Dear Generation Z, We Have a Problem
Top Life and Investment Tips for Gen Zs Joining The Work Force
None will envy the Gen Z (born between 1997 – 2012). As fledgling adults at the verge of taking responsibility for your own livelihood, you are joining the workforce at a time when markets are uncertain, unemployment is high and there is an oversupply of fresh graduates for the jobs readily available.
As a wealth management consultant, I have heard and seen enough – the doubts, the disappointments, the questions, and the setbacks faced by young adults entering the workforce. I find that there are a few common questions that Gen Zs will ask and I hope this article will shed some light or ease some anxieties all around.
Key Problems Young Adults Joining the Workforce Face
As a young adult at the brink of taking on the full financial responsibility of my adult life, I can relate. Transitioning from a scenario where food, shelter and general comforts are provided for to one where we have to take care of bills, insurance, investment portfolios, budgeting, taxes, school debt, parents’ allowances, rent…. The list goes on and it is definitely not easy.
From a financial standpoint, things can seem unfeasible, particularly if you are mentally unprepared and have naive expectations. As a Gen Z-er, you have to find a means of income at a time when many large companies are cutting costs due to global economic uncertainty and the COVID-19 pandemic. An oversupply of university graduates adds to your challenge; finding a good job is like finding a needle in a haystack.
There are still prospects out there but expectations must be managed. Similar to the 2008 crisis, Gen Z-ers are entering the workforce at a time of great uncertainty. The best practice is to focus on what we can control at this juncture.
Like a seed, being planted in the right soil (foundation) is the hardest part. Finding a way to push through the soil is what you should be doing.
Here are a few extra tips to help you make your way:
1. Cut the Easy Money
Depending on a monthly allowance, be it from your parents or any social institution, diminishes your power and the ability to “adult”. This is because you take what is given easily without any thought to the earning of that money.
2. Develop Resilient New Habits
In some instances, overspending is a bi-product of being a dependent. The tendency to overspend kicks in when the first pay cheque arrives. It can be rather tempting to spend recklessly and impulsively. Rewarding yourself is not wrong. However, what often happens is that it becomes a habit and a year later, you realise that you’re living paycheque to paycheque, eventually falling into debt due to your lifestyle.
Be aware that it can happen to anyone so right from the start, form the good habit of not overspending.
3. Be aware of the oversupply of information
We currently have readily access to sites and platforms to learn more about money and finance. These platforms, though immensely useful in the information they provide, can also be the path to information overload. Too much access to unfiltered information can be paralyzing, and as a result, restricts us in taking action.
Additionally, social media platforms give us a looking glass into the different lifestyles that we may covet. Expectations may not meet reality in terms of lifestyle, and this can eventually lead to anxiety, jealousy and ultimately spending beyond means. All of which are energies expended in the wrong direction. It can feel terribly disenchanting to fight tooth and claw for a job with an entry-level salary when you read about teenagers making sizeable fortunes on speculative investments every other day. Expecting the same outcome of yourself is unrealistic because the truth is that everyone goes through a financial journey that is their own. Focus on what you can do within your risk tolerance.
4. Turn a potentially negative situation positive
Adjust your mindset. At this stage of life, laying the foundation for a stable future is needed. Your roots need to get grounded in the soil first before you can burst forth.
If you are unable to find a way into the job or industry that you want, one option is to take up a job temporarily — with #SGUnited for instance. Get some income. While temp job may not be ideal, look at it as reducing your opportunity costs. Use this time to work hard and learn something new. Find ways to improve your technical skills such as by taking up courses. In due time, the opportunity to do what you aspire towards will present itself.
It’s simply too costly to just sit around and do nothing. Adapt to the current circumstances.
5. Build your Financial Independence
When it comes to the financial aspect, there are three things to consider – investing, budgeting and filtering.
It is best to start small to build confidence. One good thing about investments is that it is all in the percentage gains. Whether you’re putting down $100 or $100,000, the percentage gained will be the same.
Investing a small amount and building your confidence from there will prepare you for the future.
One of the biggest sources of stress is uncertainty when it comes to your money. Budgeting can help navigate that. While it is not wrong to indulge or reward yourself, it is best to do so within a budget so you always know how much you have available. I recommend using the 3 bags approach when it comes to budgeting.
• Start with 3 bags of money. Label it as short term goals (we can allocate 30% into this bag) 0 – 5 year; mid-term goals (30%) 5 – 10 year and long term goals (40%) 10+ years.
• Salary – these are expenses to determine cash flow.
• Reserve funds (some call this as the emergency fund) of 3 – 6 months of expenses. This can be done simultaneously while saving your money over a period of time (perhaps over the course of the next 1 year – only if you are certain of your job security).
A typical budget on an income of $2,800 will look like the below:
|Reserve Funds||1st Bag (30%)||2nd Bag (30%)||3rd Bag (40%)|
6. Filter your connections
Make sure you have the right support. People who encourage you to push on, rather than discourage you with negativity, are very important. Studies have shown that both positive and negative emotions have some ability to influence the people around us. With that in mind, you will want to reduce your exposure to people who sap your enthusiasm for life.
7. Start investing early
Generally, investing early is a good move. Just ensure that you also have money for the short-term so that you do not have to liquidate investments unnecessarily. Investing is a long game, check your expenses to make sure that you are able to support yourself first.
As a wealth management consultant, I realise that most millennials and Gen Z-ers have a tendency to take on more investments rather than protection (such as in the form of insurance). While I do understand the logic of taking on more investments, at the end of the day, you must be making an informed decision of the choices that you have made. Simple protection like a medical plan are priced very modestly, making them accessible to most.. . If you are uncertain as to what options are suitable for you, speak to your financial consultant.
Investing takes time
It is always best to consider your frame of mind before you go into investing. Often today, many are of the opinion that my generation and I are synonymous with instant gratification. I have in my own capacity also encountered people who put in money today with the expectation to become a millionaire tomorrow. Investments need time to grow. Consider reaping the benefits of delayed gratification.
Going back to the plant analogy: there is no way of planting a seed today that will get you a harvest of fruits tomorrow. Recognizing that investing takes time is the essential first step to successfully building a sustainable and resilient portfolio.
Nobody is going to deny the reality that is the tough times we are living in. However grim the situation is, something can always be done. Changing your situation is usually done in small incremental steps. Practice patience and in time you will find your situation has drastically improve. Lastly, remember you are not alone in this and do not be afraid to ask for help. A wealth management consultant can potentially take a great weight off your shoulder as you navigate through the rest of your adult life. Best of luck out there.
KAIROS ADVISORY GROUP
Jack Kwong has been a financial consultant with IPP, Kairos group since 2020. He aspires to help millennials and the Gen Z break the cycle of living paycheques to paycheques, so that they can become financially independent and do more of what they love. There is always something that can be done to improve one’s financial well-being, for Jack, this endless pursuit of refinement is the most purposeful use of his time.