By: Laura Walton AFC®
In April of 2016 we launched our first 3rd Decade classes, two classes each with 20 participants. Word of mouth filled six classes the following year with 120 participants; we expanded from Tucson to Tempe and Flagstaff. In the three years since, growth hasn’t abated.
Our statistics show that the average change in net worth for households over the two-year program has been an astonishing $71,153.35. What statistics can’t show is the increase in confidence the participants experience. I rarely end a final meeting at the two-year mark without hearing statements like “I wouldn’t be where I am today without this program,” “I tell all my friends about the 3rd Decade program,” and “this has been life-changing for us.”
I have to credit a large part of the program’s success to its simplicity. We decided early on that a 30,000 foot view of basic personal finance and investing principles would best serve the participants; in other words, enough information to recognize important financial decisions that required careful consideration and/or unbiased advice rather than detailed information that would soon be forgotten.
And then there was the delivery…engaging instructors sharing 10 hours of quality curriculum in four classes spread over four months followed by a test. Subjects included saving, credit, time value of money, investing, retirement plans, basic insurance, wills, etc.
The last piece of the puzzle has been the two years of one-on-one meetings with a mentor designed to apply the lessons to the participant’s personal situation. Working through a budget, net worth statement, debt and liquidity ratios and retirement projections resulted in written goals and created the motivation to reach them.
We’re lucky; the individuals who sign up for the 3rd Decade program are committed to learning about personal finance and investing. In a sense, we’re preaching to the choir. On the other hand, over half of millennials surveyed say they want to invest but have no idea where to begin. This isn’t surprising, not many adults fully understand their employer’s retirement plan!
As I prepare to wind down my work with the 3rd Decade program, what have I learned?
- I’ve learned that our participants are focused on understanding their finances. They’re eager for advice and take it to heart as shown by the many completed items on their Financial Plans.
- They’re motivated. Once they see what they need to do to reach their goals, they get on board – they change habits, make sacrifices, communicate with partners – in short, whatever it takes.
- They’re amazing savers. Many save high percentages of their income – 30% or more! They’re great at finding better products and services at better prices.
- They’re debt averse. Although they may have accumulated debt balances, they understand that payments on debt erode their ability to save. I’ve seen inspiring efforts to pay off debt by living on the cheap for a year or two to zero out credit card balances and student loan debt.
- They share what they learn with friends, co-workers, family members, even employers.
- They have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and work to help each other learn the ropes of running their own businesses.
- They’re interested in investing in a way that supports their beliefs, for example funds screened for environmental, social and governance criteria.
- Sustainability is also important in their everyday living choices, i.e. transportation, food, clothing, etc.
- They’re engaged in their communities. Many work for non-profits while others give generously to causes they support. Others have been instrumental in starting community-wide events.
- They’re engaged in government. Results from the 2020 election indicate that 53+% of young adults voted, an increase of ten points over 2016!
In short, they’re impressive! They’re certainly far ahead of where I was in my 20’s and 30’s. They’re knowledgeable, interested and engaged. The pundits have not always been complimentary to the millennial generation but I’ve had the chance to see their strengths one-on-one…their futures are bright and so is, by extension, ours.