The Worst Financial Advice Ever Given To Millennials

It’s okay to spend money on life’s indulgences once in a while. If a daily latte or weekly visit to the spa floats your boat, I say go for it. When you design your budget around the things that are important to you – while cutting out the things that aren’t – then your splurging actually becomes more like purposeful spending.

The Worst Financial Advice

What’s not okay, at least in my books, is the throw caution to the wind, you-only-live-once mantra that has become the unfortunate rallying cry of today’s youth. You only live once, or YOLO for short, is best defined by Urban Dictionary as:

“The dumbass’s excuse for something stupid that they did.”

That’s why I was seething when I read this hot piece of garbage on Elite Daily called, If you have savings in your 20s, you’re doing something wrong. I feel dirty just linking to the article, but you have to read it in its entirety to fully appreciate the worst financial advice ever given to Millennials.

It’s full of tired cliches about wasted youth and regret – like this beauty:

Don’t waste your youth worrying about expenses when you should be worrying about experiences.”

Do you know what you might regret if you follow this terrible money advice? How about not having two nickels to rub together in your 40s because you spent the entire decade of your 30s repaying the experiences you had in your 20s. With interest.

Related: When doing what you love doesn’t pay the bills

Guess what? Life doesn’t end at 30. It certainly won’t end if you don’t take a limo out to Skye Bar to spend $200 on bottle service and then puke on your friend Tyler’s lawn.

Those “experiences” sound more like an excuse to postpone adulthood, and the “regret” you feel might be that you should have stayed home and studied, or that you wish you hadn’t gone to work hungover and messed up your chance at a promotion, or you still had that $200 you spent at the bar so you could replace your flat tire.

You can still travel and enjoy the finer things in your 30s and beyond. Heck, my in-laws just got back from three-week, eight country, whirlwind tour of Europe that could put any 20-something’s backpacking itinerary to shame.

Back to the worst financial advice you’ve ever heard:

“When you’re 40, you’re not going to look back on your 20s and be grateful for the few thousand you saved. You’re going to be full of regret.”

When I look back at my 20s I regret that I had to spend the last half of that decade paying for all the mistakes I made in the first half. Maxed-out credit cards, lines of credit, store credit to buy furniture and electronics, you name it.

Related: The plight of Generation Y

I never turned down a night on the town – I’d be the one buying a round of drinks at midnight after a visit to the ATM. If I was lucky, I made the withdrawal with my debit card, but on a bad month it might have been a cash advance on my credit card. YOLO, right?

Wrong. I had a big wake-up call when my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at 26 years old. But instead of taking the news as an excuse to YOLO our way across Europe while blowing every dime we had, our instincts were to speed up our plans to start a family and settle down. We got our financial act together and enjoyed new experiences that we couldn’t even imagine in our 20s.

And because we have our finances in order, because we saved, we’re now able to spend money on life’s indulgences – the things we enjoy. As our savings grow, so does the opportunity to pursue new hobbies and explore new places – things we wouldn’t be able to do had we treated our money with irresponsible and reckless abandon.

Related: Why multiple income streams is a better emergency fund for Millennials

The best part is that it’s not hard to live life to its fullest AND save at the same time. It’s not an either-or argument. Enjoy your present self, but you also need to remember to take care of your future self.

As Warren Buffett famously said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

Make sure that someone is you.

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  1. Grant on October 5, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Well said, Rob. I think I prefer Bill Bernstein’s advice for millenials over the Bimbo.

    My favourite line is “Save like hell. Having a roommate until you’re 35 may not sound very appetizing … but that’s not half as bad as living under a bridge when you’re 70.”

  2. Joyce Picco on October 5, 2015 at 4:57 am

    I always get something out of reading your columns but this one is a little wisdom gem to be passed on to people in my circle who could benefit from thinking differently about how they intend on living their best life. Thank you for sharing your personal story as you do.

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Hi Joyce, thank you for the kind words and for sharing my story. I really appreciate it.

  3. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe on October 5, 2015 at 7:28 am

    I spend stupidly in my early 20s and spend the second half digging out from under my debt. I agree totally with your points.

    Unfortunately, lots of people in their 20s seems to have a “Don’t trust anyone over 30” attitude, no matter when they go through that stage of life. The Elite Daily article certainly has that vibe to it.

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Emily, that’s an interesting point about the younger generation not wanting to trust the advice of the older generation. I suppose that applies to every generation. Sometimes you just have to learn things for yourself.

  4. Kurt on October 5, 2015 at 8:08 am

    I couldn’t even get through the article… blind rage and the desire to beat some of my 20 something buddies with a stick prevented it about 20 words in.

    Worst part is, after they spend like mad and drive deep into debt, they vote NDP in the hopes I’ll be forced to help them recover…

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Hey now, let’s not turn this into a political forum…

      I debated doing this article because I didn’t want to give it attention (well, any more than it had already received). I shouldn’t be mad just because of what somebody wrote, but it was just so bad that I couldn’t help myself.

  5. Tawcan on October 5, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Well said, how you spend/save in your 20’s will shape how well financially you are later on. YOLO is a stupid mantra and that article you linked is probably one of the worst written advice columns ever.

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 1:03 pm

      Hi Tawcan, that’s a great point about building good habits when you’re young. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to start a regular savings plan when you’re young, even if you’re still up to your eyeballs in debt. Soon your $25 per paycheque will turn into $200 per paycheque.

  6. TIm on October 5, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Don’t think there was a lick of rational thought in that EliteDaily piece. Couldn’t agree more with your final few points – as someone around the age in question it’s not particularly hard to enjoy doing the extracurriculars like travelling & going out while also saving for the future.

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      Well said, Tim! Glad you’re finding that balance.

  7. DivGuy on October 5, 2015 at 9:57 am

    I think the real answer is to balance both, as you quickly mention. We never know what life holds for us so it’s not really better to spend your days doing things you don’t like to save when you don’t know if you’re still be there in a couple years, months or even days!

    Like you said, we must enjoy present time while still taking care of future!


    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Mike, this Calvin & Hobbes comic sums up my feelings on living for the moment –

      • DivGuy on October 9, 2015 at 7:13 am

        Funny comic!
        During my 20’s, I did both: enjoyed life and still save money. I guess it’s called “work hard, play hard” :-). YOLO sounds like an excuse to do stupid things, but living according to your means doesn’t seem very exciting either. I don’t want to be that guy who dies from cancer at 45 with 500K in his RRSP.

  8. Michael James on October 5, 2015 at 10:43 am

    That article sounds like a cynical ploy to tell people what they want to hear. It’s much easier to write if you lie to people who want to be lied to rather than telling them the truth.

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      @Michael James – I was secretly hoping that was just how 20-something New Yorkers acted and it wasn’t a broader generational thing. But I think I might be wrong about that.

  9. Bryan on October 5, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I will happily admit I have derived nothing from the dozen or so EliteDaily articles I have read in my life. I will more happily admit that Boomer & Echo has legitimately increased my savings and even made me money (wooo free contest winner here!). So yes, I am biased. But I am in my late 20s. Graduated with 28K+ of student debt and had 2 goals in mind. Pay off the loan. Then save for a house. I cut my frivolous expenses (complete opposite of that article) and was able to pay off the loan in 2 years, and buy a house 2 years ago.
    I networked AT WORK, not at the bar, and landed a career job. That was what paved the way for success. I have several friends also in their late 20s, some in their 30s now, who still have student loans (and other debts), live at home, and no prospect of changing either scenario anytime soon. I think that article may have been based on them…
    But now, just shy of 30. I have no consumer/school debt. A steady income. And paid vacation time to take vacations. Life doesn’t sound too rough from here on out. I think early-20s-me can forgive me for missing out on that “limo out to Skye Bar to spend $200 on bottle service and then puke on your friend Tyler’s lawn.”

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      Hey Bryan, thanks for the vote of confidence!

      Sounds like you’ve done well for yourself and have the right mindset for building wealth. Way to go!

      Yes, networking at work, not at the bar – what a novel concept! Man, I was hustling in my 20s. I joined the board at economic development, sat on a few Chamber of Commerce committees, joined the Rotary Club, and was even president of the local air show for a year. Outside of Rotary, none of those activities cost me a dime.

  10. David on October 5, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    What a bonehead way of looking at life… does she think she won’t get past 30??? and when she does and gets there with sweet f*** all no doubt she will whine about how everything is stopping her getting ahead financially……. these people are just plain stupid…
    When I was working I always tried to have at least 6 months worth of salary in the bank just in case the work went tits up…When we had a mortgage it was supported by only one salary, just in case one of our jobs went tits up…….. Now retired and mortgage free we spend what we like for what we need not WANT..

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      Hi David, the YOLO mentality doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider that most of us will live a pretty damn long time. If you were forced into a casino with $100 and told that you had to make it last for an hour, would you just shrug your shoulders and put it all on black the second you got there?

  11. Tyler on October 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    “Guess what? Life doesn’t end at 30. It certainly won’t end if you don’t take a limo out to Skye Bar to spend $200 on bottle service and then puke on your friend Tyler’s lawn.”

    I don’t mind. The protein in the puke really makes my lawn shine.

    • Echo on October 5, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Beats watering it, eh Tyler?

  12. Carolyn on October 5, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I am in my late twenties. I’ve been on four trips to Europe, also to Iceland, Panama and some other places in Canada and the US. My family lives out of town and I visit them a few times a year. I paid for a wedding with my husband. I like to shop and have spent too much money on clothes.
    I also have over $20,000 in the bank.
    It’s true, you only live once. But I’m hoping to live for a long time! It’s a lot more about balance than choosing saving or splurging.

    • Michael G on October 6, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Excellent point. I love to travel and I found out that spending time planning the budget while not robbing myself from the experiences is actually more fun that booking up fancy hotels and packages (and repaying it months after)

  13. Garth on October 5, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    You all might be interested in what “Mister Money Mustache” has to say after reading the same article. I will warn you that he is not as polite about it as our host here…

  14. Richard on October 5, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    The ironic part is that this whole idea seems to be based on believing you’ll earn more later on, but some of those opportunities will be cut off if you don’t have the financial stability to go after them. Even the best case doesn’t sound that good. This is just low expectations.

  15. Michael G on October 6, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Author’s credentials pretty much sum up her core competences 🙂

    “… a Senior Lifestyle Writer at Elite Daily. After graduating from PSU, she moved to NYC to write fart jokes at Smosh Magazine. Making her way to ED, she now writes riveting commentary on nude pics, condoms and first dates”

  16. Tamir on October 11, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I used to get ridiculed by my colleagues for still living at home well into my 20s, not coming out to bars all the time, and saving my money.
    Now I have a manageable mortgage (half paid off) in a desirable neighbourhood with my wife and baby son, no consumer debt, and a whack of savings that grew after investing post-recession!
    Sure my 20s were boring but my 30s are not as scary.

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