Millennials get a bad rap when it comes to how they handle their money.
They are ridiculed for moving back home after college. They are maligned for wanting too much too soon. They are often referred to as the entitled generation.
But in my experience, millennials are just trying to find their financial footing in an economy still recovering from the Great Recession. Many of them are grappling with significant student loans.
I don’t see a generation looking for a handout. I see young adults who want a hand up. In fact, a survey by Bankrate.com found that millennials think they should be paying their own cellphone, auto and housing bills sooner than perhaps even their parents think they should.
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During graduation season, I get a lot of requests to recommend a personal finance book for a young adult. I’m happy to add a new book to the list: “Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together” by Erin Lowry.
Lowry, 28, is the founder of BrokeMillennial.com, a blog aimed at people starting out in life. She created the site because she sensed a prevailing fear among her age cohort about the complexity and pressures of personal finance.
This fear was “keeping my friends from trying to understand how money worked; it was also preventing them from taking risks to get ahead in their careers,” she writes.
Lowry’s mission is to save her fellow millennials from being “sucked into the stressful black hole of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.”
Lowry starts off with a cute story about selling glazed Krispy Kreme donuts when she was 7 and how she came to know so much about money. I’m not giving anything away by saying she gives major props to her mom and dad.
“Growing up with parents who constantly used real-life moments to teach me about money had prepared me to handle my financial affairs.”
Lowry wants readers to hopscotch through the book in an a la carte way, recognizing that the totality of the book at once might be overwhelming.
I really was drawn in by the chapter titles. Here are my favorites:
▪ ’Is Money a Tinder Date or Marriage Material?
“In other words,” Lowry writes, “when it comes to money, do you treat your finances as a hit-it-and-forget-it situation, or are you developing a long-lasting relationship?”
▪ Student Loans: How to Handle Them Without Having a Full-On Panic Attack.
“No matter where you are in the graduation experience – just walked the stage or trying to finish these payments years later – it’s helpful to understand your options.”
▪ I’ve Got Debt, So Why Should I Care About Saving?
Lowry acknowledges here that the common mantra of “pay yourself first” can be hard to follow.
“It seems absolutely ridiculous when you’re looking at your credit card statement, student loan payment, rent bill, and all those other pesky money drains like feeding yourself. You feel fortunate enough to just break even at the end of the month, let alone start the month by tucking money away in an account you aren’t supposed to touch. Well, too bad. Saving money prevents you from sinking deeper into debt by providing a buffer when you hit a streak of bad luck.”
▪ I Can’t Afford to Split This Dinner Bill Evenly!
“It’s not fun to get a reputation as a penny-pincher,” Lowry writes.
I hear you, girl!
But she adds: “It’s one reason we often default to splitting a bill evenly, but you may not be able to afford that luxury early on in your financial life.”
▪ Getting Financially Naked with Your Partner.
Discussing her conversation about debt with her boyfriend, whom she calls “Peach,” Lowry writes, “He cast his eyes down and exhaled slowly. Then Peach steadied himself, looked me square in the eyes and told me his number. … For other generations, ‘the number' might refer to former bedfellows, but you as a millennial have another number to be concerned with.”
For this generation, that number is mostly about debt, especially student loans.
It’s the youthful perspective that makes this book so refreshing. It’s well written and researched by a millennial for millennials. You hear their voices and their concerns without the judgment, sarcasm and superiority we older folks too often convey when we talk to young adults about money.