18 Things Boomers Need to Stop Saying to Millennials About Money

Millennials vs. Boomers

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Lowering the Boom

Advice is usually offered with good intentions, but times change, and it can become outdated. As a millennial, I have heard plenty of tips from baby boomers that are either no longer relevant or border on scolding rather than friendly guidance. As Ashley Tran, assistant branch leader at Fidelity Investments, says, “We live in a different world today than the generation before us, so it makes sense that millennials and Gen Z’s approach to money may be different.” Here are some pieces of advice boomers should simply stop saying to millennials.

Related: Things That Boomers Can Learn From Millennials and Gen Zers

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Give Up Avocado Toast and Lattes

We’ve all heard it: If millennials just didn’t spend money on avocado toast and lattes, we could have bought a home, paid off our student loans, and saved enough to have one stay-at-home parent. But a small splurge doesn’t amount to much compared with the seismic economic shifts of the past decades and thinking that it will is a waste of time. “If you’re a millennial,” Tran says, “and the avocado toast or latte ‌makes your morning and you are miserable without it, it shouldn’t be what you cut back on. Instead, think about what makes you happy, what goals you want to reach, and how you can make sure the two align.”

Related: How to Satisfy Your $5 Starbucks Habit at Home

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Buy Blue Chip Stocks

Sure, some baby boomers created a lot of wealth for themselves by investing cheaply in companies such as Berkshire Hathaway, Microsoft, and Apple and seeing their value soar, but replicating that is easier said than done. “First, one needs to pick the right companies. Second, you must be able to hold those investments through their ups and downs, including when everyone else is selling,” says R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner and founder of The Ways to Wealth. “It's rare the person giving this advice was able to hold on for decades themselves. More likely, they're giving this advice because they wished they'd done it themselves, not because they successfully did.” 

Related: What If You Bought 100 Shares of These Companies at the Start?

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Don’t Ever Use Credit Cards

Many boomers feel paying for things with cash is the only way to go. Millennials are a savvy bunch, though, and if there’s something to be had for free instead of paying cash, they’ll choose free. Over three years of using credit card bonuses or points, blogger Jared Casazza says he’s earned around $10,000 per year or $30,000 total toward free travel.  

Related: Cases Where a Credit Card Beats Cash

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Buying a Home Is Always a Good Investment

The advice that buying a home is always an excellent investment is one “millennials should ignore,” says Laura Adams, MBA, a personal finance author and expert with Finder.com. “Whether you should own or rent a home depends on many factors, such as your job stability, plans to stay in an area, lifestyle, credit, savings, and budget.” Doug Carey, a chartered financial analyst and owner of WealthTrace, says that unless you plan to live in one house for at least seven years, renting is the better plan given the costs of buying and moving. Additionally, tax law changes have made it more challenging to itemize deductions, a requirement for claiming the home mortgage interest deduction, Adams says. 

Related: Home Prices Are Rising Fastest in These Cities 

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Why Don’t You Just Save Up to Buy?

Many millennials would surely still love to save up and buy a house. But already tough real estate prices from private equity firms, private investors, and — yes — boomers buying up reasonably priced starter homes just rose 28% since the start of the pandemic, looking at the median, according to Slate. Rent prices have been increasing in recent years, making saving money even more challenging for already cash-strapped millennials.  

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Renting Is Just Throwing Money Away

Since many millennials simply can’t afford to buy a house, this kind of advice isn’t motivating — it’s just frustrating. “The concept of buying a house instead of renting one is the most outdated recommendations you simply shouldn't believe. Housing is completely different compared to what it was 70 years ago,” says Kevin Miles, a financial consultant for Loan Advisor. Also, is it really throwing away money if you get shelter and safety out of the deal? 

Related: Reasons Not to Buy a House

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You Should Have Worked to Pay for College Like I Did

One of the oldest jabs in the book: If millennials would have just worked summer jobs, it could have paid for college. It’s what many baby boomers did. But the cost of college has risen dramatically, with the price of undergrad degree up 169% over the four decades leading up to 2019; working full-time year-round wouldn’t do it for many, and when would there be time to attend classes, study, and do homework? “That's not even considering the cost of living or other costs,” says Gary Grewal, a certified financial planner and author of Financial Fives. Millennials should “stop beating themselves up for having student loans.” 

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You Have to Have a College Education to Get a Job

Boomers should stop lecturing millennials on the need to go to college to get a good job, says Greg Wilson, a chartered financial analyst. “College is more expensive than ever. Student loans are larger than ever. But the purpose of college has always been to get an education, not a job,” Wilson says. If the goal is to maximize return on investment, millennials will find that there are careers that do that with certificates and licenses and no college, Wilson says. 

Related: Well-Paying Jobs That Require a Year or Less of Training or School

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Get a Job With a Pension

Find a job, stick with that job, and retire with a healthy pension — common advice for the baby boomer generation. This kind of job is a rarity for millennials. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2020, only 3% of workers have access to a defined-benefit plan only, while 12% have access to a defined-benefit plan and a defined-contribution plan. Since millennials have to save more of their income for retirement, this leaves less money for housing, food, and child care. 

Related: No Pension. No 401(k). How to Get by on Social Security

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Don’t Bounce From Job to Job — You’ll Seem Unreliable

There was a time — when pensions were a thing — that it may have made sense to work forever at the same company. That time has long passed. “It’s simply much more common for millennials to hold new jobs every three to four years, and this should start being the expectation for hiring managers,” says Chris Reilly, a business intelligence and financial planning analyst and founder of Mission Capital. According to payroll company ADP in 2021, job switchers increased their salary by an average of 8% compared with only 5.9% for those who stayed at the same company.

Related: Hidden Costs of Taking a New Job

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Don’t Talk Salary with Others

It was once taboo to talk with other employees about salary — or about money in general. Forget about that. “The truth is that you'll never know what your options are unless you talk about finances,” says Jerry Han, chief marketing officer of the survey website Prize Rebel. Talking about salary is a win-win that not only helps you, but helps your peers as well. 

Related: Money Myths You Need to Ignore

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You Have to Make a Lot of Money to Be Successful and Happy

Millennials are often told directly or indirectly that money is the key to happiness, but many studies show that while money is a factor in emotional well-being and life satisfaction, it’s not everything. Having close relationships is strongly associated with happiness. “It's important for millennials to remember that there are many ways to be happy and successful, and having a lot of money is not necessarily one of them,” says Max Benz, of Banking Geek. 

Related: Cheap Ways to Hack Your Life for Happiness

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You Better Hurry Up and Have Kids

Having kids is inextricably linked to finances. Raising a child born in 2022 to adulthood is estimated to cost a staggering $272,049. But many millennials are delaying marriage to get a handle on their finances first, which for many people means delaying children. Finances aside, it is no one’s else’s business whether someone wants — or can have — kids. 

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Follow the 100 Minus Your Age Rule for Investing

The investing rule of thumb that subtracting your age from 100 is the percentage of investments that should be in stocks, with the rest in bonds, is advice “inappropriate for millennials,” says Ryan Graves, CFA and founder of Bemiston Asset Management. “Bonds will provide a good source of safety but cannot be counted upon for reliable returns. With interest rates at historically low levels, bonds offer less in return. Millennials will need to invest more of their assets in stocks to hit the rate of return they need for retirement.” Similarly, Kiplinger says millennials have the opportunity here to take prudent risks: “When you have more than 40 years ahead of you, the upside potential of stocks is far greater than bonds or cash in the long term.”

Related: Early Retirement Secrets and Strategies You Need to Know

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Keep Your Money ‘Safe’ in a Savings Account

More recent wisdom equates savings accounts with their low interest rates as akin to stuffing cash in a mattress. With rising inflation, increased choice and resources, and lower barriers to entry in terms of technology and expense, “more millennials and Gen Z are realizing the power of investing and the difference compounding can make,” Tran says. 

Related: Mistakes You’re Probably Making with Your Savings Account

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Use Social Security to Fund Your Retirement

According to Kiplinger, 86% of baby boomers plan to rely on Social Security to ensure they don’t outlive their savings. According to the 2021 Social Security Trustees report, funds will be gone by 2034 and benefits could potentially be cut by 22% if Congress does nothing in the meantime. Only 42% of millennials from the Kiplinger study say they’ll count on Social Security to help fund their retirement. 

Related: Why Future Retirees Might Get Less Social Security Money

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It’s My Way or the Highway

When it comes to personal finance, it is, well, personal. People giving advice shouldn’t assume theirs is the best (or only) way. “There’s no one right way to manage your finances — what works for someone else may not ‌be the best option for you,” Tran says. “It’s all about finding the right balance that you can live with to make your financial goals sustainable and impactful over the long-term.”

Related: Money-Saving Tips From Grandma That Don't Work Anymore