Twenty and Thirty-Somethings: Lost and Stockless

As we’re barreling into the new year, finances are on many of our minds. In my personal experience, I’m continuously humbled by the state of our family’s budget. The more I focus on it and work at trying to help us save more and invest wisely, I find that we’re still making ends meet paycheck-to-paycheck and not able to invest at all.

I thought we were simply inadequate or careless until I began to pick apart all our expenses and found that overall we are trying our best and yet look like a hamster running in a confined wheel. Then I read an article in the January/February issue of Money magazine that stopped my loneliness in its tracks. You can research this magazine at http://www.cnnmoney.com and if you’re able to pick up a copy of this issue, the title of the article is: “The Young and the Riskless” by Hibah Yousuf and Penelope Wang.

The article goes into the latest startling statistics including the Investment Company Institute’s stat that “only 34% of people under the age of 35 say they’re willing to take substantial or above-average risks in their portfolios” and Merrill Lynch’s recent survey that found “more than half of those 34 and younger described their risk tolerance as low.

The reasoning behind such statistics and trends in our twenty and thirty-somethings is fairly simple and understandable. I call it a perfect storm that evolved over the past decade or more. It all began with the dot.com bubble burst, followed by the mind-numbing events of 9/11 with the housing market bubble and subsequent burst only to be followed by what could be termed as a domestic market meltdown that spread to the rest of the world markets in its peak 2008-2009. For those of us who graduated college only to be greeted with the white-collar antics of Enron or the hiring freezes by companies paralyzed by terrorism and Wall Street market volatility fears, you better believe that there is a part of us that would much rather trust a ceramic piggy bank than put any spare dollars into other’s hands and fates’.

Then there is the other obvious trait that plagues this group and that is the stunning realization that many of us are surviving paycheck-to-paycheck and then some are also buckled down by debt repayments, upside-down mortgages or trying to just save some money. We may not have the same experiences as those who grew up in the Great Depression era who went on to become America’s “Greatest Generation”, yet I would argue that we’ve been damaged in our own right by disillusionment in the financial system as well as work establishments.

What to do then? Should we fold it up? Blame the Baby Boomers above us or immerse ourselves in distractions (TV, video games, social networking) that numb the pain of the financial muck most of us are in if we aren’t privileged by independent wealth?

My goal is to be as productive as possible in helping others whether by deed or even little money helps like tipping service workers like waitresses well…I also strive to be creative with how I spend/save/invest money and hopefully I can help my own family to tread through these uncertain waters of our times where entire governments carry debts so outstanding that my own unborn child shall have debt due upon his first breath.

R.V.S.B.

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Wyoming Life

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