My dad is a smart bloke when it comes to money. Yes, we might have differing opinions on how much you should be spending on clothes and shoes but it's difficult to argue with someone that retired at age 55 and is able to travel overseas at least three times a year.
Sure, you might argue that he's a baby boomer so he's had it easy. His generation was able to ride the wave of the property boom and now they're sitting pretty while we non-baby boomers struggle to create a foothold for ourselves. The thing is, I think that's such a lazy argument to make. It's always easier to cry "not fair" than it is to actually do something about it.
The truth is my dad didn't just buy a whole lot of property, sit back and then cash in at age 55. He was strategic, he saved, he sacrificed a little and now he's reaping the benefits. So while we might not have the advantage of being able to buy discount-price property like the boomers did, there is still a lot to learn from those that have played the game wisely and are now enjoying their retirement.
So what can Gen X and Gen Y learn from financially savvy baby boomers like my dad?
1. Find great role models. Good financial sense is not necessarily passed down through families. You might not have had a financially savvy parent to look up to, but find someone that is where you want to be and ask them questions about what they've done, how they did it and who their advisers are. If you don't know anyone personally then read up on people that you admire and even try contacting them and asking questions.
2. You might not be able to afford to buy in the suburb you want to live in. Too many people get themselves into financial stress by going into large debt because they must live in a particular suburb. While you might not choose to move an hour away, you might choose to live three or four suburbs or 20 minutes away where prices are substantially cheaper. If you do your research, the cheaper suburb you buy in might just become the next popular place to purchase.
3. You don't have to have everything now. It seems to be a modern-day mindset that if you don't have the house, new furniture, a new car, an overseas holiday, a flat-screen television and new shoes each week that you're struggling. All of those things might be great but you don't need them all this year. Instead, if you budget these might all form part of a five-year plan.
4. Plan, plan, plan. Don't rely on your neighbour to tell you what you should be doing with your money. Decide what you want to achieve with your finances, work out a time frame, educate yourself and simply start.
5. Start investing early. It's tempting to put off investing, buying your first house or salary sacrificing to super until you've met your partner or hit 30 or are settled in your career. It's much wiser to start early and to achieve some financial dependence so you have more options as you get older.
6. Make sure you still enjoy yourself. I am certainly not recommending that you become a hermit, never buy shoes and only eat canned goods. Life is way too short. So make sure that when you sit down and plan your budget you still allow yourself a luxury or two.
Melissa Browne is an accountant, adviser, author and shoe addict.
- Sydney Morning Herald