Why Retirees and Millennials Face a Tug of War

My father wasn’t a drill sergeant. But when I was a kid, and things didn’t go my way, he would tell me to “toughen up.” When I complained about high school, he reminded me of his own teenaged years in England: “When I was 16 years old, I worked full-time as a mechanic’s apprentice. At night, I studied at a vocational college to become a full-fledged mechanic. And nearly all the money I earned went to my parents.”

I’m part of the so-called Generation X. But my father and I shared a certain trait. I also believed the next generation–in my case, millennials or Generation Y– needed to toughen up. Plenty of people say millennials aren’t resilient. Too many people in their 20s were told they were special when they were kids. They often earned sports medals and trophies just for showing up.

Simon Sinek wrote the bestselling book, Leaders Eat Last. In an interview with Inside IQ Quest, he shared his thoughts on millennials. He says they were raised to be entitled, self-absorbed and emotionally vulnerable to failure. Maybe he’s right. Perhaps they were coddled more than previous generations. But my view has come full-circle. Today, I have a soft spot for millennials.

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Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions. However, please read the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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6 Responses

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  2. Jen says:

    Hm..Andrew…I’m not sure I totally have a spot for millennials like u do nor the iGen born from 1995 onward. I come from a country where there is no social security anyways….so I don’t have that to look forward..I am the same age as u. Millennial s often live at home and parents and grandparents give cash and cars….I certainly never had that. Age 18 was time to stand on own two feet and make it work. No one paid tertiary education for me… I scrimped for a second hand car. My 3 nieces and nephew ( 2 millennial s and one IGen)… live at home..or are subsidised ( from struggling 50 something parents)..for medical aid and car insurance. They were each given a car ( althu second hand). The eldest has free child care and even the milk and nappies bought. One is lucky enough to have a defined pension..the other not but a decent wage but the igen struggles at work…leaving jobs easily. They r not resilient as we have had to be. I know the world has changed…but many of us can only dream to have all the cosy looking after, hand outs from family etc. Sorry if I sound bitter..I,m not meaning it to. I sincerely that stocks don’t drop and stagnate for yrs….I have worked hard and tolerated so much in those jobs to fund my retirement. And when one sometimes reads media comments of younger people saying things like….the elderly should not vote….the elderly take up to much housing..the elderly have made the world bad for us..it makes my blood boil. I am only 49….but I am sandwhiched between those who had defined pensions and the cosy,looked after millennial lot…many of them saying they r relying on an inheritance. I don’t know….mayb others feel like me,…or not…but that’s my subjective experience.

    • Hi Jen,

      Plenty of people echo your feelings about millennials. What you say makes a lot of sense.

      We have different hopes for the stock market, however. I don’t have a lot invested, compared to what I will have when I reach retirement age. As a 48 year old, that gives me about 17 more years of accumulating stock market assets. It doesn’t make sense for me to wish higher prices during that strong, accumulation stage. I would much prefer to see stagnating or falling prices for at least the next dozen years. Warren Buffett says that’s how someone our age should think.


      • Jen says:

        I thought u were financially free (retired now)…and cruising the world feeling free…so I thought u,d want stocks high??. I suppose I think we’ll if I lose my job now..I don’t want it going down..bcos I had live off the 4% draw down. Either way …I just hope the 4%drawdown works.

        • Jen,

          The 4% drawdown principle works. It would have worked even if you had retired in 1929. It would also have worked if you retired in 1973-1974. These would have been history’s two most horrific times to retire. Yet, the 4% drawdown principle worked.

          I would love to see stocks fall. I am still earning an income and adding money to my investments. I write a weekly article for AssetBuilder. I also often write for The Globe and Mail and for Internaxx. But I’m able to work while I travel. I’m many years away from doing nothing. I have enough money to retire today. But I’m far too young to do nothing.

          If you lose your job, Jen, you will likely hustle to find a new one. Most people keep a 3-6 month cash reserve in case they lose their jobs. That makes sense. It allows them to cover costs until they find another job.

          You are far too young to want to see stocks rise.


  3. Irina says:

    Hi Andrew!

    I am an 18 year old from the U.S & I luckily had a math teacher my sophomore year of high school who read your book & decided to take a month out of our already-packed curriculum to teach us the basics of investing too. (I am so grateful, I only regret waiting until after high school to read Millionaire Teacher for myself & actually get started on Vanguard. However, I am still starting young so I am super grateful for my teacher & for you!!)

    I began a personal investment account with 5,000 which came as a refund from my university (I am essentially getting paid for my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science so I thank God for scholarships and WA State Grants!!), & I purchased1/2 S&P 500 fund, 1/4 VXUS & 1/4 VTI (latter 2 are ETFs). Then, my dad got on my case about not opening a Roth IRA for this, & so I did that & sold it all to move it, so I can take advantage of free, untaxed returns. (Also waiting until age 59.5 is not a problem for me because the boy I am courting is investing with Vanguard with significantly more (closer to what you put in as a teacher) annually, so if we want to retire early we’ll use that.)

    BUT, after reading your book & listening to both parts of the interview you did with Paula on Afford Anything, I would like some advice on allocating my investments for the next few years, or more like for the rest of my life haha. The guy I’m courting is planning to stick to Vanguard’s target retirement & just set up an automatic deposit so he can almost forget about it. I planned to do the same, but since I’m sticking with a Roth IRA which currently has a 5,500 maximum annual contribution, I am thinking of having 1/4 be S&P 500 (admiral shares because Vanguard just lowered the minimum from 10,000 to 3,000 woohoo!!) & the rest be the target investment (VLXVX). And I too will do an automatic deposit, 468 a month (because that is the IRS max 5500 divided by 12 months) with money I make from my part-time job & refunds from school.

    I am seeking your personal advice & maybe what you would/wouldn’t do in my place (or in the place of my soon-fiance because he has a lot more money to “play with” haha. (Also, he is 20 if that is helpful to know.)) Also, if I do end up wanting to invest more than what I can in an IRA, later when I graduate from university, should I then invest with my personal account? It seems the money would compound slower since it would be divided between accounts, so it can’t have that exponential growth as quickly. But, still that’s better than not investing that extra at all! Please let me know what you think & just any general advice you have for my situation!

    Thank you so much for all that you do & that you’ve done! God bless you for sharing so much financial knowledge with the world! And if you don’t get the chance to reply, that is absolutely understandable. Best wishes to you & your wife! 🙂

    • Hi Irina,

      It sounds like you’ve had some great mentors: your teacher, your father, and your boyfriend too. I would keep things simple. Max out everything you can in your IRA with one of Vanguard’s Target Retirement funds. Then put any extra savings in a personal account with Vanguard, buying the same Target Retirement fund.

      An investment that’s split between two identical accounts won’t grow any more slowly than if the full amount were invested in one account. Obviously, the IRA would have the slight edge, based on its tax-advantaged status, but with all other things being equal, $10,000 in 10 separate accounts would grow the same as $100,000 in one account.


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