Written by: Cindy Marques, CFP
November 14, 2023 – Born between 1981-1995, Millennials are a group of individuals primarily in their 30’s (as of 2023) and born from a demographic of Boomer and older Generation X parents. The parents within these cohorts grew up in a time where the “middle class dream” was an ideal that defined the typical markers of success. However, this formula has proved elusive for the Millennial demographic and in turn have had to pivot towards defining new markers of success that look quite different from the ideals of previous generations. This includes the acceptance of long-term renting as a reality in lieu of home ownership, taking on multiple roles and streams of income to afford exorbitant living costs, and prioritizing personal wellness and a healthy life-work balance to avoid burnout. And yet, despite a mindful shift in personal and financial priorities, it may often feel to many that their efforts have yet to yield any sense of financial freedom.
So how do Millennials break free from the cycle of living just to work and shift towards working to live life fully? Let’s explore 5 steps you can take to set aside money for desires rather than just the basic costs of living.
- Know Your Baseline:
To make a meaningful plan for your financial goals, it’s essential to get clear on your numbers. Start by calculating the baseline cost of your life. This includes necessities like rent, utilities, groceries, and other non-negotiable expenses. This is the basic price tag of every day living, and it represents the absolute minimum floor for your finances. It’s important to be clear on this number as it essentially represents the portion of your paycheque with little to no wiggle room (without drastically changing your life to live elsewhere).
- Be Mindful of Discretionary Spending:
After your baseline expenses, you can take some liberties with how the remainder of your income is spent. This is where the magic happens. Your financial journey should be guided by your values and aspirations and discretionary spending should align with what truly means the most to you. For example, if enjoying daily coffees is a source of joy, budget for it without guilt. The key is to make your discretionary spending meaningful and purposeful to you.
- Distinguish Short-term vs. Long-term Desires:
Your goals come in different sizes and timelines. Some, like daily treats, involve ongoing costs, while others, like a dream vacation or early retirement, come with a larger future expense. Distinguish between these two and prioritize accordingly. Plan for your daily joys while leaving space for those big, exciting dreams too.
- Calculate Future Costs and Your Savings Potential:
Don’t just dream – make your financial goals a reality by quantifying them into tangible financial action items. If you’re eyeing a trip abroad, determine the total cost required. Next, calculate how much you can afford to save each month. This will inform how long it will take you to meet your goal, which may also bring forth some discomfort. Perhaps it will take longer than you’d like to save for which may involve sacrifices in the form of scaling back your budget for daily pleasures for the sake of prioritizing your bigger goals. It may even give rise to irreconcilable disparities between your larger or ongoing goals and the baseline costs to your life. For example: you live in an expensive city because you value the proximity to amazing restaurants, yet your rent is so high that you can’t afford to dine out. This becomes an opportunity to reassess your values and potentially make a drastic shift in your living situation to better align your money with your goals. For example: you are capable and willing to move out of the city and save $1,000/mth in baseline costs so that you afford to budget for the experiences you love the most.
- Automate Your Savings:
Once your values and your budget are aligned, the key to successful saving is consistency. Put your dreams on autopilot by setting up automatic transfers to a separate savings account or an investment portfolio. By “paying yourself first,” you ensure that you make progress towards your goals every month without fail.
Balancing your financial priorities as a Millennial doesn’t mean sacrificing your desires, but it may involve sacrificing the expenditures that don’t fully serve you. It’s about finding balance and reconciliation between the cost of necessities and the price tag on your big, beautiful dreams. By adopting a perspective that fiercely prioritizes spending only on the things that align with your values, and ditching or scaling back on the things that don’t, you can curate a budget designed to provide a rich and fulfilling life.
Cindy attended York University in pursuit of a Physics & Engineering degree seeking to become an educator. Upon graduating she noticed that most of her peers were ill-equipped to face the challenges of adulthood without a working understanding of the Canadian Financial system and general financial literacy, which was never addressed in the Canadian educational curriculum she grew up with. This inspired a decision to pivot and pursue Finance and she spent the next 4 years studying all things money, entering the industry as a Financial Advisor in 2016. However, she was faced with yet another challenge: the industry was lacking in its approach to working with younger individuals and often avoided working with them altogether. This is the demographic she was committed to serving so when she achieved her CFP designation in 2019, she left the “traditional” advisor world to focus on building up her own independent brand, providing fee-only advice to Millennials seeking genuine and unbiased guidance. In Spring of 2021 she co-founded MakeCents, a Financial Planning company rooted in Financial Literacy and coaching services for young adults who strive to live life on their own terms and redefine antiquated measures of “success”.