From TikTok to Twitter, a lot is made out of the habits and attitudes of different generations. We say: people of all ages have a lot to share and learn from each other, and that’s especially true of personal finances. We checked in with Treasury contacts of all ages for tips on becoming more financially resilient, no matter where you are in life.
Generation Z: Born 1997 or later
AskAZoomer: For most of us in our early twenties, our big purchases right now are higher education and cars. If college or trade school is in your future, an Oregon College Savings Plan account is a great way to save for higher ed-related expenses, even books and supplies. The best part is Oregon’s college savings tax credit – and this goes for Generation Z or for older generations saving for their kids – you can get up to $300 back on your taxes, even if you don’t owe. So up to $300 saved each year for college or trade school is refundable on your next year’s taxes.
This is also the time when many of us buy cars on our own for the first time. It’s worth taking the time to compare owning versus leasing, new versus used, and car versus bicycle, mass transit, and ride-share apps (this guide is a great start). With more and more e-bikes on the market, that might be a better option for you to committing to car and insurance payments. Used car prices are trending higher but can still be a better value than a new car. And look at the overall cost of owning the car: smaller, fuel-efficient models will save you money on gas. Electric cars are more expensive at the outset, but could include incentives, and you can save a lot on maintenance. Even if you’re out of school, you should still do some homework before making a car purchase.
Millennials: Born Between 1981-1996
AskAMillenial: Many of us got checks from the federal government this past year to help us weather the effects of COVID. For people’s whose jobs were affected, those checks were a lifeline. For others, those checks were helpful for paying down debt or building an emergency fund. If you haven’t committed your stimulus funds yet, paying down debt or starting an emergency account is a smart move to help build your financial resilience.
This is also the time to get serious about your retirement. The earlier you start, the better. If your job doesn’t offer a retirement program, Oregon State Treasury’s OregonSaves program can help you start a retirement account that stays with you no matter where you work. It’s easy to sign up and start saving – even as little as 1% of your gross pay.
Older millennials with kids may be looking ahead at their kids’ higher education costs while still paying off their own student loans. Now’s the time to start talking to your kids so that you and they can understand and plan. Good discussion topics include how to save (the Oregon College Savings Plan can help!), what kind of education your kids want (don’t get hung up on brand-names – focus instead on what they want to achieve), and how student loans shift from being abstract to real REALLY fast after you’re out of school.
Generation X: Born 1965-1980
AskAGenXer: When I was 21 and getting offer after offer from credit card companies, I quickly found out how easy it was to rack up high-interest debt. So I’d say to anyone looking at their spending: avoid debt as much as you can. The less credit card debt you carry, the more options you have – like the types of jobs you can take or places you can afford to live. Unfortunately, my generation is still carrying a lot of non-mortgage debt, but there is good advice out there on how to start tackling it one bill at a time.
The other side of this is thinking about how and where we spend our money, and how that relates to our values. Especially as we have more discretionary income, it’s worth taking the time to think about our financial priorities and goals, and how we want to get there. That could mean taking a pause and asking ourselves if we really need something, or if we just want it and are getting caught up in the moment of buying it (Eastern Oregon University recommends this video asking “why did I just buy that?”). Having those honest conversations with ourselves can help us to define and be true to our own values. Same goes for where we spend our money – does our bank reflect our values in how it does business? Are we paying too much in fees on our credit cards or retirement accounts?
Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964
AskABoomer: For me, retirement is looming, and while that can be exciting, it’s also daunting to wonder all the time if we have enough saved. There are limits to how much you can sock away into a pre-tax retirement account like a 401(k), but fortunately, the government allows people 50 and over (and that includes you now, Gen X!) to “catch up” by increasing contributions to several different types of retirement accounts. Here’s a rundown of the limits by plan type.
Beyond that, we know a lot of people in Oregon haven’t started saving for retirement, and that includes a lot of baby boomers. If you’re able to start saving today, you should – even a small amount each month will add up over time thanks to the miracle of compound interest. And if you don’t have options at work, Oregon State Treasury’s OregonSaves program is ready to help. It’s easy, convenient (the account stays with you no matter where you work), and flexible.