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Millennials are changing the economy with their retirement savings crisis

July 7, 2018

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Of course Millennials aren’t saving as much as they should for retirement: half of them are weighed  down with student debt and a sizable number (26%) are stuck in the “gig” economy, in short-term contract or freelance jobs that don’t offer them a retirement plan.

Millennials have already faced more financial fallout at the start of their working lives than previous generations, concluded a February 2018 survey from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), an education and research nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. They earn about 20% less than parents, have about half of what their parents saved by their age, and are less likely to own a home.

So how can Millennials save enough for retirement? That’s the question for business reporters to focus on in the third and final story on how Millennials are changing the economy:

Help your Millennial readers get a grip on their student loan debt

How effectively are your Millennial readers paying back their student loans? It takes an average of 20 years for most to pay back their debt, as other priorities take over and they struggle to keep up with payments. Do readers know about their different options for lowering payments, through a federal Direct Consolidation Loan, loan forgiveness, or private loan refinancing? Do they know if they qualify for an income-sensitive or graduated plan, or can have a loan deferred or discharged? Help your readers by assembling a panel of financial experts to review their situation, but vet the sources carefully. Immerse yourself in the information available on federal loans. Be especially careful in selecting experts to interview on student loans  forgiveness: As student debt grows, so do the scams offering to “help” with repayment .

Why aren’t more Millennials saving for retirement?

Only slightly more than a third (34.3%) of the two-thirds of Millennial workers are eligible to participate in a retirement plan at work, which is one of the key findings in the February 2019 study from NIRS. But dig deeper and you’ll find some puzzling statistics on either side of that number: Far fewer than one-third participate, among Latinos (19%) and Latinas (22.5%), while other demographic groups, including Asian men (41.4%) and Millennial white female (41.4%) participate in much higher numbers. Use your news organization’s social media channels to find readers in these demographic groups to interview. Include human resource professionals familiar with the reasons why Millennials participate or not in employer-sponsored retirement plans. Also include several financial experts, including at least Certified Financial Planner (CFP), who can review budgets and offer guidance.

Help your readers get a grip on their retirement fears

Only 5% of Milennials are saving enough money for retirement, say financial experts. The repeated message that Social Security benefits will run out before these workers retire, and that they’ll be living longer, may be enough reason to make these readers stall and not take action. How many have used a calculator to help them estimate their retirement savings? Before you ask, study the glut of calculators out there and try them yourself. This post from personal finance expert Dana Anspach reviews several of the most popular retirement calculators. Then assemble a group of Millennial readers and ask those who have crunched the numbers to sit down, virtually speaking, and share what they’ve learned with those who have not yet picked up a calculator. Think about having a behavioral finance expert lead the panel. A good source is Victor Ricciardi at Goucher College, who just wrote a new book. Develop this feature into a dynamic online and video story.

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