Not Too Late: A 20-Something’s Plea to Generation Yers for Financial Change

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I have found that on BiggerPockets, many of the readers and participants are part of the “younger generation.” This shows me the generation I am a part of is looking for a change, a way out of the uphill financial battle that many fight all their life.

Individuals born roughly between 1980 and 2000 have been given the label of Generation Y. I missed the exact middle of that span by 10 days, so many of my peers share the Generation Y label. We are the largest living generation in America. At 80 million strong, we have the ability to shape American culture through our actions and beliefs.

With an age span of 15-35, in my opinion, generation Y is still very young. With youth comes opportunity. Opportunity to experience life with minimal responsibilities, opportunities to set your life on a good course. Opportunity to build the foundation for a life to come. This encompasses all aspects of life, from spiritual to financial. The years we find ourselves in now are filled with opportunity.

There is so much greatness in the world to be had, but it doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come fast. It takes years and years. Our lives, our self worth, is compiled of millions if not billions of actions and decisions we make. Begin your life with the wrong choices, and things are likely to continue in that direction. Make the right ones, and you will find life much easier. It is a snowball effect. Our choices in our early teen and adult years can lead us on a downward spiral or a soaring pursuit of greatness.

Related: 3 Negatively Cashflowing “Assets” That Devastate 20-Somethings’ Finances

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Achieving Financial Greatness

Greatness comes in many shapes and forms. I believe one of them is financial wealth. Financial wealth can mean many different things to different people. It may mean making $50k a year to one; it may be $10 million a year to another. The point is, achieving one’s true definition of financial wealth is a mark of greatness.

So to my peers, my fellow Generation Ys, I ask you this: WHY? Why as a whole do we never reach financial greatness? Why do we live on the brink of financial collapse every day, not only as a country, but also as individuals? Why is financial responsibility not taught in school? Why do we keep piling on student debt to evade reality? Why, when we do get money, do we have no idea what do with it other than what advertisements have told us to? Why do we waste our youth digging a hole that we spend our entire life trying to climb out of?

So many of us treat money like there will not be a tomorrow. After all, we are the generation that coined YOLO (“you only live once”). Yes, this is true, but most people also live long after the YOLO mentality has worn off and we are given the many responsibilities of life. Our generation as whole fails to look beyond our youth, especially financially. We spend 7 years getting a 4-year degree while living on borrowed money and financing our new car. We load clothes, shoes and accessories up on our credit cards. We buy a house twice as big as we need and appear to have “made it.”

The only place this person has made it to is the bottom of the hole they will spend their life climbing out of. They will spend their life paying for the choices they made in their youth.

Realities like children, retirement, sick family members, parents in their final years, and unforeseen life changes will be quicksand added to the hole.

The Opportunity for Change

I will again ask my generation, WHY? Why at 80 million strong can we not change our culture to build a mountain instead of digging a hole? In our youth we are left with so much opportunity to make wise fiscal decisions that could forever direct us to greatness. The unseen reality of our YOLO lifestyle is “You only lose opportunity.”

Now, by no means am I saying have zero fun and save everything in order to plan for the bad things in life. Not in the slightest. Our generation does, however, need to begin asking WHY. Why as a whole are we setting ourselves up for a financial uphill battle?

Related: Most Americans Overspend & Fail at Frugality… But It’s Not Why You Think

So what’s the secret? How do we build a mountain rather than dig a hole? There is no secret; people have been screaming the keys to financial greatness for years — we just can’t seem to listen. I’ll sum up those keys in three well-known ideals:

  • Live below your means.
  • Buy assets, not liabilities.
  • Don’t fear failure, learn from it.

If the 80 million Generation Y-ers would just begin to ask these “why” questions, we could change our entire culture for the better.

Investors: Weigh in. What changes need to be made to education, cultural values, or whatever else to facilitate financial change?

Leave your comments and opinions below!

About Author

Jered Sturm

Jered Sturm is co-founder and director of sales and marketing at SNS Capital Group. Jered began in the real estate industry in 2006, working for a successful real estate investment company as a handyman. From 2009-2012, Jered co-founded the construction company Sturm Properties. Using his background in contracting and construction, he began investing in “Value Add” real estate. Now, after co-founding SNS Capital Group, Jered has conducted over 10 million dollars in real estate transactions. He currently co-owns and operates a portfolio worth over 3.7 million dollars in investment real estate.

28 Comments

  1. Tim Hoffman

    Great article Jered. As a father of 2 Gen Y’ers, I immediately shared your blog with them. Thank you. I have been an investor in Real Estate for over 16 years hope I have instilled in them some level of financial knowledge but hearing it from someone closer to their own age instead of dear OLD Dad may have a bit different reception.

  2. Amen. I have taught 2 of my Generation Y kids not to follow the herd, but the 3rd is still doing the things that I continually shake my head about. For example, my younger co-worker says she cannot afford to contribute the money to get the company match for her retirement account, but she can afford a smart phone and eating out. She cannot afford to buy a house, but she can afford to pay more in rent than I pay on my mortgage. I offered to rent her an apartment within walking distance of work, but she rented a house that was closer to shopping and eating out. She took out $80,000 in student loans to go to an out of state college to get a degree in teaching that would pay $32,000. The list goes on. I keep giving quiet suggestions to both my co-worker and my daughter, and hope they will see the light before it is too late. Maybe when enough of you start talking about making smart financial decisions, then the peer pressure can work in a positive way!

  3. Scott Trench

    This is a great article Jared – I struggle with this all the time. How can my peers spend ALL of their money when I live almost exactly the same life and do all of the same things they do for thousands less per month? Basic choices in how I live, what and how I eat, and how I get around result in truly incredible gaps and it’s only been one year.

    It’s the mindset of spending on everything you can, instead of everything that actually makes you happy. I think the answer is to just keep cranking out content like this and changing one mind at a time.

  4. Joel A.

    If we could somehow make this way of thinking “cool” or pump it into the main stream media, they would follow. Gen Y is very largely impacted by the media in my opinion and what they see on tv/radio. If there were tv shows and music videos made about making smart money, they would all be doing saving money and making this new future come to life!

  5. Brandon Stevens

    I try to talk my friends into getting into RE every chance i get. I tell them even if you just buy one house and let someone manage it, put it on a 15yr note and when that baby of yours is ready to go to college…wala no worries. For one reason or another most of them simply wont do it, its too important to be able to go out and drink every Saturday night. Well in 10-15 years when ive quit working all together and they still have 25 years to they retire… ill have plenty of time to drink 🙂

  6. Steve Vaughan

    I still see this mindset of spend spend spend have have have across more generations than the young ones, like Paul mentioned above. The guys at my wife’s metal machining job all have big trucks on payments, go out to lunch everyday, go away on weekends and don’t touch the share savings plan offered by the employer. The majority of them are much older. We as Americans are a consumption economy, no doubt.

    All we can do, like Scott Trench says, is keep providing content like you have Jered, and I would add, share where we can to those who will listen. Share your ways when anyone asks. “Why do you bring that stupid brown bag lunch to work everyday?” Boom. “Why do you brew your own coffee?” Glad you asked. “Why do you drive that old beater?” Well… You folks that go to work everyday have a real opportunity to spread the word. The mostly retired like me don’t interact with others enough. People don’t tend to ask me until they realize I am not tied to a J.O.B. and am available to attend things whenever. Most of us are ‘millionaires next door’ (or about to be, right?) not broke but looking good like most. I like being different and am happy to share, but must be asked how. Intruding your opinion upon another accomplishes nothing. Spread the word and introduce folks one at a time!

  7. Denis Beausejour

    Thanks Jered for the post. As someone of similar age I prefer being called a millennial not a Gen Yer. Haha but that’s because we like to think we are striking out on our own path when in reality we are just making the same old mistakes. The problem with this lifestyle is you don’t see results in the short term. It takes years to build up an empire and by that time it’s usually too late for friends. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. Coleman Nelson

    Great article Jered. As a 20 something, I was blessed to be raised in a family where I didn’t have to ever worry about going without food or shelter, but we didn’t have enough money that I could have everything I wanted. Because of this, I was able to learn the value of hard work and frugality.
    I think it may be harder for those who were raised in a situation where they never had to go without their wants or worry about how much things cost.
    As I grow in my career and real estate investing, I hope I financially we will be in the latter situation, but I must teach my kids the importance of hard work, giving, saving, and investing. These things can be taught in schools or by friends and neighbors, but it starts in the home with parents teaching their kids.

    • Jered Sturm

      Coleman said it not me. Its the baby boomers fault for not raising us right!!! Haha.

      No I couldn’t agree more with you it starts in the home. Unfortunately the cycle of poverty seems to be expanding, and these lessons are being lost/ignored more and more in the home. My hope of writing these is to plant a seed in our generation so we (gen Y) can be the change/reverse in the trend, and begin to bring financial education back into the home. And maybe just maybe the generation following us (our children) will be better off than we our financially.

  9. Chris Needham

    “Fitness Indicators” As in, reproductive selection and how humans signal one another about the quality of our genes. The youth has always been overwhelmed with concern about reproductive success and evolution wouldn’t allow it to turn out any other way. Humans are overwhelmingly blind to what really drives their consumer choices, but marketing definitely isn’t! Marketing has been completely transformed in the lifetime of gen Y.

    Other than those gifted with powers of thrift, the only way out of this trap is education. Every high school should assign the book “Spent” to read IMO. Our school systems are either incompetent (my bet) or actively trying not to educate “consumers” (what our politicians now refer to citizens as???) about what life could be.

    I’m damn happy to have saved 50-75% of my net income my first 8 years. Now, I save 100% (FI). My coworkers are mostly screwed when they get fired and it’s sad. I’ve (stealthily) converted a few over the years, but most never got it.

  10. Kevin Vasquez

    Wow. What a great article!!! As a Generation Y-er (I’m 19, born in 1995), this is something I wish to communicate to my younger brother and sister (especially my brother who is 10 years old).

    Today’s teens are very short-sighted and it saddens me to see kids my age waste money on a pair Jordan’s, working part-time, and accumulating huge debt while wasting their time in college (when in fact for some of them, if not most, college is not necessary; apprenticeship or trading school are better options). Some of the waste time hanging out with friends full-time instead of part-time. And the parents do not seem to know how to teach their kids properly in order to be successful (not necessarily materialistically speaking).

    Most teens hate work as well. They don’t understand the value and honor of work, whether it be physical or mental work. They are lazy and instead fall on entertainment and laziness.

    One thing schools should teach (although I’m no big fan of public schooling) is financial management or stewardship. This is practical and will be needed unlike the many other irrelevant subjects taught.

    Great article, though. My generation, as others in the past, have a great potential. May we wake up and change American culture for the better!!!

  11. Ken Klatt

    Thanks for the article Jered. I don’t know exactly why but the article and the comments fired me up. I don’t want to believe we live in a society that is worse off than our parents when it comes to financial literacy or assume our generation, as a majority, isn’t competent to handle finances or plan for the future.

    I believe there is hope and it comes in the shape of communities and educational material found on places like bigger pockets.

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