Young people entering the workforce are unlikely to enjoy the big gains made by their parents. (Four Corners)
Millennials have the world in the palm of hands — digitally speaking. Financially speaking, they don’t.
While they have been connected to the world through the handheld screens they’ve been tapping away on, seemingly since birth, there appears to be a big disconnection between their future wealth and the security enjoyed by their parents and grandparents.
There’s a nagging feeling the easy money has been made by preceding generations in property and shares, and their working future will be a hard grind with little left over to enjoy in retirement.
Radio National business reporter David Taylor outlined the poverty facing many millennials in old age in an article a few days ago.
It’s bleak reading, particularly if you were born from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s.
So, what’s to be done?
1. Take a long-term view on owning a house
Yes, house prices have more than doubled in the last 20 years, and in the last six years they’ve risen 50 per cent in Melbourne and 70 per cent in Sydney.
For most millennials, the chances of buying a home in Melbourne or Sydney in their early 20s, the way their parents did, are long gone.
That said, retiring in your own, debt-free home has distinct advantages.
Outgoings on rent or mortgage repayments are not an issue and your own home does not count in pension assets test.
2. Buy where you can afford
If Melbourne or Sydney are out of reach, even in the long term (and it’s only going to get worse as bank lending standards tighten), one strategy may be to buy somewhere in a much cheaper location and rent it out.
In time you may be able to trade your way to where you really want to live.
Many millennials will inherit money from parents and other family members, which will help that process, but of course many won’t.
In a worst-case scenario, you will have a much more enjoyable retirement in Ballarat or Mudgee (for example) in a place of your own, than you would have in Melbourne or Sydney, where high rent or mortgage payments are taking a large chunk of your income.
3. Think long term with your money
This advice could equally be titled, “Rein in your spending”.
Over the course of our working lives, we will earn a finite amount of money.
The reality is, the more we spend now, the less we will have for a house or retirement.
This is where hard-nosed decisions need to be made.
A camping holiday instead of an overseas one. A used car instead of a new one. Eating at home rather than in restaurants, keeping the iPhone 5 a little longer, one takeaway coffee a day instead of two.
It all adds up.
Median household superannuation and other wealth by age, 2011-12.
(Supplied: The Centre for Independent Studies)
4. Keep a spending diary and prepare a budget
It’s very hard to control your money if you don’t know where it’s going.
A spending diary, for say six months, in which you include everything from the biggest purchase to the smallest, such as a packet of chewing gum, will answer that question.
You may be shocked by what you find. For example, $10 a day on lunch adds up to a lot of money over six months or a year.
Preparing a budget will help you be deliberate about where you spend your money and tell you if you are spending more than you earn (as many people do).
5. First Home Super Savers Scheme
There’s a way to boost your savings for a home using the tax breaks of the superannuation system.
Up to $30,000 in voluntary super contributions, as well as your earnings on them, can be put towards your first home.
Every little bit helps.
6. Pay attention to your superannuation
Super is not set and forget, and don’t assume your employer is doing the right thing and contributing 9.5 per cent of your salary.
Make sure it’s happening.
The more you can get into super at an early age, the better, because with the benefit of compounding that will become a lot of money over 30 to 40 years.
If you can, salary sacrifice as much as possible into super, to take advantage of that compounding.
As a guide, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia’s Retirement Standard suggests for a comfortable retirement a couple needs about $60,000 a year, a single person around $43,000.
To get $43,000 a year you’ll need around $750,000 in super, a figure most people don’t come close to.
7. Superannuation co-contribution
An excellent way for low to middle-income earners to turbo charge their super.
For those earning up to $37,000 who can contribute an extra $1,000, the Government will contribute $500.
The co-contribution continues on a sliding scale up to incomes of $52,000.
Even if you only do it for a few years while you are young and single, compounding will do the rest.
8. Avoid the superannuation rip-offs
If you have more than one superannuation fund, consolidate your money into one fund. You’re paying two lots of fees, which can wipe big money from your retirement.
And on that note, as both the Banking Royal Commission and the Productivity Commission have highlighted in recent times, insurance in super can be a huge rip off and another item that takes lots of money from your retirement.
Make sure your insurance in super is what you genuinely need.
As a tip, you can only claim on one income protection policy, so if you have more than one, the others are junk. Your money for nothing.
9. Consider wise investments to boost your wealth
This is not for everybody, and you should consult a respected, genuine, fee-for-service financial adviser before you attempt this. (Ask around your friends and family to find an adviser).
There are a number of investing strategies which may boost your wealth and help you get closer to your life goals.
Do it properly though, otherwise it’s gambling, not investing, and there is a lot at stake.
It’s tough out there for millennials. There are no easy solutions and this list is not exhaustive.
But you can have a good go at trying to achieve your financial goals in life.