In the first few years of your career, creating a spending plan may feel like a foreign concept. Who wants to think about a wealth plan when you've just outgrown a shoebox dorm room? What was it all for if not to earn money and spend it how you'd like?
That's a sentiment Bobby Lovgren, manager of wealth planning development at RBC Wealth Management-U.S., understands.
“It seems like once you start talking about planning, that's how you have to live,” says Lovgren, who considers himself a part of the older subset of Millennials — a generation roughly defined as those born between 1980 and 1999.
Lovgren says he suspects that's why Millennials – a demographic accustomed to change – may not think they need a financial plan. For that reason, when he's working with young professionals just starting to amass their wealth, Lovgren tries to approach the conversation in a more open-ended fashion.
“Life is going to continue to change,” says Lovgren. “What's important to you at 22 is going to be different than what's important to you at 32 or 42 or 52 ... if making the most out of the time you have today is what's most important to you, that's where you have to begin.”
According to a 2019 survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), commissioned by RBC Wealth Management, 61 percent of young professionals say the cost of living is a top concern around creating, preserving or managing their wealth.
The New wealth rising survey, which targets high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), adult children of HNWIs and high-earning professionals across the U.S., Canada, UK, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, explores the shifting landscape of global wealth. It looks at where wealth will be, what it will be invested in, how it will be invested and who is investing.
Millennial investors in the U.S. say growing their wealth is a top priority (59 percent), while 82 percent of young professionals believe they have enough time to accumulate significant wealth.
When first putting pen to paper, young professionals should think of a financial plan as a cushion, rather than a rigid framework for finances. For example, it might be a way to enable you to take a trip to Europe while saving for the business you're hoping to launch.
A wealth plan should be malleable, though there are elements that need to be in place to make it effective, says Angie O'Leary, head of wealth planning at RBC Wealth Management-U.S., who breaks a plan down into four pillars: an emergency fund (consisting of at least three months of savings), debt management, future savings, and expenses. In other words, “the key things (you) need to be thinking about,” she says. Here are four tips for getting started:
1. Divorce your debt
Debt is something Millennials have become well-acquainted with. According to the New York Federal Reserve, this generation carries $1 trillion in debt. But it's not due to home ownership or credit cards – a separate report by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank found that Millennial mortgage debt is about 15 percent lower than Generation X, and Millennial credit card debt is only two-thirds that of the previous generation. Student loans, on the other hand, are 300 percent higher for Millennials, due in large part to the rising cost of education.
For the 2020-2021 academic year, the average undergraduate tuition and fees at private schools can be above $60,000 – the University of Chicago, for example, is $61,000 per year. Graduate degrees carry higher costs. Obtaining an MBA at the University of Chicago costs $73,000 per year.
HNW families, who often don't qualify for financial aid, aren't immune to the cost of getting a degree. And as a result, the high levels of student loan debt are delaying further wealth accumulation, O'Leary says.
“Eighteen years is the average length of a student loan payoff,” she says. “Because of that, we're seeing a big shift in the latency of wealth created through buying homes, investing outside of retirement accounts and the savings rate in retirement accounts compared to the Boomers.”