The Ladder to Adulthood—What Millennials Need to Know

Contributed by: Clare Lilek Clare Lilek

I graduated from college in 2014, and this year started the first salaried job of my professional career. These are big steps in what I call my “ladder to adulthood.” What is this ladder, you may ask? Well twenty-somethings (and thirty-somethings too) each have their own ladder to adulthood: the stepping blocks we accomplish little by little to become full adults. These steps can include becoming participating civil citizens, being financially independent, and having a sense of life and economic stability. Yeah, it’s a pretty important ladder.

When you turn eighteen, your ladder begins as you choose your next steps after graduating high school. Depending on how knowledgeable you are about the adult decisions that lie ahead and how ready you are to make said decisions, you could have a step ladder, or something reminiscent of a skyscraper.

Personally, I didn’t realize exactly how long my own ladder to adulthood was until I arrived at The Center. This is my first time working in the financial industry and my previous exposure to these topics were hushed whispers of the mysterious 401ks and the disappearance of pensions—what did that even mean?! After working here for a couple of months, not only did I figure out what a 401k is, but in general, my knowledge about financial topics has grown exponentially. But that got me thinking, if I didn’t work at The Center, when would I have learned all this? Would it have been too late? Well, not to worry, I have compiled a very basic list of what millennials entering the workforce fulltime should be (but aren’t necessarily) doing:

  1. Think about your future. 401ks and IRAs are fancy terms for savings – savings that are dedicated to your retirement. The earlier you open one of these accounts, the more money you can accumulate and the more stable you’ll be when your retirement comes.
  2. Understand the importance of the market. Investments are the way of the world and just saving money in a bank account is not going to accrue as much interest as investing does. 401ks and IRAs take your savings and invests it in the market which, in theory, will allow you to have more money than just by keeping your money in the bank.
  3. Know the lingo. Stocks vs bonds, and the pros and cons of each. Understand diversified portfolios and what that means for stability.
  4. Save, save, and save some more! Have a budget that includes savings, and stick to it. Don’t live beyond your means, an important life lesson! And when budgeting, save a portion of each monthly salary.
  5. Have a plan. If investments and 401ks are mysteries to you, there is no shame in having a Certified Financial Planner™ help create a plan with you—actually, it’s a very “adult” thing to do. They can set up accounts, plan for your future, and make sure you’re in the know.

Hey Millennial, if you were to win the lottery today, would your first thought be, “I should probably invest that money and save for my future?” What about your second or third thought? I’m going to take a guess that, no, that’s probably not in your initial thought process. But shouldn’t it be? That’s my point. We’re not talking about these topics and no one is talking to us about them, yet they are crucial in securing our future.

We learn as preschoolers that the early bird gets the worm, and in this case, the early bird gets a more comfortable retirement and financial life. Just by learning about financial planning, investments and the like, you are stepping up that ladder to adulthood and ensuring that when you step off that ladder, you’re stepping onto a stable platform.

Clare Lilek is a Challenge Detroit Fellow / Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.


Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Clare Lilek and not necessarily those of Raymond James. 401(k) plans are long-term retirement savings vehicles. Withdrawal of pre-tax contributions and/or earnings will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if taken prior to age 59 1/2, may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.