There was a time when financial responsibility was taught by mom and dad, and reinforced in school. In that generation, financial advice went something like this:
- Honesty is the best policy.
- Start at the bottom and work your way up.
- A firm handshake is something you can trust.
Let’s face it; those days are over. The world doesn’t work that way anymore. That is not to say that honesty is not a great policy. But even better is to keep a good attorney on retainer. No company looks for their next CEO in the mail room. And a firm handshake has always been a poor test of character. Entering a contract on that basis has always been for fools in the process of being parted from their money.
It all starts with the public education system. Originally, it was only ever about preparing workers for industrial jobs. It was never about preparing kids to realize big dreams. Now, there are hardly any industrial jobs to be had in America. All we’re left with are big dreams with no means or nohow to fulfill them. Once upon a time, we were given enough financial education to balance our checkbook. Now, that is no longer enough, and we are not even given that much. As a result, there are three things Gen Xers are typically doing wrong when it comes to finances. Fixing these things will put you on the road to fulfilling those big dreams:
1. Stop counting on Social Security, and save for your own retirement. If you are not living like Social Security is a myth, you’re doing it wrong! Look, no one knows how much longer Social Security will last. Every administration is afraid to touch the issue because their biggest block of votes come from people who get, or are about to start getting Social Security. This is not about whether or not you think Social Security is a good idea. This is about reality. At some point, it is going to have to drastically change. There is an excellent chance you are not going to have that promise fulfilled for you as it was for your parents. You have to start living today as if it will not be there tomorrow.
2. Start investing in your own financial education. There are no kindly, grizzled grey beards standing in line to put their sheltering arm around your shoulder and teach you the ropes. If your parents or school had done such a good job teaching you about finances, you wouldn’t be looking for tips on improving your finances. You would be on a beach in Fiji sipping a frosty drink with a little umbrella in the glass. If you want to increase your financial acumen as much as ten-fold, you need to be reading investment management publications, and participating in programs like IMCA. Trying to just wing it on your own is like thinking the lottery is a financial strategy.
3. Think big; live small. This advice is going to run counter to what you’ve been led to believe. Stop living your life as if this was your last day. Just stop it! If this really does end up being your last day, so what? You’ve lost nothing. You need to start living as if you plan to live forever, or at least a very long time. There is no reason to live large right now. You need to be honest about the lifestyle you can afford, then live a little smaller than that. The money you save while living small is how you finance your big ideas.