Secrets of Millennial Millionaires: Pointers to Build Wealth Early, Often

Learn how starting early, setting goals and sticking to them can help you build wealth, at a young age, and for the long-term.

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Every generation must lug around its own figurative baggage. For millennials, the stereotypes include an addiction to selfies and an inability to escape from mom and dad’s basement.

But these are, of course, just stereotypes. When it comes to managing money wisely, saving for retirement—even becoming millionaires while they’re young—millennials may have a leg up on their parents and grandparents. In fact, some are already millionaires, and became so without hitting the jackpot in Silicon Valley or showing up on a “30 under 30” list.

So what are the “secrets” of millennial millionaires? Those who established wealth and financial independence early embrace these components into their investing, career and life strategies:

Have a Plan, Set Goals

Not really a secret here – just a firm grasp of the fundamentals. This includes establishing and maintaining a sensible budget, using credit cards wisely (if at all), monitoring your net worth and regularly assessing your progress.

Savers vs. Spenders

FIGURE 1: SAVERS VS. SPENDERS

From TD Ameritrade's 2016 Millennials and Money Survey (Graphic: TD Ameritrade)

“Coming up with a disciplined plan and sticking to it is important,” says Robert Siuty, Senior Financial Consultant at TD Ameritrade. “One needs to have an approach that is defined, something that puts all the pieces of their financial situation together. Starting early and saving regularly is key."

Plus, a recent Goal Planning Survey by TD Ameritrade revealed that those with a plan are more confident and have set higher goals for retirement.

Get Paid What You’re Worth

How much you’re getting paid today ranks at the top of the list, according to Grant Sabatier, who runs the Millennial Money blog. “A vast majority of the people I know just simply aren’t making enough money to be able to accumulate $1 million within the next 10-20 years,” Sabatier wrote. “The math just doesn’t work.”

Sabatier suggests talking to recruiters and research salaries to get a sense of what kind of money people with similar experience and skills are making in your field. Then, if you’re making less than market rate, take that information to your boss and ask for a raise.

Save, Save, Save—Pay Yourself First

Millennials are entirely capable of socking money away, and many are already doing so. According to a 2016 TD Ameritrade survey, 72% of millennials were already saving for retirement. In the TD Ameritrade Millennials and Money survey, 62% identified as savers and 80% had a budget.

When weighing investment alternatives, a top consideration should be investing in yourself. And one way to invest in yourself is to make regular contributions into a savings or investment account. Better yet, make things automatic, says Sabatier: Have your company deposit at least 20% of your income directly into an investment account before you even see it.

Young and Savvy?

FIGURE 2: YOUNG AND SAVVY?

From TD Ameritrade's 2016 Millennials and Money Survey (Graphic: TD Ameritrade)

Tap Multiple Income Streams

Explore all the “Gig Economy” possibilities—ride-hailing services, website building, dog-walking, you name it ... if it’s something that can be ordered up via a few taps on a smartphone, there may be potential to make some extra bucks.

Avoid the temptation to spend this money right away. “Think of your ‘side hustle’ as a key to building wealth (over the long-term) instead of just being rich today,” Sabatier says.

Invest in What You Know

Learn to spot here-today-gone-tomorrow fads and recognize where consumers are going over the long haul. “Boring” doesn’t mean “bad.” It’s common-sense investing, says Sabatier. The stock market tends to favor things that are “useful and essential” to our lives, says Sabatier, who says he allocates 20% of his investment capital toward individual companies’ products that “I use and believe in.”

Know Your (Recent) History; Never Stop Learning

Many millennials are old enough to remember the Great Recession (and what caused it), but young enough to avoid lasting damage. Take the initiative to educate yourself on how the markets work, what separates good investments from bad and apply lessons from the mistakes of your forebears.

Have a Financial Mentor

Just as a workplace mentor can help you shape your career goals and put you on a path toward achieving them, a financial mentor can help you set and follow your financial goals.

And for many, it starts with our family. Though money is often considered a “taboo topic,” there can be tremendous value in openness—from learning good saving and spending habits to learning from the mistakes of others.

You may also choose to seek help from a financial professional. "Having an advisor to help pursue your goals could be a big help toward accumulating assets,” says Siuty, “mainly due to the fact that an advisor can assist in keeping their client on track.” He recommends periodic reviews of your financial situation and to “make the necessary changes along the way to help you pursue your goals."

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