You are Going to Have a Problem

I am a “Baby-Boomer”. It makes me feel better to say that I was born at the tail end of that generation, not because of my age (I’m happy with being in my 50’s), but because I have seen how illiterate and irresponsible my generation has been, and continues to be, with money. It seems that the “Greatest Generation” raised an entire generation of spoiled brats, who now, after living well beyond their means, have on average, across the country, of about sixty thousand dollars in savings for their retirement. Guess who is going to make up the difference?

Let’s add another layer: hopefully, it is no surprise to you that our national government is deep in debt, and it is rising to exponential levels. Even now, the federal government is borrowing money to pay back money it borrowed. The interest on this debt is money that is and will be taken out of the economy. This is not good for you or the economy. What you don’t hear much about though, is that the states are in debt too. Some are on the edge of bankruptcy. Guess who is going to be called upon to pay for this debt?

Robert J. Shanahan, Jr.

How about another layer? It should be no secret to you that the number of elderly people is growing fast. It is reasonable to assume that these folks are going to need additional medical care, housing, and social services as they age. It is unbelievable that no one in authority is even mentioning this issue. What’s worse is that, right now, today, the present programs are tapped-out—they cannot handle the work they have now, let alone what is coming. Social Security is bankrupt, in that the money collected from your paycheck is placed in the federal treasury and immediately spent on other things (another loan you will have to pay). Then, the incidence of dementia is going to double by 2025, and triple soon thereafter. This will affect everything about life in our society, and no one in authority is even talking about it. The pressure on families and businesses will be extensive. Government will be forced to do something, but what? We haven’t a clue.

I can add additional layers, but I think you get the picture, and I don’t want to sound like one of those guys depicting the end of civilization, beckoning you to run out and buy gold (although some gold might be smart). I do want you to think about these issues and, as they say in the Scouts, “Be Prepared”. Please don’t be like those before you. Do something to protect yourself. And, no, I am not a financial advisor, so I am not giving you financial advice. See a qualified professional for that. I am writing this as an attorney who helps people buy homes, start businesses, provides estate planning tools like Last Wills and Trusts, and other services, to help you increase the client’s quality of life.

How Do I Get Out of This Mess?

I have lived long enough to realize that when my thoughts turn to, “How do I get out of this mess?”, it usually means that I can’t get out of this mess. I didn’t cause it, but I have to live through it, just like all of the previous generations dealt with their historical circumstances, before me. Look at the “Greatest Generation”. When they became of age, “all the lights went out”…the Great Depression, World War II, etc. They had to deal with those circumstances; they didn’t create them. I was born into my circumstances; you have yours. No way out. Except…

Stay Out of Debt

No matter what happens to the economy, whether there is a downward turn or malaise in the short-term or long-term, staying out of debt is going to be crucial for you. Except for maybe taking out a mortgage to buy a house, you should avoid debt. Pay off your credit card debt every month, no matter what. If you can avoid student loans, do it. If you can’t, then make sure that the career you are likely to enter will pay off your student loans quickly. Don’t saddle your future happiness by being held back by the debt you owe. Everything else in your life will be very expensive, and the government will be after more and more of your money. You will need the money for other things.

Establish an Emergency Fund

One way to stay out of debt is to open a dedicated savings account for emergencies. If you need a new water heater, major repair to your car, or if you lose your job, you can fund it through your emergency fund, rather than putting it on your credit card and paying some high interest rate. Interest should only be something that is paid to you; not something you pay to others. Financial advisors recommend this fund contain from three to six months’ worth of your monthly income. Start now. No excuses.

Save Money for Retirement

I don’t care if you can only save ten dollars a month and you are only twenty years old. Put money away for retirement! See a certified financial planner and start now. You will need millions of dollars saved in order to retire comfortably. Yes, millions. You won’t have it if you start saving in your forties. Start NOW.

Live in a State Which is in Good Financial Shape and Has Low Taxes

If you can, live in a state that has not spent itself into oblivion and has low taxes. This may be difficult for some because of family and jobs, but if you can live elsewhere, you will save thousands. After I graduated from law school, I decided that I wanted to return home to New Jersey. This was an emotional decision. I had been elsewhere and, with rare exception, I liked New Jersey, particularly Hunterdon County, where I now practice law. Recently I saw a presentation on why people are leaving my state. I wanted to cry. By choosing to live here, it cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax money which could have been used by me for more pressing things, had I lived in a neighboring state. It’s gotten so bad that those facing retirement can’t afford to remain in New Jersey with their friends and family. New Jersey is not the only state with this issue. It’s a generational problem.

Be Financially Literate at All Times

How anyone can graduate from high school and not know how to keep a checkbook, how to handle a credit card, or take out a loan to buy a car, is beyond me. But so are many other things, beyond me. There are a lot of books and information out there for you to learn and absorb. Much of it is basic, some even entertaining. Read it! Learn it! Keep apprised of what is going on in the financial world. But think before you do anything with your money. Above all, find a financial planner with whom you can work. Find someone with whom you are comfortable. Someone who keeps you informed and doesn’t just tell you to “stay the course”. Ask them how they get paid, and make sure that method is in your interest. It might be better if you had to pay for services, rather than your financial advisor being paid by the investment funds via commission.

Millennials have much before them which is unknown. In order to accomplish the happy things in life, like buying a house, raising a family, building financial tools, will take a firm foundation. Societal challenges will be great, but with some basic rules and planning, Millennials will be able to thrive even in the tough circumstances into which they were born.

Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. Esq. focuses his practice in estate planning, elder law and probate matters. Mr. Shanahan additionally practices in business law and non-profit matters. He is a trained, experienced mediator and offers dispute resolution services, particularly for those arising from probate and elder law matters. Additionally, Mr. Shanahan’s firm, Law Offices of Robert J. Shanahan, Jr., LLC, offers a breadth of additional services to families and businesses throughout central New Jersey.

Mr. Shanahan received his Juris Doctor from the Temple University School of Law in 1985, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year.  He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1981 from William Paterson University, with honors. Robert is a member and Past President of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, and is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and its Elder Law and Disability Section.  He is also active in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Robert is a member of the Hunterdon Medical Center’s Bio Ethics Committee and was awarded a Five Star Financial Services Professional Award for 2016.

You may contact Bob at (908) 751-1551, or [email protected].