Poverty Prevention for Millennials: Education, Employment, Saving

Millennials (adults ages 18-32) constitute the largest and best-educated age group in today’s society, according to Wendy Wang, co-author of “The Millennial Success Sequence,” with W. Bradford Wilcox, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.

But they risk poverty due to lifestyle choices, according to Wang and Wilcox. The authors contend traditional choices – obtaining at least a high school diploma, obtaining full-time work and marriage before children, in that order – is the structure most likely to prevent a slide into poverty. Changing the order of events or altering the event (as a majority are doing when it comes to marriage and children; 55% of millennials are having children before marriage) changes the income levels and lowers their chance at a better economic future.

As the largest age group in the U.S., millennials have to rethink their financial lives to end the poverty trend. Here are nine basic tips:

  • Get an affordable education: A four-year degree does not need a six-figure price tag. Take a gap year and work to save cash, educate part-time and work full-time, go to community college first and take basic courses cheaper and apply for every scholarship and grant, regardless of the amount.
  • Four years of college is a choice, not the standard: Two-year degrees and trade schools offer education that leads to six-figure employment incomes. And those shorter educations means earlier entry into the working (and earning) workforce.
  • Find employment fast, dream job or not: The cool, hip job offer may not come right away. It may not come at all. Start earning and saving right away with part-time or temporary work, even outside your desired field. It provides new skills while you earn. And the connections you make lead to new jobs, friends and possibly a life partner.
  • Education does not end with one degree or diploma: Consider college courses or a graduate degree using an employer’s tuition assistance program, and there is government and private grant money beyond the four-year undergraduate level.
  • Start saving early: Open multiple accounts (vacation, vehicle, retirement, home) and direct deposit money into these every paycheck.
  • Establish an emergency fund: Even a good job is not a guarantee of long-term employment. Stash sufficient cash to pay bills for at least six months to a year.
  • Pay your debts every month: Don’t spend money to use money. Creditworthiness begins by using credit cards wisely and paying them off every month, without late fees and penalties.
  • Avoid millennial lifestyle leaps: Live within your means. Go slow when it comes to the upscale trappings of upward mobility. A bigger salary buys a big house, better car, the latest smartphone, but a bigger salary also means more money for retirement or starting your own business.
  • Find a financial advisor who works with you to help build your best future. Contact Teton Pines Financial for guidance on wealth building, cash flow management, retirement savings and college planning.