As 2023 winds down, members of all generations can find common ground on financial New Year’s resolutions — but also their own flavors.
Classics like, “I’ll create and stick to a budget,” “I’ll focus on paying down debt” and “I’ll maintain an emergency fund” apply to many of us regardless of age. Unfortunately, we also share low odds of keeping these commitments. A recent Forbes study showed that more than half of all New Year’s resolutions are toast within three months, and that only 6% survive the whole year.
That tracks with research done by Suzanne Scullion, the Virginia-based founder of G.R.A.C.E. Financial Coaching. She says the key to greater success with resolutions, including financial ones, is tracking them with a partner.
“New Year’s resolutions do not work without a plan a place,” she said. “The most important thing of all for your plan is accountability. Your accountability partner could be a financial coach who you pay to work with you. It could be your best friend.”
Scullion qualifies as a “xenial” — an older member of the millennial generation. Her advice also applies to other generations such as baby boomers, Gen X, millennials (also known as Gen Y) and Gen Z.
Liz Hagg is a member of Gen X and a Ramsey Preferred Financial Coach based in Pennsylvania. She says strong financial resolutions are smart, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART). “Whether you’re married or single, take the time right now to write down your goals for 2024,” Hagg advised. “Remember, they need to be SMART goals.”
That’s also good advice for pretty much everyone, but members of different generations face specific challenges as well. Note that while these timeframes for each generation are widely accepted, there is still some debate. Regardless, let’s look at how different generations may compare when it comes to money resolutions.
Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)
Daniel Roccato has loads of insights about generational finances. For starters, he’s a clinical professor of finance at the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business. He’s also a boomer himself, with Gen X children, who has taught millennials and members of Gen Z.
By the end of 2024, everyone in the boomer generation will be at least 60. Roccato says the resolution environment for many of these boomers is not great these days.
“One word is ‘worry,'” he said. “Many boomers are not ready to pay for retirement. The reality is starting to sink in, ‘Where is my paycheck going to come from?'”
Roccato notes that less than 20% of Americans are covered by traditional pensions, and that resolutions for boomers may need to include extending employment — at least in the form of part-time work or flex work. They also may want to resolve to save more, pay down debt and “right-size.”
“Maybe it’s time to move to a 1,500-square-foot home in a less expensive community,” Roccato said.
If you’re a boomer who doesn’t have long-term care insurance, Scullion advises putting that at the top of your resolution list. Often referred to as LTC, this insurance helps to cover you in the event of a long-term illness or disability.
“The New Years resolution that boomers should be looking at is long-term care insurance,” Scullion said. “They’re now at an age where one fall could bring about the end of a career. The longer you wait, the more expensive it will be. There will be thousands of people in the U.S. this year who sit down and think, ‘I wish I had done that. I wish my parents had done it.'”
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Generation X (Born 1965-1980)
Many Gen Xers face competing financial goals. “There is a lot of financial stress ahead of you,” Roccato said. “You have dual threats: How do I save for my kids’ education and save for retirement?”
He said that a key factor for handling this — and this is where New Year’s resolutions may come in — is to be wary of the temptation to upsize your life. “It’s best not to bite off more than you can chew,” Roccato said, adding that he advises people to be careful, not live like monks. “People tend to trade up to a bigger house, that more expensive car they’ve always wanted.”
Hagg also preaches caution around unsustainable upsizing. “The key … is being clear on your goals,” she said. “Decide together with your spouse or partner, and then create a plan.”
Scullion says the best financial resolution for Gen Xers is creating and staying on a budget. She also notes that upsizing/downsizing traps can go both ways. She has clients who downsized too early. Now they would like to get back into a larger home, but higher interest rates are making that a challenge.
“It’s not that upgrading or upsizing is a bad thing,” Scullion said. “It’s about what that does to your current payments or current budget.”
Millennials, aka Generation Y (Born 1981-1996)
Resolutions around homeownership are key for many millennials, experts say. “If you haven’t bought a house yet, you really need to,” Roccato advised.
Unfortunately, this is more of a struggle these days for millennials — especially younger millennials — due to higher interest rates and other financial hardships. “I think millennials are very sad that they missed the boat on homebuying,” Scullion said. “The older millennials had the chance to purchase a home, and a lot of them did.”
Scullion notes that many younger millennials were raised on the YOLO (“You only live once”) and FOMO (“Fear of missing out”) ways of living. So they’ve tended to prioritize life experiences over budgeting and savings. That can provide good fodder for New Year’s resolutions.
“Hopefully you enjoyed those fun experiences,” Scullion said. “But now is the time to get on a budget, increase savings and decrease debt.”
Roccato notes that many millennials entered the workforce at the tail end of the Great Recession and were already playing catch-up financially. In addition to homeownership, he recommends resolutions around getting rid of high-variable/high-interest debt, and deep investments in career advancement.
Generation Z (Born 1997-2012)
Members of Gen Z, the oldest of whom turned 26 this past year, are just getting started with their careers and financial goals. Starting the right way is crucial, so experts advise keeping that in mind as they craft resolutions.
“For Gen Z, it’s about starting on the right foot,” Roccato said “You don’t want to start the race behind on savings, in debt.”
Roccato’s New Year’s resolutions for Gen Zers include:
- Try to get into the housing market, and don’t get discouraged if it takes a couple of years.
- Finish your degree and invest in your career.
- Aspire to save 15% of your income.
Scullion recommends a firmer 10% and learning to live off 90% of your income from the start. “Forget that the other 10% is even there” she said. “Now you are learning to live on less than you make. I would say start with 10, then with each raise, probably throw another percent in there.”
If you have debt, Hagg advises putting a portion of any new raise you receive toward that debt each month. “Have a vision for your future,” Hagg added. “Start to contribute to your retirement. If you aren’t taking the match, start there.”
Generation Alpha (Born 2012-)
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z Compare Money Resolutions for 2024
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