Two Surest Ways to Boost Millennials’ Retirement Savings

Millennials understand that they need to save. Two simple policy shifts will give them the means.

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As children, we boomers were warned about cigarettes. Never mind that our parents smoked; they got hooked before anyone new the harm. We would not have that excuse. By and large we got the message and didn’t take up the habit.

The retirement saving narrative for Millennials is strikingly similar. Never mind that we boomer parents failed to save; older boomers, especially, never really understood the collapse of the pension system and social safety net, and the dire need for personal savings. But Millennials have been duly warned; they will not have that excuse, and by and large they are taking action.

Not enough action, for sure. This is a tall mountain to climb and relatively few folks of any generation save as much as they should. But evidence suggests that Millennials are measuring up better than most, and when corporate and government policy finally catch up to the way this generation thinks, works and saves these young people will end up doing a better job preparing for retirement than most might believe.

(MORE: The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired)

Two in three young employees are committed to or have the ambition to save for retirement, according to new report from Aegon and the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. One in four are habitual savers who ‘always make sure’ they are putting something away. Two in five intend to begin saving soon and three in five understand that retirement saving is important—they just don’t have the means yet.

These are impressive numbers. Saving for retirement generally was not on the radar of twentysomethings in any previous generation. Yet to capture the full benefit of their understanding two big changes must occur:

  • Portable pension plans Millennials are a mobile lot. According to the survey, 39% expect to look for a new job within a year and 31% are thinking about quitting their job right now. This is part of their unique career reality. They are being held back while under-saved boomers hang on to their jobs. So Millennials are inclined to keep moving, and they often favor a job experience with intrinsic rewards over one that might be a tough slog but bring advancement. Still, 87% say a generous retirement savings plan will be important in choosing their next job. Policy needs to reflect this mobility and desire to save. Employer-sponsored retirement plans today generally do not travel well with an employee.
  • Financial education Private and public sector leaders in dozens of countries are fixated on how to teach young people while still in school more about personal finance and retirement savings issues. But there is an equal need for financial education in the workplace, and Millennials are practically begging for it. They understand the safety net is threadbare. They just aren’t sure how to plan around it. About half say they don’t know if they are doing enough. One in four say they’d save more if exposed to “better and more frequent” information. A similar number say they want financial education at work “so I am more aware of what I need to do for myself.” In the absence of information from a qualified trusted source, many mistakenly turn to friends for advice.

Companies need to offer more financial guidance at work. They need to auto enroll new employees in savings plans and offer one-on-one financial counseling in order to stand out and make a difference for this generation. Millennials will have no excuses when they retire. They will have known for 50 years that they needed to save. What they need now are policy adjustments that make savings easier to bring from one employer to the next—and make safe investing easier to understand. They can do the rest.


As an age 50+ person, I read this article with interest. Up until I got laid off from the job I had for 9 years back in 1999, I had things set up so that I would have something in place when I retired. Not one to sit around during my retirement, I had planned on working for however long I wanted to and using those finances as a back up as needed. 1999 was my first layoff and have had two more since then. The last one was in 2008 and ever since then, have not been able to replace it with another 9 to 5 job. Now I take temporary work and do online work, both of which has not been able to meet my present needs of a place to live. I was fortunate to receive unemployment benefits the three times I was laid off. The first two times, I got another job quickly and did not use up all of my unemployment benefits. Not so for the last one, those ran out in 2010 along with my savings (you cannot live on unemployment benefits alone) and I found myself homeless. It is now 3 years later, and I am still homeless. So yes, education is helpful, but also keep in mind that with the economy the way it is worldwide, some of us are not able to continue to set things up for later in life. Some of us, like myself are starting over and wondering each day if we will ever get back to normal. An excellent article and thanks for writing it! Career Counseling


 The problem is education or a lack of it. Retirement planning education should be mandatory and taught starting in elementary school and never end.

So the best way to get people to save is take their money away and make schools to educate people about money? Pretty much the basic attitude that has led us to where we are now.

And just how blithely the article covers just how - ooops! - the boomers haven't saved, he he, ho ho. They have used up the wealth from their parents, all their own, are either fully through, or nearly through, a third generation of wealth, and are now poised to retire and polish off that third generation and dig gleefully into a fourth generation of wealth to pay for their well deserved entitlements. All the while making sure the student loan debt for the millennials is non-repudiable, sliding in Medicare Part D on their backs ten years ago, and now forcing them into risk pools they would have otherwise opted out of under Obamacare to make sure the health care industry is well financed until the boomers obligingly assume room temperature (whatever comes after, who cares?). Pretty slick smoke and mirror job the last 30 years.

Of course we Gen-Xers will have to pay the bills too, but at least we were part of getting the benefits indirectly from the boomer feeding frenzy as we had our education half paid for without being stuck directly with debt (of course the debt is still out there in as a general public lien, but it is borne by everyone unlike the student loan burden that developed the last twenty years stuck specifically to its generation; isn't socialism wonderful?(as long as you're in the right layer of the Ponzi scheme).

And all of this wouldn't be so bad, but the boomers still try and break out the "back in our day"/"you kids are just so spoiled" attitude. When a generation left the next better off than its own, there was at least some room to chide the younger generation for what they took for granted, even if it was a bit irritating. It is a whole different matter to be left significantly worse off and left paying the bills for the very generation handing out insults. It's bad enough to not get the heartfelt apology beseeching forgiveness (we won't even get a bashful apology) but to get insults and remonstrations is a bit too much to take.  

So I can only hope the boomers settle into their golden years and take those early retirements (cough ..civil servant/public employees .. cough) and take those scenic train trips and those Alaskan cruises and order their scooters and swallow those subsidized pills and go off for their 17th procedure that it is ALL being paid for on the backs of their kids and grandkids. Their grandkids, stuck with a trillion in student loans who are now forced to kick into the third party pay Ponzi schemes without the requisite jobs to hope to pay it off any time soon, are paying for all it. So when that surly young punk who brings you your third pineapple coolie and doesn't show the requisite understanding of your greatness, creating anger on your part, that you just ponder that he probably has a worthless degree, tens of thousands of debt, is now forced to pay hundreds a month to make sure your entitlement gravy train keeps running, so that maybe he doesn't have much to be happy or grateful for.

In the end, the boomers will just fully fail to realize that they were, in fact, the first "isn't Billy/Betty just so wonderful" generation. That is where it started. It is that self centeredness as a generation that has allowed them to buzz through three generations of wealth like locusts swarming a corn field, and poised to go after its fourth, but with the arrogance to not only not "check themselves" but to hand out insults about the self centeredness of the generations they bore.


The problem is education or a lack of it. Retirement planning education should be mandatory and taught starting in elementary school and never end. The key has always been and still is that you have to start saving/investing early in life, be consistent, take advantage of any employer matching plan, avoid risks with your nest egg and plan for multiple streams of income once retired (social security, pensions, dividends, part time work, etc.).  There is a great deal of information about retirement available on the web. Why not use it? The site Retirement And Good Living provides information on finances, health, retirement locations, part time work and also has a great blog of guest posts about a variety of retirement topics. And it is free.


IRAs are portable, and converting an old 401K isn't difficult.