Millennials, Labor, and Financial Independence

Lewis Walker |

Labor Day, celebrated this year on September 6th,  was conceived as a tribute to work and workers. For each individual, “work” has varying meanings but one of the more basic is pursuit of a paycheck, breadwinning. The long-term reward for a lifetime of work, in addition to meaning, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment, should be security and financial independence.

According to The Wall Street Journal, some members of the millennial generation are finding the road to security and independence rife with potholes (“Older Millennials Are Earning More, but Finding Less Security,” Julia Carpenter, 8/13/21). The oldest millennials, born in 1980, turn 41 in 2021. The youngest millennials, circa 1994, turn 27 this year. A mid-point millennial turns 34. Quoting Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ms. Carpenter notes that workers hit their median weekly earnings between ages 35 to 54. After that, earnings often decrease or plateau. “But,” she notes, “workers experience the greatest gain in earnings when they jump from the 25-to-34 to the 35-t0-44 age bracket.” Where are you on the age-wave opportunity continuum?

Citing various sources, Carpenter notes delayed home-ownership and family formation, as well as higher debt-to-income ratios and other financial obligations as squeezing budgets. Couples are waiting longer to tie the knot and/or buy their first home. In 2020 the average age for a first marriage was 30.5 years for men, 28.1 years for women; the median age of a first-time home buyer was 33 years old. More college graduates go on to graduate school, owing roughly half of the outstanding $1.5 trillion in student debt. With leading edge millennials approaching their theoretical high-earning years, the above factors are creating elevated levels of insecurity in their pursuit of freedom from worry  and feelings of coming up short vis-à-vis expectations.

We are battling a world-changing pandemic, now COVID-2.0 with the Delta variant. Get vaccinated if you’ve not done so and heed the advice of Albert Einstein who counseled, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” Employers are screaming that they can’t find enough qualified people. If there was ever a time to match your talents, knowledge, skills, and strengths with exploding demand and up your game, this is it!

Human capital consultant, Maria C. Forbes, Chief Engagement Officer (CEO),, Norcross, GA, advises, “To land your dream position, look beyond a job description and seek a ‘role description.’ What role will you play in the company at large and with a team in particular? Do you have synergistic talents and abilities that can complement team effectiveness? Does the envisioned role and the mission and vision of the team and the company overall ignite your passions and bolster your sense of meaning and purpose? If you cannot answer these questions, your next job is likely to be just another way station in a long line of energy-draining moves.”

In addition to having a plan to understand, showcase, and maximize your inherent strengths, energies, and passions in the world of work, as an employee, leader, creator, entrepreneur, etc., you need a plan, a comprehensive financial and human capital plan. If you’re married, since opposites generally attract, your spouse or partner likely will have very different talents, strengths, and attitudes relative to family matters, career objectives, earning, saving, spending, goals, the future. Disagreements involving such factors are leading causes for divorce, a major disruption to financial plans and dreams. The creation of and maintenance of a financial life plan is crucial to long-term success and life satisfaction.

You need “what if?” plans to roll with the unexpected, financial and otherwise. The appropriate legal documents are foundational to matters involving severe illness or injury, disability, and death. Insurance, including health, life, disability, and liability, should be in sync with your assets, liabilities, earning power, and survivorship needs. If your first child arrives in your early 30’s, you’ll have teenagers ready for college in your late 40’s or early 50’s, facing high cost years. You may encounter “sandwich generation” obligations regarding aging loved ones. When it comes to asset accumulation involving diversified stock portfolios as one engine of wealth and security, TIME is more important than timing. If a closely-held business is key to financial independence, are you building a lifestyle business or a true enterprise? When it comes to your business and/or other investment components, do you understand the elements of value-acceleration?

Speaking of “time,” how old will you be ten years from today? How old will those you love and care for be? What challenges do you see? What opportunities? What’s your financial and human capital life plan to deal with challenges, both positive and negative? The answers to these questions underpin the first step in creating a written life centered financial plan and future-focused vision statement. Where do you strive to be in life by 2031...less than 120 months away!