While merely a two-second quip on 30 Rock, this quote has haunted my subconscious for years. This poetic (or offensive?) musing was made by Jack Donaghy.
If you are unfamiliar with the name, Mr. Donaghy is a fictional character and protagonist of Liz Lemon (also a fictional character). He frequently shares capitalist musings like this one on the show.
In 2020, the oldest Millennials will turn 38. This includes elderly figures like myself. The start of a new decade seems like a great time to reflect on the Millennial population as it descends further over the hill and into the darkness on the wrong side of 30.
While they say stats are made up 60% of the time and wrong 40% of the other, statistically, Millennials are over-stressed, under-paid, burned out, and in need of intensive therapy. It’s like a predictable plotline from the Planet of the Apes. After Millennials [allegedly] cause the demise of the free world, all that is left for us to destroy is ourselves.
We’re running right on schedule. According to the media we already spent the last decade destroying **hold on, let me refer to my notes** ah yes, PLANET EARTH.
Here are (roughly) all the industries experts say Millennials killed this decade. But, we believe you have more left in you, our fellow, nearly 40-aged Millennial cereal killers ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/QokHypCEPQ
— Paychecks & Balances (@PayBalances) December 20, 2019
But, other than the aforementioned issues, the kids are alright!
Financial Independence Retire Early
Many Millennials burned themselves out this last decade in a novel pursuit of FI/RE. FIRE, you say, didn’t the neanderthals discover that?
FIRE, or Financial Independence / Retire Early, is a “movement dedicated to a program of extreme savings and investing that allows proponents to retire far earlier than traditional budgets and retirement plans allow.” FIRE has been around since at least the 12th Century, but it really burned out of control this prior decade.
There are a few usual suspects:
- Millennials, exhausted with stagnant wages at jobs that require a Master’s Degree to do menial work a moderately well-trained monkey could perform, saw FI/RE as a parachute to escape safely from the turbulence of the traditional 40-year career path. Why continue working for pay that according to some studies (when adjusted for inflation) hasn’t risen since before we were born (1978) when you can just “retire early”?
- The largest generation by population since Baby Boomers leaned into the information age by becoming the most educated of them all. If ignorance is truly bliss, congratulations Millennials, you played yourselves. The “information age,” we were sold, would usher in a new world. And, it did. Just not the world we expected. More on that later…
- The media found an easy way to get page clicks by simply profiling someone that climbed out of debt–and they had an entire generation (of the lucky ones who reached the finish line) to choose from. Easy clicks. Easy write-ups. Lots and lots of redundant articles.
The FIRE burned hot in the personal finance community. Meanwhile, back in the real world…
As of 2019, only 13-percent of the population had ever heard of the movement. Equally interesting is how many Millennials leaped in full faith but their FIRE parachutes didn’t quite open in time for them to land safely in early retirement Nirvana. Instead, there is a new article each week of the new decade about a Millennial who abandoned FI/RE or had FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) from their decade long social experiment.
If Millennials burnout while blazing a path to early retirement is that really a victory lap we should celebrate? Another participation trophy for the mantle, I guess.
Wait! Isn’t wealth building just a simple math problem?
How to Become Rich
Mathematically, how to become a millionaire is pretty straightforward. So why do so few reach this milestone? Or maybe the more relevant question to our own financial journey is learning why so many fall short. Rather than bore you with the math today, as I wrote about here, I’ll make my point with a few visuals.
“The more you save the less your returns matter.” – Four Pillar Finance
One of my favorite data and visual finds of 2019, was the Four Pillars Finance Blog. Their piece, Why Saving Your First $100,000 is a Big Deal, shows while most people focus on the last step in their financial journey, the first step is just as significant.
Put another way, at least when it comes to investing, any action is better than no action (Note: 1 in 3, have taken no action). Zero plus zero will always equal zero whether you add it together today or at retirement age.
Chase Bank reached a similar conclusion, twice! In full disclosure, I spoke at a Chase Bank Savings seminar for Millennials. I also bank with Chase. However, neither of these facts have to do with my support of their conclusion, nor have I been paid to promote them. I just believe in transparency.
Chase based their findings on hypothetical investors who make various investment decisions using $5,000 a year ($416 a month) or $10,000 a year ($833 a month). Chase also compared the final results if they started investing at ages 25 versus 35. Here is what they found:
How to become a millionaire. It’s that simple, right?
As I try to remind my clients, no one that you should consider a friend will ever read an obituary that fondly remembers you because of your fully funded 401k/IRA (individual retirement account). To be fair, money can’t buy happiness and neither can poverty. But, there is a balance between FIRE and burnout.
Be impatient with action and patient with results. – James Clear
This quote comes from James Clear, the author behind one of my new favorite newsletters. His words of wisdom have frequently given me peace, perspective, and pause for clarity. I recommend you follow him, but if you do not, I will end with my own experiences in this marathon race that is life.
Late Stage Post Traumatic Imposter Syndrome
LSPTIS – is a very real disease I just made up.
As a Senior Millennial, I will turn 38 in 2020. I fall victim to some of the stereotypical allegations meant to define a generation that encompasses 75 million people in the U.S. alone. For example, Mental Health–a stereotype I welcome–is one I began to prioritize in my elderly-millennial years. Last year I started seeing a therapist with very positive results.
As it relates to this post, I want to work to improve on minimizing self-imposed deadlines. For instance, no one is asking me to run this business, author another book, pursue FI or FI/RE, raise my credit score above 800, or honestly do any of these arbitrary measures I used to grade myself from week-to-week for absolutely no reason and to no end other than to wear myself down and out.
I joked on one podcast that I was so stressed one week in 2019 that one single eye had literally begun to twitch. When asked what I was going to do when the other one started to twitch, my response was, “when both start twitching, I’m pretty sure they’re just both going to close for good.” …there is a little bit of truth behind every joke.
I need to find a way to pump the breaks, or as the kids say, “SKRRT, SKRRT!” I put too many miles on this personal vehicle. At this pace, it isn’t going to see the End of the Road, financially independent or otherwise.
Yes, recently I did make it to the King of the Hill! Yet, I spent so many years with my head down focused on the drive up Career Mountain Top that I never stopped to appreciate the views.
When you grow use to only looking up there is no time to prepare for how scary the view might be when you finally look down. Be careful chasing success, you just might catch it.
I sure have a lot to lose now if (when?) I fall. And was I standing on a solid foundation or a house of cards up here?
My “imposter syndrome” kicked in when I should feel most confident that I deserve the accolades. But, if I’ve already made it to the top, then what am I suppose to do with the next 30 years???
What goes up must come down, right?!!
I don’t have a Plan B. Hell, I barely had a Plan A!
I’d become a race-runner. I didn’t know WTF to do once I reached the finish line. I spent three decades running races. Suddenly, running the race that got me to this level won’t work to get me to the next. What comes after the professional milestones are reached?
Rather than run infinite races, I choose to come to a complete stop and get some personal perspective. I began to reflect on what the “life” side of Paychecks & Balances “work, money, life” mantra meant to me. Instead of trying to outrun my own shadow, how can I be a better version of myself tomorrow than the version I am today?
Focus on One Course Until Successful
F.O.C.U.S. is my unofficial personal mission this year. I’m already seeing the results. I’ve gotten further by instilling the discipline to move slower.
Financially, the goal is to sell one course a day. Just one. I no longer have some arbitrary number that I’ve self-imposed as yet another made-up finish line. Similarly, my recommendation, resolution, and Call to Action for you (if you feel overwhelmed): slow down.
For what it’s worth, if I waited until I believed in myself 100% I would never start anything. I GSD, then I use that as evidence to believe in myself. There are a lot of 80-percent sure people today that will spend the rest of this year waiting on that last 20-percent. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten on breaking out of procrastination is “when you’re 80 percent sure, act!”
Today, I’m still middle class 38. I look forward to rich 50. Because it is better to have $1,000,000 at 65 than $0 million at any age.
Further, I have learned to measure my wealth with more than just the zeros in my bank account. And, rather than eye-twitch myself to death, I have to be healthy enough–mentally, physically, and emotionally–to survive the journey.
If Jack Donaghy is right, I will turn back the hands of time by getting more clear on my priorities. There is no reason to rush to fail. With most things, there is no reason to rush at all. While the world around me continues to multi-task, I choose to focus on the task at hand. The time will pass on its own.
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