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What Millennials Know About Money and Work

Our kids learned from us. Now it’s time to see what lessons they can offer

Money Lessons Boomers can learn from Millennials

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When it comes to work and money, could millennials have the answer to smart financial management?

En español | As stereotypes go, slacker millennials living with their parents—depleting the fridge and glomming off others—just may have to be rethought. Truth is, when it comes to managing their financial lives, those in the generation born between 1982 and 2000, now some 83 million strong, are making smart, somewhat surprising choices. Older generations can pick up several pointers from today’s 20- and young 30-somethings.

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Save more money.

Some 40 percent of millennials bumped up their 401(k) contributions in the past year, nearly twice the percentage as that of boomers, according to research from T. Rowe Price. More millennials, the study showed, stick to a budget, too. 

The Takeaway: Folks over 50 can use both 401(k) and IRA catch-up contributions to do likewise.

Debit trumps credit.

Nearly two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds don’t have a single credit card, Bankrate research found. That compares with just one-third of those 30 or older. The reason is twofold, says millennial Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer at the Center for Generational Kinetics. Millennials entered the credit space when the market was really tight and debit was all that was available to them. But, he adds, they also “realize credit is a really fast way to get in trouble.” 

See also: Reasons why credit is better than debit 

The Takeaway: If you feel as if you overuse your credit cards—if your balance is going up every month or if you’re using one card to pay off another—make like a millennial, and take them out of your wallet. Don’t cancel them altogether, however; that’ll ding your credit score.

Use technology to reduce investment costs.

According to InvestmentNews, financial advisers charge an average 1.12 percent in fees annually to manage a $500,000 portfolio. Millennials sneeze at that. “We’re not just giving our money to the financial guy on the corner,” says Meagan.

Hooper, founder of bSmartGuide.com, a website focused on millennial women. “We ask, ‘Why are advisers charging a 1 percent fee?’ ” Rejecting the amount of the fee, many millennials are using robo-advisers—online wealth-management services that use algorithms, rather than people, to manage a portfolio. Market-leading robo-advisers Wealthfront and Betterment fit that bill. Both firms keep costs low by investing in exchange-traded funds. The companies resonate with millennials who “like smart technology,” says Lindsey Pollak, millennial workplace expert for the Hartford.

The Takeaway: You won’t be the only one of your friends at this party. Currently, 25 percent of Betterment’s customers are people 50-plus, and the company says this is its fastest-growing demographic. If you’d prefer the benefits of robo-adviser prices with a Main Street name, check out Schwab Intelligent Portfolios or Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.

Want more advice? Jean Chatzky talks dollars and sense at aarp.org/jeanchatzky.

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