I’ve had the privilege of working with some young professionals who I think will be quite financially successful over time. They adopt a certain mindset and set of disciplines when it comes to their money. I’m also seeing a group of young professionals who are struggling to make good decisions. I am concerned that they may not achieve their long-term financial goals.
Working at Whitnell, I get the chance to see how multi-generational families handle their wealth. I see parents who have done well and their children who may or may not do so well, depending on choices they make. If you are a young professional on the rise and you want to build lasting wealth and achieve complete financial independence, here are some of my best ideas.
LIVING UNDER THE SHADOW OF SUCCESSFUL PARENTS
There are numerous articles and news reports today about how Millennials may not do better financially than their parents. Some are calling this the demise of the American Dream. In fact, Whitnell’s Chief Investment Officer wrote an article about how the American Dream is not dead, but it may be harder to achieve now than in the past.
I want to say this for the record. None of us can predict the future. Economic conditions could change and the Millennial generation could become the most prosperous in US history. Is that likely? I’m not sure and more importantly, I’m not sure that matters.
Here is what does matter. For you to achieve your financial goals, you must take charge of your situation, build a realistic plan and stick to it over time. This is my best advice to you. Take control of your future.
It can be very challenging to grow up in the shadow of successful parents who have built wealth. It can feel as if you are always living under their protection – as if somehow you can’t stand on your own two feet. It can feel like golden handcuffs.
I work with young professionals who deeply desire to be their own man or own woman. They want to chart their own course, build their own wealth and have their own stories to tell their children. They don’t want to count on mom and dad’s money.
These young professionals know that it will not be easy and that they may not ultimately build more wealth than their parents. That’s really not their goal. They want to be completely financially independent so they have control over their future. If those are your goals, I have ideas that I think can help you.
MY KITCHEN-TABLE MONEY MOMENT
My wife and I do something every week that is not a lot of fun. We sit down at the kitchen table and review our budget. We look at what we’ve spent and from there decide what to do with the budget remaining for the rest of the month. This might seem like way too much discipline and work. But I sleep well at night knowing that I’m not trading security for tomorrow for the pleasures of today.
My long-term goal is to put myself in a position where I go to work because I want to, not because I have to. That’s not where I’m at today. But I know, because we’ve built a plan, that I can get there someday if I focus on it. Long-term focus is the key to achieving my goals. I believe that’s true for you too.
THE KEY TO BUILDING LONG-TERM WEALTH
I’ve worked with young people just coming out of college who earn 40k a year. I’ve also worked with people in their 40s and 50s who earn over a million dollars a year. Both types of people face the same challenge. If you don’t live within, or beneath, your means, you’re not going to keep money long-term.
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? But so is going to the gym 30 minutes a day. Health in our financial life is very much like health in our bodies. It’s more about discipline and choices than it is about knowledge. Knowing what to do and actually doing it can be miles apart.
This is why I believe you need a financial trainer to help you stay focused and practice discipline over time. You need someone to hold you accountable to do the financial work-outs that you know will produce success. It’s very satisfying to see your waistline shrink and your muscles grow. It’s also satisfying to see your debts go down and your wealth go up.
I use the metaphor of getting in shape physically to describe getting in shape financially. Everyone knows that to get in top shape physically, you need to eat and drink the right things, not the wrong things, and you probably need to increase your exercise. This is not a knowledge problem.
But it’s also something that very few people actually achieve even though millions of people commit to it every year, usually around January 1. Why does this happen? More importantly, what can you do to stack the odds in your favor, so you actually achieve your financial goals?
I believe you need a partner for financial goals just like you need a partner for health goals. I believe this will be more impactful than financial strategy X versus Y. I believe that the right financial partner will help you focus on an effective financial plan over time. This is how you give yourself an advantage.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM OTHER GENERATIONS
I’m fortunate to work for a firm that serves multiple generations of the same family. This allows me to see how the first-generational wealth builders achieved their goals. I get to witness the values and strategies that they used to build long-term wealth. I get to hear their stories.
Most of our affluent clients built their wealth the old-fashioned way – not through inheritance. They worked hard, took risks and lived beneath their means. They saved and invested. They practiced discipline and made smart choices at crucial moments on their journey. They did not veer from their values or long-term goals.
They also forged partnerships with financial advisors who took a long-term perspective. Many of my mature colleagues have been advising these clients for decades. These clients now often want me to work with their young-adult children to help them achieve long-term financial success.
Some of these young-adults feel pressure to out-do their parents financially. This may or may not be possible. I often find that first-generational wealth creators don’t want their children to experience the anxieties and troubles they experienced while building their wealth. One of the reasons generation one worked so hard is so that generations two and beyond could have it a little easier.
But the first-generational wealth creators definitely want their heirs to adopt the values that helped them build their wealth. They want their children and grandchildren to practice discipline, make realistic plans, take the right risks and work with great advisors.
HOW YOUNG PROFESSIONALS BUILD WEALTH TODAY
There are legions of voices today that promise shortcuts to building long-term wealth. My colleague David Peckenpaugh often says: so much information, so little wisdom. The financial press is full of ideas that can sound really enticing.
I cannot comment on the effectiveness of this short-term strategy versus that one. I only know what works for our clients. It’s so simple that you might be inclined to say I’ve heard all this before:
- Live within your means
- Create an emergency savings account
- Pay off high-interest debt and avoid bad debt (not good debt)
- Save for the future and especially retirement
- Invest wisely
- Take the right risks at the right time and avoid the wrong risks
- Select a long-term partner to help you focus on your goals
If you want to achieve complete financial independence over time, I believe this is the single best strategy available today. I know it works because I’m privileged to see the results it produces. I’m so confident in this strategy that my wife and I have made it a part of our weekly routines.
The Millennial generation may not ultimately create more wealth than the generations who came before them. The implications of this change for our culture and nation may be far reaching. But I believe you have two choices. You can wring your hands in anxiety about this or you can take control. I believe the young professionals who follow the counsel I’ve outlined above will be the ones to most likely achieve their goals. If you’d like to discuss your long-term plans, let’s have a conversation.
© 2018 Whitnell & Co. The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only.