NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When Chris Stone was 35 years old, he quit drinking and started saving.
“It’s normal to overspend on socializing when you’re 20 and 30, but it’s expensive,” Stone told MainStreet. “Instead of spending money at bars with my friends, I started my landscaping business.”
Today, at 49 years old, Stone has retired with a pension after working for the state of Massachusetts.
“Divorce took all my money,” said Stone who lives in Scituate not far from Cape Cod. “I’m not rich, but I’m doing alright.”
Lagging in the net-worth category, modern Millennials can learn a few lessons from Stone's generation. Some 29% of Gen X'ers are reporting higher net worth than a year ago compared to only 18% of Millennials, according to a Bankrate study.
“I wish I’d quit drinking and spending sooner,” said Stone. “I think 31 years old is a good age to stop partying.”
Workers under the age of 35 years old are not saving money and are spending more than they have, according to a Moody's Analytics study. That may be partly a result of lifestyle overriding forward thinking.
“Saving isn't going to happen until a young adult learns to balance consumption today against consumption in the future,” said Craig Lemoine, chartered financial consultant program director with The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pa. “Drinking and dating are part of some cultures, but counseling and advising young people on the power of procrastination can be a powerful device shift.”
According to the Moody's study, the savings rate of millennials has dropped to negative 2% compared to workers between the ages of 35 and 44 years old who have a positive savings rate of 3%. And to make matters worse, some 5.8% of Millennials are unemployed.
“Many millennials have taken on a large amount of student loan debt to attain skills needed to be competitive in the workforce but they just aren't receiving the jobs they need,” said Dawn Bennett, founder and CEO of Bennett Group Financial Services. “Pair the lack of jobs for recent graduates and the average student loan debt load together and this is why millennials simply cannot save.”
Another piece of the puzzle is that wages have barely shifted since the 1990s despite higher costs of living, which is one reason Millennials continue to struggle.
“Our economy is globalized, putting new pressure on jobs in the finance sector,” Lemoine told MainStreet. “Additional pressures come from a notable absence of blue collar positions that have been outsourced, replaced mechanically or are jobs millennials may find unattractive.”
While the U.S. economy added 214,000 jobs, Millennials are bumping up against older more experienced job applicants like Stone and have younger generations nipping at their heels in all facets of life not just the workplace.
“Millennials aren't shopping for suburban, ranch style homes instead they compete with downsizing baby boomers for homes in urban or happening parts of town,” said Lemoine. “As with housing, millennials often find themselves competing with recent retirees for positions and they are beginning to find themselves competing with an even younger, more tech savvy generation.”
Dubbed Generation Z and also known as Generation Edge, emerging tech savvy youngsters are already cautiously planning how to pick the right career and minimize student debt, according to a study by BridgeWorks, a generational consulting company.
“Gen Edge, the post-Millennial generation born after 1995, is a conscientious group where 64% are concerned about landing a job after college,” said Hannah Ubl, Millennial researcher with BridgeWorks. “After witnessing their Millennial siblings and Gen X parents go through the recession, they’ve taken a pragmatic and proactive approach to college and career planning.”
—Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet