Will Millennials Be Able To Retire?

A lot of research on Millennials says that we probably won’t be able to retire until we are at least 70 years old and that some Millennials won’t be able to retire at all.

Note: I recently covered how Millennials are redefining retirement on the Millennial Money Minutes podcast. Check out the episode below.

The plight is well known – massive student debt and historically low wages don’t paint a nice picture for our future potential and retirement hopes. Even though all the data shows we won’t have enough money to retire, it doesn’t take into account that we are also insanely driven and entrepreneurial. We might be both the most educated and underemployed generation in history, but as Millennials we are natural-born hustlers.

Millennial Retirement = Financial Freedom

The old school idea of retirement is being redefined and instead of checking out to a life of leisure, will increasingly mean having more time and space for the things you love.

I have one friend who works as a commodities trader during the day and then drives for Uber on Saturdays for 15 hours so he can bank the extra money. The dude makes $120K in his full-time job and then told me he will likely pull in another $30K just driving for Uber at peak times.

He is putting all of that $30K directly into an investment account so he can walk away from his full-time gig in 5 years and move to Thailand where he has calculated he only needs $5,000/year to live.

He also gets to meet a ton of new people and even met his current girlfriend after giving her a lift. That is straight hustling. I am sure there are tons of stories like this. Most of us are already or want to live life on our own terms. This is what retirement will mean for Millennials – freedom.

Oh beautiful retirement sunset, how boring are thee..

One thing is for certain – retirement for us is going to look a lot different than it does for our parents.

Our parents have had to work their whole lives and save as much money as possible with the hope that they will be able to stop working at age 62+.

That’s when they can start taking social security, as well as live off their 401Ks and for the lucky few – a pension. That’s our parent’s retirement plan.

Most of us aren’t likely going to work towards a magic day in the future when we can golf every day and sip margaritas on the this “every day until you die” beach.

To me that actually sounds pretty boring – why would I want to “disengage” for the rest of my life? Lower stress? Sure I would definitely take lower stress, but I would still like to stay busy and have projects. I don’t imagine ever just “checking out”. How many rounds of golf can someone play anyway?

Saving is an opportunity, not a sacrifice

So right now most of us are straight hustling or you should be – we are putting in the work required to start saving and start investing money so we don’t have to work for someone else for the rest of our lives. I currently work 70 hour work weeks in my corporate job and I am doing it and saving as much money as possible so I can have enough money to choose what I do every day.

Some days I just want to be able to wake up and play the guitar. And hopefully, there will come a day when we will all have enough money that we can do whatever we want – that may mean we continue working just because we love it, but we won’t need to if we don’t.

It’s clear we aren’t likely going to have some sail off into the sunset retirement, but we are more likely to take “mini-retirements” and have a more entrepreneurial focus in our future – continuing to engage and make money where we can through projects that interest us.

For some of us those projects will be built on the skills we honed throughout our careers and applying them through consulting engagements, or taking some of the money we have saved and investing it into a passion project or business.

I have one friend who works in real estate and has a dream of one day owning a flower shop in retirement. She has even gone so far to calculate what it will take to get it off the ground and sustain her for the rest of her life – that’s some solid planning and that’s what it’s likely going to take.

In the future, most of us will continue to be industrious enough to find side projects to make money or launch second or even third careers. Given the rise in the mobile economy and the accessibility of information, we will also have access to almost infinite flexible opportunities to work on our own terms.

While it’s nearly impossible to predict it is clear that the economy and entire world are moving towards an open online workforce where the flexibility of lifestyle and location will be possible for an increasingly larger group of people.

Work is healthy, but doing work you love is important

Most of us are likely going to be able to pick up freelance projects online and contribute to the growing sharing economy. This is good news for us because we will likely not retire, but instead build our own businesses and fit our work into our own lifestyle.

Work is an important part of life and even our health. It’s statistically proven that as we get older we are happier and healthier when we stay engaged with some form of work. Retirement is actually bad for your health – slowing down as you age is, of course, necessary, but totally checking out is not. So as Millennials, while we might not have as much saved for retirement as we should, we have a lot going for us.

I think the key is going to be for us to keep growing and developing our skills – many of my friends have taken up learning to code or studying to become certified in something or other. I honestly feel like half of the women I know are yoga teachers and it’s their side hustle.

Even myself – I build websites on the side and enjoy investing so much I’m actually looking into studying to become a certified financial planner.

So will Millennials be able to retire? Definitely – but it will likely be even better than our parent’s retirement because it will be on our own terms.

We all might not have fat bank accounts, or trust funds, or even decent-paying jobs yet – but what we all do have is hustle and that’s what it’s gonna take. Unless of course we all get replaced by machines.

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  • Comment Author image blank
    Good luck. Every second millenial thinks he / she is going to be a YT star, or some how make millions of insta. There is going to be a lot of depressed millenials out there. As a business owner for many years, millenials are the worst I have ever dealt with. I just don't employ them now. A generation with there heads in the clouds. What you described above is NOT "hustling" It's working hard. Once again, millenials... Everything must sound gangsta......... Yeah right........
  • Comment Author image blank
    What happens to those of us who are not industrious or entrepreneurial? Those of us who are lucky to have a 40k job and will never own a house? And for how long should we work? Until we die? What happens to you when you’re 80 or 90?
  • Comment Author image blank
    This was such an interesting read. My conclusion is that millennials define retirement differently than any other generation. Which might make the question, are millennials ready for retirement rhetorical.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Most retired people that I know do not have a boring retirement... Retirement is not defined as spending your time on the beach for the rest of your life. It is financial independence. Most retirees I know come back working part time, travel the world, help out their family and volunteer. The difference between that and millenial retirement is that most millenials won't be able to retire.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Very insightful post about the changing direction of the whole idea behind "retirement". In this light, I do believe that the movement in the PF fraternity about "early retirement" is a little dis illusioning. While personally I am a big believer of Financial Independence, like you I don't think disengaging from some productive money-earning work completely can be very healthy. I like to think of it as building up finances for a dream life rather than early retirement per se.