The Truth About Millennials (Pt. 2)

September 2, 2015

Yesterday, I introduced you to some of the Millennials who prove their generation is bucking conventional wisdom on public employment. From education to Capitol Hill, these public employees are making a difference for their local communities and the state.

Although it’s a long way off, Millennials are defying the conventional perception of being a generation of irresponsibility when it comes to money management, saving, and retirement. Growing up during a time of incredible economic prosperity in the 1990s, only to see the economy bottom out during the financial collapse of 2008, Millennials have a unique perspective on money and finances not seen since, perhaps, the Greatest Generation came of age during the Great Depression and World War II. According to Time, over 70% of Millennials who have access to a 401k plan at work take advantage of them. They’re starting to save younger compared to their Baby Boomer and Generation X predecessors.

“I think about retirement a lot,” says Jack Wylie, Government Affairs Liaison for the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration. “My biggest fear,” he says, echoing many of his cohorts, “is that I'll make the wrong decision and get wiped out by something I can't predict in the future.”

Elementary school psychologist Sarah Taylor has a similar view.

“As I’ve entered my 30s, I’ve definitely started thinking about retirement more and realize the actions I take now to save and invest will directly affect when I can retire and the quality of life that I’ll have following retirement,” she said.

If policymakers and other thought leaders think Millennials aren’t paying attention to retirement policy, they’re wrong.

“I have many years before I can retire,” says Taylor, “so I worry that between now and then legislation and economic cuts may jeopardize the personal retirement fund I contribute to as well as PERA.”

That’s not to say Millennials are thinking about it all the time.

“It’s not something I think about every day,” says Brittany Burton, Regional Communications Specialist for Denver Public Schools (DPS), “but it’s something I think about.”

Burton says she’s confident in PERA, and also contributes to a PERAPlus 401(k) Plan.

“I feel like I’m doing an okay job, and I’m planning as well as I can. I contribute a small amount every month, but that small amount really adds up over time.”

This might shock some financial advisors as a recent survey found many of them are avoiding Millennials. Ironically, the same survey also suggested they don’t know who Millennials actually are—advisors polled also said they were interested in taking on clients in their late 20s and early 30s.

However, like many Americans, no matter their age, some Millennials don’t have time.

“I hardly ever think of retirement,” admits special education teacher Nicole Lenzner, “which is probably not in my favor.”

“I know I’ll need to be more savvy with money eventually, “ she says, “but with the cost of living rising and my pay not keeping up, I feel like I’m unable to think about investing for my future because I’m so focused on just getting by today.”

Skyler McKinley, Deputy Director of Marijuana Coordination for the Governor’s Office, echoes Lenzner’s thoughts.

“If you look at people my age entering the workforce,” he says, “I’m not thinking about home ownership, starting a family, or other big financial decisions. I’m thinking about paying my rent and making sure I can buy cat food.”

“My biggest fear,” says McKinley “is that I’m not reading what I need to, that I’m not accessing information I need to, and I don’t know where to turn for trusted information. Not a lot of people are talking to Millennials about saving for retirement.”

Whether they’re actively contributing to retirement—monetarily or mentally—it’s certain to become a big point of discussion as Millennials get (yes, it will happen) closer to where Baby Boomers are today.