Rob Carrick is a Canadian Personal Finance columnist for the Globe & Mail and best-selling author. He recently launched an online personal finance magazine directed at helping millennials with their money and regularly tweets about millennial money issues under the hashtag #GenYMoney. You can read more of Rob’s work on his website.
1. Most Millennials can’t afford to support themselves until their 30’s. What’s the biggest thing holding them back from independence?
It’s weakness in the job market. What strikes me when I talk to millennials and their parents is the number of people not so much unemployed as under-employed in jobs that don’t fully utilize their education and training. This includes both unpaid internships and semi-paid internships, where young workers receive a non-competitive wage. A related issue is what millennials are studying. I’m hearing a lot about people who study subjects that don’t have great job prospects. Often, they’re going back to university or college for additional degrees or certificates to help their job prospects.
2. The biggest complaint from new grads is crippling student loan debt. What’s the secret to paying it off before gray hairs come in?
Make debt repayment your Number One financial goal when you start working. Find out the minimum required monthly debt repayment and see if you can manage even more. If you have a limited income, consider moving back in with your parents so your paycheque isn’t used up by rent and living costs. Don’t worry about investing or saving for a house until the student debt is paid off. Killing your student loan is like getting an extra several hundred dollars a month in extra money.
3. 20-somethings tell me the stock market is scary — what investing tip would you give them to overcome their fears?
Get over your fears. Average stock market returns should be about 7-8 per cent annually if you can hold for 10 years or more. Millennials actually have at least 40 years until they retire, which means they have more than enough time to ride through the stock market’s ups and downs. Worried about a big crash? We had one in 2008-09 and the market came back. Note: We’re talking about retirement investing here. If you’re putting money away for a house down payment, forget the stock market and use a high-interest savings account.
4. There’s lots of articles about what millennials are doing wrong with their money, but is there anything they are doing right with their money that we’re not giving them enough credit for?
What are millennials doing wrong with their money? Frankly, I think this generation’s financial problems have much more to do with the economy than their money skills. Millennials seem to be very strategic about how they spend money. I’ve seen reports saying they’re big spenders on eating at restaurants and drinking at bars, but they spend less than previous generations on clothes. There may also be a move away from car ownership in favour of cheaper alternatives like car sharing. The bottom line is that they’re spending money differently, not irresponsibly.