Financial Planning for Millennials

A lot of millennials I talk to don’t think they need financial planning. The justification is usually something like: “I don’t have enough money for that.” As a millennial myself, I can understand this sentiment. When you’re working hard to pull the pieces of your financial life together, the concept of “financial planning” can sound grandiose or imposing. Some of my peers feel distrust towards the industry, others are deterred by minimum account sizes or aggressive sales tactics. At a basic level, though, I feel that many millennials lump financial planning into the “investments” category – and subsequently deem it irrelevant, unattainable, or inaccessible.

Conversely, the true components of financial planning are broad ranging, holistic, and at times behavioral in focus. Many of the financial planning focus areas are not only applicable to young people, but arguably essential as foundational elements towards a healthy financial future. Cash flow & budgeting, insurance planning, estate considerations, employee benefit analysis, and investment planning are just a few elements highlighted by the CFP Board when they define financial planning.

As I’ve navigated my career and worked with clients of all ages, I have found that several financial planning topics are especially relevant to millennials. In fact, I’ve worked through many of these same issues in my personal life – putting my academic and professional experience to the test. Some examples include:

  1. Estate Planning: Anyone over 18 should start to think about who they want directing their affairs in the case of incapacity or death, and how they want certain decisions to be made. These  decisions are especially important once kids are in the picture.
  2. Debt Management: Two words – student loans. Sometimes paying bills and servicing loans can feel like whack-a-mole. Learning how to manage debt and balance savings priorities can be a big struggle for young professionals.
  3. Navigating Employer Benefits: Starting a new job is overwhelming– understanding and selecting benefits can make it even harder. I often work with millennial clients to identify the enrollments that most suit their lives and financial priorities.
  4. Fundamentals of Investing: Most of my young clients first get exposed to investing via employer-sponsored retirement plans or IRAs. Fundamental education about asset allocation, investment expenses, risk/return interplay, and trade mechanics is essential in the early years. Getting informed early helps clients to get invested early – improving their ability to benefit from long term compound growth.
  5. Insurance Advocacy: As millennials buy their first homes and cars, start families, and establish financial lives predicated on their careers, there are insurance issues to consider. Life, auto, homeowners, renters, disability, umbrella – it can easily overwhelm. A neutral party (like a fee-only CFP) can itemize risks and identify coverage opportunities. I often serve as “advocate” to my clients as they work with agents to obtain the right coverage.
  6. Building Credit: A lot of young people avoid credit cards at all cost. But building a credit history is an important part of becoming an attractive borrower, once a mortgage or auto loan is in the picture. Education about responsible practices, credit boosters & killers, and optimizing card benefits is a key component to financial planning for millennials.

Bottom Line? There’s a lot for millennials to think about when it comes to financial planning. But how can they get help? Thanks to the proliferation of financial technology (or “fintech”) and the establishment of new service models, millennials benefit from easier access to professional financial advice than many of our predecessors enjoyed. Public awareness of the fiduciary standard and fee-only service models have served to further the cause of holistic financial planning for clients of all ages. Many practitioners now offer advice on an hourly or ongoing basis with no asset management mandate – allowing millennials to get the valuable guidance they need at the time that they need it most.

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