If you’ve ever read an article that offered one-size-fits-all-financial planning tips to anyone who happened to read it, those are wasted precious moments of your life you won’t get back. For about 80 percent of you (I’ll reveal the exciting math behind that calculation in a moment) that advice was either hopelessly generic or flat-out wrong.
Here’s why. There are five named generations: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation. Ages from youngest to oldest range from 14 to 98. Does it make sense that each generation would thrive with the same financial advice? I hope you said “no” aloud just now.
Presuming that each generation needs individualized advice — which is a fair presumption to make — that means four out of five readers of one-size-fits-all financial advice are getting a bum steer. That ends right here, right now. Keep reading to learn the top two bits of financial advice for your generation.
Financial Planning Tips for Generation Z
Also called iGen in some quarters, the oldest Gen Zer's are in high school or college or just going into the job market with their first “real” job.
If you’re in this generation, know that this is the chapter of life when most people make their biggest financial mistakes — making it the perfect time to build a solid foundation that catapults you toward a life of financial ease. Sounds good, right?
Here’s what you need to do:
Set Good Financial Habits Out of the Gate
More than anything, learn and practice smart money habits right now. That means making your student loan payments on time (it’s crucial to growing a good credit score), which is only slightly less important than breathing if you want to adult in the real world.
Additionally, live within your means and don’t get into the habit of using a credit card to cover discretionary expenses that should be built into your budget.
Invest for Retirement
The best way for average, ordinary schlubs like you and me to become millionaires (besides starting a stupid-popular YouTube show), is to begin investing for retirement early.
If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s the miracle of compounding interest that does the trick. Of course, retirement seems so far away it’s like another lifetime. Trust me, it isn’t. And you want to have enough money to have fun when you get there.
Financial Planning Tips for Millennials
Millennials came into this world in the years between 1981 and 1996. By now, you are well into a career. You’re thinking about major life events like growing your family, buying a home, or paying off the last of those pesky student loans. Here are your top two money moves:
Pay Off Your Student Loans
Unless you’re lucky enough to have the government forgive them or lose the paperwork, student loans still might be an albatross around your neck, a forever reminder of college. With the average student loan holder owing $37,787 in federal student debt, according to Education Data, this can be a real strain on your life.
If you’re ready to get rid of them, visit a financial advisor who specializes in paying them off quickly. There are a variety of repayment plans available.
Get Rid of the Other Debt, Too
Though student loans are often the largest debt Millennials face, don’t stop there. Now is the time to pay down any debt that isn’t a mortgage.
High-interest debt is a financial killer. You might be putting 10 percent of your income in your retirement account, but if you’re paying 20 percent or more toward credit cards — well, you see the imbalance. It’s time to get serious about paying off credit cards so you can drop that money into a retirement account.
Financial Planning Tips for Generation X
Everyone’s favorite generation (just kidding — maybe) sprang to life from 1965 to 1980. Today, Gen Xers should be at the peak of their earning powers and retirement is on the horizon. What should you be doing with your finances?
Get Serious About Catching Up on Retirement Savings
The amount of money you can contribute to a retirement account goes up for those in their fifties. This is the perfect time to make up for frittering away all that money in your undisciplined youth.
The IRS calls these “catch-up contributions,” and they can be substantial. Your annual contribution limit to a 401(k) is $19,500. Catch-up contributions allow you to add another $7,500 (in 2023) on top of that. Our advice? Do it. Especially if your current retirement savings are a bit paltry.
Budget for Retirement
Yep, the time to think about how much money you want to spend in retirement is not the day you ransack your 401(k) plan and take a private jet to Tahiti. It might be a worthwhile exercise to construct a “year in the life” budget scenario that details your anticipated spending habits.
Don’t forget vacations, prescriptions, and toilet paper. Once you’re done, compare your retirement budget to the cash flow allowed by your current nest egg. If it’s not big enough, either reconfigure the budget or figure out how to save more.
Financial Planning Tips for Baby Boomers
This generation was born in the post–World War II era, during the years from 1946 to 1964. Dubbed the Baby Boomers, this age group is either already retired or very close to retiring. What should Boomers be doing with their money? Here are a couple of things we suggest.
Keep 1–2 Years of Liquid Cash on Hand
Though it might seem unnecessarily conservative to keep a couple of years' worth of living expenses where you can get at it easily (either flat-out cash or short-term bonds), look at the stock market in recent years.
The dramatic swoops and dives are enough to scare off any amateur investor. The best idea is to have plenty of living expenses at hand to avoid having to cash out part of your portfolio at a bad time.
But Don’t Live in Financial Fear
The reason financial advisors usually suggest Baby Boomers invest conservatively makes sense — most of the time. The problem is we’re living in inflationary times. This can devour your returns, leaving you treading water or even losing ground. Though every retiree is different, at least consider balancing your portfolio with growth-oriented opportunities.
Financial Planning Tips for The Silent Generation
The Silent Generation was born between 1928 and 1945. Sometimes treated as an afterthought in articles like this, we should note that there are still about 23 million Silents in the U.S., making up about 7 percent of the population. Most of them are retired but it’s never too late to make smart money moves like the following.
Now Is the Time to be Financially Conservative
We just got through telling the Baby Boomers not to be too conservative. Simple life-span math bids us to say the opposite to the Silent Generation.
At this point, practically all your investments and assets should be safe and liquid.
There’s no other way to say it — your time is shorter than that of the other generations. You want to be able to access cash to quickly deal with any emergencies.
Consider Your Estate
Estate planning is a good idea at any age, but it’s critical in the later years of life. Find an estate attorney to help. Nothing tears apart a family like a poorly constructed estate. Don’t do this to your surviving loved ones. Get it done now.
The Bottom Line
There you have it. Our best financial advice depends on which generation you are part of. Obviously, we can’t cover everything in an article like this but have tried to at least hit on the Big Idea items that you should be thinking about.