 in mortgage debt, and $18,000 of car loan debt. 

Let’s imagine you have debt in each of these categories. If you had a car loan with a balance of $2,000 with a low interest rate, the average amount of student loans, a credit card balance of $7,000 with a high interest rate, and you just bought a new home. Which of these debts would you want to pay down the fastest? Your first thought may be to pay the credit card off first because it has the highest interest. However, let’s imagine you have enough in your bank account to pay off your car immediately. Even though it has a lower interest rate, you are most likely paying more each month on your car payment versus your credit card payment. One of the best ways to handle this situation is to pay off the car and rather than adding the additional money you now have each month to your cash flow, stick to your budget and stack the extra funds on top of what you are already paying on your credit cards. Now you have eliminated one debt and you will be paying more on your principal balance of your credit cards and will be able to eliminate that debt much faster than you would have originally.

If you can continue to stack your debt, AKA snowball your debt, then you may find that a mountain that once felt like an endless Mount Everest now feels more manageable. Setting a plan to help you start that exhibition and properly manage your money is the key to success. There’s no need to change your entire budget and live off Ramen until your debts are paid. This is just one of the philosophies when it comes to paying off debt. Several others exist, but the important thing is to pick a plan and go. 

Living slightly below your means is a good way to pay off debts, but living very far below your means just because of debt may tarnish your quality of life and your relationship with money. Money is a means to an end, not the end all, be all. It is always wise to seek the advice of professionals, such as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to help you create a plan that works for you and ensures you maintain your quality of life. You don’t have to be uncomfortable to be comfortable. 

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