Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
As Generation Z ( born after 2000) graduates from college and enters the workforce during such a tumultuous time, it is in their best interest to spend some time observing and learning from their predecessor generation, Millennials (born between 1980-2000). After all, many Millennials graduated during a challenging time of their own, fighting through the Great Recession of 2007-2009 to prevail and become the most diverse and best educated generation in existence.
While every generation has their perks, they also have struggled through difficult circumstances, all of which generates powerful lessons. Here are 5 lessons that Generation Z can take from their Millennial counterparts.
1. Understand the terms of your student loans.
When you are graduating high school, applying for student loans is a daunting task, and likely the first time you are faced with agreements, terms and policies of the financial realm. Simply put, student loans can be overwhelming, something that 15.1 million millennials can attest to after borrowing heaps of funds to pay for their education. Of those who took out a student loan, 90% said that not understanding their loan terms was their most serious college mistake. Many students (84%) reported taking out more money than they needed to at the time and are now paying far more for it than originally anticipated.
The average student owes $33,654 but, taking into account interest and principal payments over a decade, based on their federal loan interest rates, they will end up paying $41,913. These loan payments sneak up on fresh graduates, especially as a result of 2012, when 53% of graduating Millennials didn’t have a job. For Generation Z students, largely those who just graduated amidst Covid-19, take a moment to review the terms and agreements of your loans and craft a budget for how to pay the loan back, while acquiring the least amount of interest. Here are a few resources to help you calculate your student loan amount, and determine repayment plans:
- SoFi: A community of resources in place to help people get a hold of their finances, whether that’s refinancing your student loan or getting renters insurance…it’s all in one place. They even offer free career coaching and financial guidance!
- Financial Aid Tool Kit: This website is intended for counselors to help students understand their loan options but is littered with great resources for anyone to access.
- Student Loan Forgiveness Programs: Check out this site to see if you are eligible to have your student loans forgiven. It entails a detailed application process, and stringent requirements…however you may meet them!
- Student Loan Calculator: You can use this free calculator to determine based upon your loan amount and terms what your monthly payment will be after graduation. This may help you determine how much you take out for a loan and what you decide to earn working part-time instead.
2. Be conscious of your financial spending.
How you spend your money says a lot about you. Millennials have reshaped the way they spend money, being less likely to purchase new cars and, rather than buy expensive items, they invest in experiences. This spending mentality has crafted a generation spearheading the sharing economy, opening an entirely new way to travel (Lyft), vacation (Airbnb), and even raise money (gofundme).
All this being said, Millennials have taken on an average $27,900 in personal debt, with the largest sources of this debt being credit cards, or mortgages…not student loans. While this may sound like a financial red flag, 22% of millennials shared they don’t know the interest rate they’re being charged. The impact of this financial debt, according to a study by SoFi, includes a delay in starting families, and a spike in overall stress… Don’t let your financial debt overshadow your graduation and time as a young adult. Prioritize your finances now, nd set yourself up for long term stability. Here a few tips to put into practice:
- Employee matching 401(k): Take advantage of the tax benefits from your employer matching retirement account. If they offer to add 3% into your fund, do what you need to in order to reach this, because it is essentially free money, or a bump in your salary depending on how you look at it. For instance, if you make $50,000 a year and they are willing to match 3% up to 5% you put down…that is an extra $2,625 a year from your employer.
- “Round up” savings: To start saving small, lean on roundup apps like Acorn that take your spare change and invest them in the market. If you purchase a coffee for $3.25, Acorn will round up to $4.00 and invest the $0.75 for you. This small change doesn’t hit your wallet hard, but over the years you can rack up some significant savings.
3. Do work that adds value.
Millennials’ parents (primarily Baby Boomers born between 1946-1964) grew up in the backdrop of the “American Dream” goal and channeled a great deal of competition and hard work into their careers— so much so, that many reported being hesitant to take time off work out of fear of losing their place on the corporate ladder. Most Millennials grew up observing this mentality, and found the downsides (absenteeism from family time, poor physical and mental health) unappealing. According to an Intelligence Group study, 64% of Millennials would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love, than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring.
The benefits of this type of work? A happier and healthier life. When you do work that is intimately connected with your purpose and dreams, you step into a positive mindset with higher confidence. In fact, one study found that older people with positive moods are 35% less likely to die within the next five years. All this positive energy attracts people and opportunities your way, which in turn can also make you live longer since people with strong social connections live an average of 3.7 years longer than their less-social counterparts. Happy people really do live longer. Not only that, but happy employees are 12% more productive and the more productive you are, the better your chances of a promotion. Perhaps millennials do have it figured out…when you do work you value, your productive and positive mindset will set you up for advancement in your career and maybe even raise your salary overtime as an added bonus.
Simon Sinek gave a famous TEDx talk on finding your why, the driving purpose behind everything that you do. The more you are immersed in work that is directly connected to something you deeply value, the more engaged and productive you become.
If you aren’t sure what you value, or what your personal why is, ask yourself a few questions:
- What is the one thing you wouldn’t be the same person without doing or having in your life?
- When have you been the most happy in your life? What were you doing and what was driving this happiness forward?
- On your deathbed, how will you measure your life?
- Where do you feel yourself come most alive? What activities, missions or circumstances make your body feel a sense of inspiration and expansion?
4. What was does not have to be what is.
Millennials have spearheaded the idea of truly going after what you want in life. While they have been labeled as entitled, they have also proven to be an incredibly resourceful generation, a lesson that Generation Z, and really, any generation, can learn from. If you can’t find a job you like…create one. If you can’t find a business you want to work for…create it.
More than 50% of Millennials have side hustles, and in some instances, these side hustles are bringing them major income. Creating a business is easier now that it has ever been before, largely in part due to the expansion of the internet; the life of your dreams is surprisingly doable from the comfort of your own living room. Take it from millennials: with the power of persistence and dedication, you can build your own life.
5. You are your number one priority.
The data is in, and loneliness has hit an all time high with two in ten adults reporting they often feel lonely and lack companionship. Not only that but 40 million Americans are affected by anxiety and depression. This lack of connection has driven Millennials to prioritize mental health and personal development. According to a recent survey, a whopping 72% of millennial women made mental health and self-care a top need while 94% of all Millennials have made personal improvement a priority.
The reality is, self-care is so much more than getting a message or taking a vacation, it comes down to doing the things that will set your health and life up for the most success. There are a handful of unique ways you can weave self-care into your workday. Unlike some generations, millennials aren’t afraid to put money into their personal health and time on a therapist’s couch. This investment of time, energy and money in therapy has some substantial benefits: improved communication skills, learned coping skills and even reduced chronic pain to name a few. Don’t feel ready or necessarily want to meet with someone in person? Here are a few apps you can use instead:
- Talkspace: A therapy app that lets you connect directly to a therapist online or even via text communication. You will be matched with a therapist who you can connect with from anywhere for as low as $49 per week.
- Insight Timer: An app and online community centered in meditation. While they offer guided meditations and soothing music the app also includes vibrant talks from a variety of guest speakers. It not only helps you destress, but explains the science and insight behind it all.
- Calm: Another meditation app, that has some great resources specific to helping you improve and get higher quality sleep.
Instead of blindingly walking into the future determined that you know what is best, take a moment to learn about those that came before you. It would be a shame to ignore what a previous generation went through and repeat history yourself.