Time used to be when you finished your formal schooling – whether it be college or high school – you’d get serious about life. You’d find your career, get married, have kids, and, in general, start adding value to the community you chose to call home.
Some time ago – who knows when – the world changed. Today’s 20-year olds treat their emancipation from schooling as a long awaited vacation from all things responsible. They’re not hippies, idlers, or hobos. They just want to take a break until things get serious – at age 30.
A few years ago a TED talk given by psychologist Meg entitled “Why 30 Isn’t the New 20” went viral. In it, she explained how this tendency to view their 20s as a “throwaway” decade has ruined the lives of many of her patients. This adult rebuke of post-graduate hedonism evoked a stern response, especially from the 20-something crowd. They didn’t want to be told to start acting their age. They believed they were (and they pointed to an entire infrastructure that was created to provide a support system precisely for the purpose).
Regardless of whether you believe 30 is the new 20, the reality is that, for many, it is.
That’s why it’s critically important to guide people transitioning out of their twenties into the realm of financial responsibility (see “The #1 Retirement Saving Goal for People in Their 30s and the Most Useful Strategy to Get There,” FiduciaryNews.com, March 7, 2017). Here’s the problem. By wasting away your 20s, you hit 30 like it’s a ton of bricks. Not a brick wall. A ton of bricks is something that weighs on you for a long, long, time.
What causes this “ton of bricks”? When people used to get serious in their 20s, they’d wade into life. In other words, they’d only get serious about a few things at a time.
They took baby steps towards adulthood. That way, they had one foot firmly planted in the world they were comfortable and familiar with. They used the other foot to venture in the vast unknown.
If you put off getting serious, you have to dive full into new and unexplored territory. That can be stressful. That can feel like you’re carrying a ton of bricks.
What’s the best was to carry a ton of bricks? The answer is true no matter what your age: You carry those bricks one at a time.
It may seem like you need to do everything at once. While it may be true you have a lot to accomplish in a smaller window of time, it doesn’t mean you can’t complete them sequentially. For example, if you have seven goals you want to achieve in a year, you don’t have to work on them all at the same time. Complete a series of tasks on one goal before moving to another series of tasks for another goal.
Then again, some goals have the benefit of being placed on auto-pilot. One of those goals is saving for retirement.
And it has the perfect “auto-pilot,” whether you’re in a corporate retirement plan like a 401k or your own personal IRA.
In both cases, you can set your savings to a regular schedule, either by savings a certain percentage directly from your paycheck every week or having automatic deposit take money out of your bank account and place it in your IRA.
These are the goals that are easiest to manage. It’s literally set it and forget it. And for people who discover their 30s hit them with a ton of bricks, the best they can hear is “set it and forget it.”
Let them rest easy thinking this.
You can wait until their 50s to tell them they can’t forget it.