Get Ready Millenials – Mom and Dad are Coming Home, to your Home

Hey millennials, glad that those in your generation, who came home after college and stayed another ten years, are finally getting their own place.  Sure, Mom and Dad are footing the down-payment, but at least you’re finally starting to venture out on your own like your parents probably did when they were 18 or maybe 21.  I’m sure that plenty of you also moved out and got a modest apartment when you graduated college or high school like your parents did – it is unfair to stereotype an entire generation – but there are more millennials living at home at age 28 than there were in any of the past generations, at least since about 1950.  There are also a lot of 30-somethings who still have their parents paying their phone bills or helping with other expenses, even when they are adult children living mainly on their own.

Many of us in GenX were worried about this development of delayed maturity.  The hashtag, #adulting, is truly assinine.  Note that Jack Daniels started his brewery at age 14, so it is possible to become self-sufficient and even do some pretty remarkable things way before you turn 25.  We wondered what would happen when your parent’s generation started to retire and people were needed to do all of the important jobs that they had done.  I’m sure your grandparents were also worried about who was going to pay for their Social Security if no one was working.  Also, what would happen if your generation never grew up and moved out before your parents retired or died and were no longer able to take care of you.  Solar Charger, 8000mAh 3-Port USB and 21LED Light Solar Power Bank Portable Battery Cellphone Charger, Solar Panel for Emergency Outdoor Camping Hiking for IOS and Android cellphones (Black)

But this morning I realized that we were worrying about the wrong people.  I’m sure that while 35 is the new 20, eventually those student loans will be paid off and you’ll be working your way up the corporate ladder.  I know that many of you are just waiting for your parent’s and grandparent’s generation to retire and get out-of-the-way so that you can advance.  I’ve also got to believe things like having kids will make you want to get your own space and a refrigerator on which to hang artworks from your elementary schoolers.

The real issue is your parent’s generation.  They don’t have anywhere near enough money to continue to live on their own all the way through a 30 or 40-year retirement that the are expecting to have.  To generate a $50,000 per-year income, which is probably about what it would take for them to continue to live in their home and continue to live about how they are now, they will need to save up about $1M by the time they retire.  Really they should have about $2M since there are also medical bills and a lot of retirees want to do some traveling when they retire.  The trouble is that the average person approaching retirement has about $135,000 saved up.  And that is the average, which includes some people who have several million saved tipping the scales.  There are a lot of people who have $50,000, or $20,000, or $2,000 saved beyond their home.

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In the past, many in their situation would have had the option of selling their home and moving somewhere cheaper.  If they were to move to a small apartment in a safe but unspectacular neighborhood, and not a condo on the beach or in a high-rise in downtown, that would help them get maybe a decade or more before they ran out of money. The issue is that a lot of them still don’t own their home.  They refinanced their mortgage and took out money to put you through college, or upgrade the kitchen, or pay off your student loans or credit card bills.  Many people bought bigger homes in their late forties or fifties and started all over again with a 30-year mortgage.  That means their home won’t be paid off until they’re 80, and they’ll only have maybe 20-30% equity when they hit retirement age since you pay mostly interest at the beginning of a loan.

So what happened with your parent’s generation that didn’t with your grandparent’s?  The issue is that your grandparents had a pension plan where their employer put money away for them and paid them less in salary.  Because they had a lower salary, they had smaller homes, took fewer vacations and cheaper vacations, and cook at home most meals.  Your grandmother is probably a much better cook than your mom, and that is because she has had 30 years of practice.  She didn’t do take-out unless it was a casserole she took to a church potluck.  Your grandparents also probably didn’t have two cars, the expense of two sets of work clothes, the daily lattes, and the cost of childcare.   They also had college tuition costs of about $3,000 per year in today’s dollars since they could not afford any more than that so universities kept frills to the minimum and didn’t ask for high tuitions.   In exchange for this more meager living, they had a pension plan waiting for them at retirement.

Your parents instead got higher salaries with the expectation that they would then save up for their own retirement.  This was actually a better deal since the returns on pension plan investments aren’t as great as returns one can get investing for oneself since the pension plan manager needs to be conservative (and get lower returns) all of the time to ensure there is enough money to keep the payments for current retirees flowing, but an individual can be aggressive during the first 30 years and then shift to a more conservative mix near the end.  The trouble is that your parents used the extra salary to buy bigger houses, take more lavish vacations, pay high college tuition costs and living costs for their college students, and eat every meal out.  Retirement was always something that they would worry about later when they didn’t have this need or that crisis to take care of.

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With $130,000 in savings, living in a standard home even without a mortgage, they’ll probably be able to eek out 5-7 years before they’ll run out of money.  This is assuming that they don’t have any major medical expenses, don’t travel the world, and that the stock market cooperates to a good extent.  A bear market, a mortgage payment, or a big medical bill could cause them to run out much sooner.  And what will happen then?

The most likely thing is for them to give you a call.  At that point you’ll be over at their place, having a big yard sale to sell off all of the stuff they’ve collected over the years (some of it will end up at your house), then they’ll be moving into that home office, guest bedroom, or workout studio you’ve made at your home.  Maybe you’ll still be living at your parents home, so you’ll just take over the mortgage payments and the grocery bills.BarksBar Original Pet Seat Cover for Cars – Black, WaterProof & Hammock Convertible (Standard, Black)

It will be nice to have them around to help out with watching the kids, assuming they’re interested in that.  But the house will suddenly feel a lot smaller, and there will be the inevitable power struggles and in-law struggles that come with multi-generation households.  Meals out will become a lot more expensive, as will vacation since you’ll be getting extra hotel rooms and tickets.  This is not a terrible arrangement, with many advantages such as your children getting to really know their grandparents, the ability to share some of the household chores (assuming your parents don’t decide it is your turn to take care of everything), and an easy transition when they become old enough to need a lot more help with things.  It is actually very common in Asian countries, especially in areas where housing prices are astronomical, and was the standard in the US for many families when most people were farmers.

Still, you had better start thinking in terms of how you will handle having a full household, both in managing expenses and living arrangements.  In the next post, I’ll go into some steps to take to get ready, starting with having a frank conversation with your parents about their finances.

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Have a question?  Please leave it in a comment.  Follow me on Twitter to get news about new articles and find out what I’m investing in. @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

What to Invest in with your 401k


When investing your 401k money, it is critical to diversify, where you allocate your investments into different asset classes.  In a good 401k you’ll have choices of asset classes among:

  1.  Large US Stocks Index Funds
  2. Mid-sized US Stocks Index Funds
  3. Small US Stocks Index Funds
  4. US Bonds
  5. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
  6. International Stocks
  7. International Bonds
  8. Managed Large-Cap Stocks
  9. Managed Small Cap Stocks
  10. Emerging Growth Stocks
  11. Target-Date Funds
  12. Money-Market Funds

In a bad 401k fund, you may only have a few of these choices, and those that you do have will all be managed funds with big fees (of more than 1%).  A great plan may have even more of these choices, although the list above is more than adequate for good diversification.


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Given the choices above, here is how I would typically set up my 401k:

  1.  Large US Stocks Index Funds  (15%)
  2. Mid-sized US Stocks Index Funds  (20%)
  3. Small US Stocks Index Funds (20%)
  4. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)  (20%)
  5. International Stocks  (15%)
  6. Managed Large-Cap Stocks  (10%)

Notice that I have about 25% in large US stocks, 40% in medium and small US stocks, 15% in international stocks, and 20% in real estate.  Factors that go into these decisions:

  • Sometimes large stocks do better than small and medium stocks.  Other times small and medium do better than large.  I want to be in both places so that I’m invested in those areas regardless of which is doing best at the time.
  • Over long periods of time, small and medium stocks will outperform large stocks.  I therefore have slightly more invested in medium and small US stocks (40%) than I do in large (30%).
  • I want to have things that may do well when the stock market is undergoing a correction.  Real-estate is normally fairly uncorrelated to stock movements (except for 2008, when a real estate bubble cratered the stock market).  I therefore have 20% in real estate, which will provide returns almost as good as the stock market over long periods of time since REITs have both rental income and appreciation of property values.
  • I have some money in a managed, large US stock fund, simply because the particular funds I have in my 401k have a track record of great investment returns when compared to the S&P500.  Normally I would forego these and just invest in index funds since the fees are higher for managed funds and performance is normally about the same as index funds, but so far the managers have shown themselves worth the fees charged in my case.
  • I have some international exposure as well.  Most of the time, the action is in the US, but during some periods international stocks do better.  I always want to be invested in whatever is doing well at a given moment.


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An important aspect if you want to do well is discipline.  You need to decide upon your allocations and stick with them through think and thin.  At times, it is difficult to stay invested the way I should.  For example, in late 2016 with the Brexit and other events, the international stock fund in my 401k has been doing poorly over the last year, while US stocks have been doing well.  I was very tempted to drop the international stock fund and just be in US stocks, given the performance.

This would have been exactly the wrong thing to do, however.  Since international stocks have been doing poorly, while US stocks have been on a roll, the price of US stocks has been bid-up and international stock prices have dropped and some stocks may be under-priced.  We may very well see a shift from US to international stocks as investors look for bargains outside of the US.  When that happens, I certainly want to be there.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

401K Changes that Would Work

IMG_0120401k plans are better than traditional pensions and way better than Social Security, if they are used correctly.  The issue is that they are not used correctly.  People are too timid and leave all of their money in the money market or treasury fund their entire careers, missing out of the growth they could have had if they had invested.  They don’t enter the plan until they are in their forties or fifties, or contribute far too little.  They are too aggressive when they are nearing retirement, usually because they are trying to make up time, and see a market crash wipe out half of their portfolio value right when they were ready to head out-the-door.  They borrow against their 401k plan, or take the money out entirely, and lose the effects of compounding.

These issues could be easily solved.  The reason they occur is the rules behind 401k plans that allow or even encourage behaviors that are destructive to the employees retirement.  People have no choice in the amount they contribute to Social Security or pension plans.  The employer or the government dictates how much of the employee’s pay is contributed and how much they provide.  And at least with Social Security, you have no choice but to participate.  You are enrolled whether you like it or not.  Employees can choose not to enter the pension plan at some companies, but most realize that they should and they do enroll.  Likewise, you can’t borrow against your pension plan or Social Security or take it out early.  In the case of pension plans, they are invested in a mix of stocks and income investments in a manner that is appropriate for the goals of the plan and the payouts that must be made.

The sad part is, if people were to put all of the money they are putting into Social Security (about 13% of their paycheck) into a 401k plan and invested it properly, everyone who worked their whole life would be set for retirement.  There would be no issue paying for living expenses and medical bills.  The senior discount would vanish since most seniors would be multi-millionaires.  Unfortunately, people don’t think about their futures and plan.  They either see the big pile of cash they’ll need to build up to have  comfortable retirement as being either too difficult to achieve or retirement too far out in the future, so they sabotage themselves.  Much as I hate to see central government planing and control, some regulation is needed to nudge people in the right direction.  Unlike Social Security, where the government has proven that they’ll just squander any money given to them, however, government involvement should only extend to preventing people from drawing the money out to soon, not enrolling at all or not contributing enough,  or investing the money in a way that is too timid early or too aggressive late.  Here are some regulations that would make 401k plans the path to comfortable retirement for all:

1.  Required enrollment.

Employees should be required to contribute at least 5% of their pay to a 401k plan to ensure they’re putting enough away for at least a basic retirement.  While I hate to force people to do anything, it is for the good of society to not have a group of destitute retirees.  As an incentive to contribute more, the rules could eliminate the need to make a Social Security contribution if at least 10% of an employee’s paycheck is being contributed to a 401k, between the employee’s contribution and the employer’s.

2.  Forbid withdrawals until age 62, then limit withdrawals until age 70.

There is no good reason for people to be pulling their retirement savings out early, and again, doing so subjects society to the burden of carrying a lot of destitute old people.  No withdrawals should be allowed until the employee has reached at least the age of 62 (which also encourages people to work longer and reduce the number of years they’ll need to be supporting themselves with their savings).  To prevent people from pulling all of the money out at age 62 and blowing it, they should only be able to pull out a portion, like 5%, each year until they are age 70.  Hopefully by that point they will have learned that it is a good thing to take the money out slowly since then the account has the ability to recover and generate more money and they’ll continue that behavior from then into old age.

3.  Eliminate borrowing of funds.

Just as funds should not be withdrawn, they should not be borrowed.  If people want to pay down credit cards, start a business, or upgrade their home, they should find the money elsewhere than their retirement savings.  People shouldn’t live beyond their means at the expense of their retirement funds.

4.  Remove the money market option for those under age 58.

There is zero reason for anyone to have a dime in a money market fund within a 401k account until they are getting close to using the money.  Removing this option would force employees to invest the money, which would allow the money to grow and prevent inflation from reducing their spending power in retirement.

5.  Require a professional money management option.

Most people know little about investing.  An option where a professional money manager just invests the money for employees should be included.  This would be similar to a traditional pension plan, except the money manager could invest for groups of employees separated into different age brackets instead of investing everything as one big account.  Because there would just be a few, large accounts (maybe three), instead of a lot of little accounts to manage, and because the manager would be investing in mutual funds instead of individual stocks, the cost would not be very much.

6.  Limit the contribution of company stock by employers.

Some employers like to issue company stock as their contribution instead of giving cash because cash is more precious.  This puts an employee in a risky position since he/she then has a big position in one company – their employer’s.  They could both lose a job and see their 401k decimated should the company misread market conditions.   A reasonable limit, such as 1% of salary, should be placed on the amount of company stock that can be issued by a company for a 401k contribution.  Alternatively, require a company match at least 5% of salary with cash before issuing stock so that the employee at least has 10% of his/her salary going into the 401k in a diversified manner before concentrating in company stock.  Employees should also be able to sell shares that a company distributes to them immediately and shift the money into mutual funds where it will be appropriately diversified.

7.  Require low-cost index fund options in each plan.

Research has shown that low-cost, passive funds will beat out high cost, actively managed funds over time.  Unfortunately, some employers only have high cost funds available.  Every 401k plan should at least have the choice of a large cap, small cap, international, and bond index fund in their investment mix.

8.  Auto-enroll employees in a target date retirement fund.

Even when they do enroll (usually through automated enrollment), many employees tend to wait to get into their 401k plans and make their investment choices, sometimes for years.  Currently, many 401k plans auto-enroll employees in a money market fund, meaning they are losing money to inflation until they shift the money somewhere better.  Instead, they should be auti enrolled in a target date retirement fund so that at least they’ll have a reasonably good investment plan until they get the time and motivation to take a little more active role.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning advice, it gives information on a specific investment strategy and picking stocks. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing