I went to Las Vegas this past weekend with my mom and sister. Aside from partying, shopping and watching the Backstreet Boys perform (OMG, they were amazing!), we all had a serious ~life~ conversation one night over red wine and lamb chops. “Serious,” according to my mom, means finance-related.
The talk was warranted; my sister and I aren’t exactly the smartest when it comes to money. (The way I’ve always seen it is money is a dude-y topic, and I’m not the only one who sees it that way: Research shows women tend not to talk about money with each other.)
As my mom explained to Dumb (my sister) and Dumber (myself) the dirty details of a 401k, she disclosed that those who have 401ks are eligible to access the money in them after the age of 59. If we decide to dip into that money before the age of 59, however, the government is allowed to tax it. (I know, right? Crazy stuff).
Anyway, I honestly wish I’d learned some of this stuff sooner in life so I could have started saving more money earlier on. Because if I had, then I wouldn’t be so stressed right now about two huge life things: home ownership and my retirement savings.
Millennials are Most Concerned About Their Retirement
In a Forbes article titled “Retirement Outlook: Millennials Most Worried Generation and Also Most Ready to Save,” financial contributor Ted Knutson writes:
“Overall, three-fourths of Americans across the political spectrum think the nation faces a retirement crisis.” This way of thinking is also non-partisan, as Democratic, Republican and Independent millennial voters are all concerned about how much money they’ll have saved up once they stop working. (Hey, what do ya now? We all agree on something. That something, though, just so happens to be a bummer.)
More specifically, one of the millennial generation’s main concerns is how they’ll pay for the increasing costs of healthcare as they age. But another main concern? How they’ll be able to afford the white-picket-fence American Dream.
“Overall, three-fourths of Americans across the political spectrum think the nation faces a retirement crisis.”
…As They Should Be, Because They Can’t Even Afford Homes Anymore
Before we millennials stress about retirement, though, we should probably think about the 10 other life milestones that precede retirement that are also worth stressing over, like buying a home. (Or not).
I know that I’m at a point in my life in which I’m completely over living in a shoebox-sized apartment. Like, living in one was fine for the bulk of my 20’s, but as I near 30, the less accomplished I begin to feel about this whole not-playing-house thing because I'm too broke for a mortgage.
This morning, I actually cried. You see, I was doing research for this article and realized my dreams of living in a big house by my late 20's with an equally-as-big backyard and my (nonexistent) life partner haven't even come close to coming true. It sucks. But I had a feeling if I'm having this existential crisis, other young women probably are, too.
When I asked my Instagram followers if they wanted to own homes by this point in their lives but don’t yet, most women said they want to, but they don’t have the funds to:
“I’m coming up on 26 and specifically moved to OKC from SF Bay Area to buy a house. But it’s still really hard to buy a house when the wages are lower. Honestly, even though the housing market is cheaper here, nothing else is.”
“It blows my mind the prices though in “big” Midwest cities! I am a teacher in Kansas City and I don’t know how I’m going to afford one!”
Here’s How to Get Smarter About Money Now So You Can Start to Save
Educate yourself on a library of financial terms.
Did you know 80 percent of people over the age of 25 polled by Greenwald & Associates are “worried retirees don’t know enough about investing to insure [sic] their retirement savings last a lifetime”? (AKA I’m not the only one that hardly knows anything about how to save for my future home?)
That night in Vegas over dinner, I complained to my mom that the public education system is rigged. (Like, why do we learn the hypotenuse of a triangle in middle school math, but not the basics of saving money, which is a life skill we actually use in adulthood?! UGH! I NEVER use that hypotenuse knowledge stored somewhere in the back of my brain.)
Thank god for women like my trusty ol’ mother, who teaches me all the things I wish I’d learned in those stupid math classes. But also, thank you to women like Stephanie Breedlove that write a weekly column on investing for women and that educate us on things like this.
…And save, little by little.
Because you can’t save until you learn how to save, right? It doesn’t matter how much you save; just put a little bit away with each paycheck.
Save as much as you can, without beating yourself up for not being able to save more. Something is better than nothing! (Er, I should probably start taking my own advice). Hey, girl, you’re doing the best you can.
Don’t be afraid to talk money with your girlfriends.
We need to get rid of the stigma that talking money is reserved solely for businessmen on the golf course. If we don’t, we’re never going to stop solely having conversations over wine with our girlfriends about all the boys who’ve made us cry. (Seriously, every time I’m with a group of girls, we end up talking about guys, and that’s it).
I know some people are funny about money. But talking openly about the things that we’re struggling with and that make us uncomfortable will only educate us more, and help us help each other.
Get a job with benefits that include health insurance and a 401k.
If you’re lucky enough and choose wisely, you’ll have chosen a job with some good medical and financial benefits that’ll help secure that retirement fund. Otherwise, look into what aid programs your state has so that you’re not spending as much out of pocket on healthcare as you need to.
Keep reading articles like this to stay sane on your financial journey.
I don’t have all the answers. Hell, if I did, I wouldn’t be crying on a Wednesday about the house and fiancé and security I don’t have. But what I do know helps me is reading (and writing) about the experiences of my peers, because it makes me feel like I’m not failing. Or, that if I am “failing,” at least we’re all “failing” together.
And in an unexpected—but kinda cool—way, I guess that’s a pretty beautiful thing.
*names have ben changed to protect anonymity.