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Financial Planning for the MTV Generation


Financial Planning for the MTV Generation

(ARA) – So, you were born between 1965 and 1978. Are you tired of the Generation X label and being portrayed by the media as a cynical, Xtreme sports-loving, body-piercing slacker? If you’re one of the 76 million Americans that are considered to be “Xers,” you may see yourself more as an independent, career-minded, technologically savvy, young adult. As someone between the age of 22 and 35, “Xers” most likely tune out the thousands of marketers with retirement messages geared towards “boomers.” Insurance providers, investment companies and financial planners are virtually ignoring the millions of Americans considered to be “Xers.” Meanwhile this misunderstood group continues to buy homes and select mortgage companies and retirement plans with little attention and relevant advice.
So, are boomers the only generation that should be concerned about their future? Absolutely not. Planning for your future can be tough for anyone, no matter what his or her age. But individuals between the ages of 22 and 35 need to recognize the important opportunity they have of starting early and understanding the basics, according to Randy Schuldt, vice president with IHateFinancialPlanning.com, a new Web site geared to the more than 75 percent of Americans who hate financial planning.
Schuldt offers some additional financial planning tips for Generation Xers:
Think Retirement
According to the 1990 U.S. census, the average American worker has only saved $1000 towards retirement. Pretty sad, isn’t it? To make matters worse, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2000 was $804 (Source: U.S. Social Security Administration). You’ve heard it before, the sooner you start saving for your future, the better. So where do you start? First of all, just start. Consider putting away a little at a time — $25 or $50 a month – in a mutual fund or 401(K) account. If you’re 25 years old and put $25 away each month into an account earning 8.0 percent, you will have saved $58,099 by retirement at age 60. Compare this amount to the $14,940 you would save by starting when you’re 40.
Develop a Financial Plan
Whether you’re graduating from college, getting married or having a baby, you need to set specific goals (home ownership, vacation property, college education, retirement, etc.) and develop a financial plan for the future. To get started, consider meeting with a financial professional. A financial professional can help you get off on the right foot, by helping you develop a long-term financial plan that will make your hard earned money work harder for you.
Explore Life Insurance
If you’re still living the “Friends” lifestyle and spend most of your time at coffee shops like Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, Ross and Rachel, you may not need to think about life insurance just yet. However, “Xers” do settle down, get married and start families. If you have dependents (a spouse, children or aging parents) you need life insurance. The good news is that many employers offer life insurance as an employee benefit. But this may not be enough. First, talk to your benefits or human resources manager to learn more about their offerings and how to enroll. Then, see an insurance agent who offers insurance from major providers to determine if you may need more.
Deal with Debt
“Debt is one of the biggest financial problems facing young adults,” says Chris Newell, principal of Newell Financial Corp. in Little Rock, Ark. When it comes to paying off debt, Newell says to start high. Rather than concentrating on paying down a little of each credit card balance, find out the interest rate for each card — it should say on the monthly statement — and pay down the cards with the highest debt and interest rates.
“First, make a pledge, ‘no more additional credit card debt,'” Newell says. “Then, start paying off the highest debt cards. As soon as one card is eliminated, continue the same payments on the other cards. Never reduce this monthly debt payment amount until they are all paid off. You will have to be disciplined and pay substantially more each month than the minimum balance.”
Contribute the Maximum
401K plans and IRAs offer the best opportunities to take advantage of tax-deferred savings and contributions from your employer. If you’re working, ideally you should contribute the full amount to your 401K plan that you can. But at the very least, contribute up to the match offered by your employer.
An IRA provides tax efficiency to set aside money for retirement. For example, by contributing to a Roth IRA (just one type of IRA), you don’t pay income tax when you withdraw the money (including gains, dividends and interest) assuming you are age 59- and the account has been open for five years. If your annual income is less than $95,000 for a single taxpayer or $150,000 for married couples filing jointly, you can contribute to a Roth IRA.
Develop a Support Network
This is the age of information. Most likely, you may have a cell phone, voice mail, pager and a handheld computer. You prefer to learn through conversation and communities rather than reading text books and reports. The same goes for financial planning. “Xers” are much more willing to talk about their financial situation than their grandparents or even, parents. Embrace this new freedom. Schuldt recommends creating a community, either online or an old-fashioned investment club, and learn from each other. Whether you pool your money and start investing in the stock market or share investment tips and advice, communities offer a fun, easy way to get interested in your financial future. Or go to IHateFinancialPlanning.com to plug into a growing community of people who share a similar hatred for financial planning.
Keep Dreaming
What is that you really want? Home ownership? Early retirement? Financial independence? It’s important to understand your financial goals and to realize that your actions today either bring you one step closer to — or pull you one step back from — your goals. If you plan to buy a home in five to ten years, are your actions today helping or damaging your credit rating? Not only do you need a down payment to buy a house, you need an established credit history and a record of on-time payments.
The bottom line for “Xers” is that you should ignore the marketing messages geared towards cynical, unmotivated slackers. It’s not too early to start planning for your future and saving for retirement, says Schuldt. Consider the big picture. The decisions you make today about your career, education, debt and retirement will stick with you and shape your future. So, invest in yourself. Start small. And ignore the stereotypes.
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