If anyone has watched SNL’s skit “The Millennials”, they’ll know the gag runs on the stereotype of spoiled young adults spending their time texting and traveling instead of working. The joke appears to be further bolstered by the fact that according to the Wall Street Journal, Millennials have a negative savings rate and, in a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, they put a higher value on flexible work hours instead of previous generations’ emphasis on cash bonuses.
When Millennial incomes range between a median of $18,000 to $43,000 in a recovering job market, as well as experiencing student debt and healthcare costs at all-time highs, why are these Americans not more focused on cash-related opportunities? Some people speculate that because of the financial pressures, short-term spending is prioritized over long-term savings for a very human reason. When a market crisis and deep recession drag on for years, a person can become desensitized or overwhelmed by the anxiety of making ends meet every pay period. It is easier to buy little pleasures in smaller increments now rather than scrimping towards what may feel like an unreachable goal. The change in attitude is also likely the result of technology altering the work-life balance. When it’s harder to unplug for larger chunks of time, flexible work hours and traveling while doing so helps adjust to the new realities of the workplace.
Still, the day will come when traveling becomes difficult with young children and even telecommuting won’t help when age drives a person out of the workforce. The cushion of home equity and a nest egg will be that much harder to ignore. Instead of regret, some shrewd planning can make a difference in the new economy.
Salary negotiation – a one percent increase ($400 of a $40,000 offer) seems paltry, but it yields approximately $18,000 extra income even if current interest rates were to stick for the next forty years. And a higher starting salary now leads to higher subsequent pay with raises. In the end, it is that much more money for a home purchase, retirement, and leisure down the line. However, if the employer is firm on the offer, then negotiating benefits in other areas can generate substantial gains.
Training and development – another benefit, like flex hours, popular with Millennials as noted by PWC. With a rapidly changing technological environment and still-rising costs for graduate degrees, continuing an education outside of academia can keep an employee ahead of their peers.
Share options – in lieu of cash bonuses are considered performance-based awards, as employees help improve the company’s value. However, it is important to look at the stipulations tied to the options, especially the vesting period that says when the stock can be sold. It is a good idea to consult with a financial advisor in order to plan appropriately.
In the end, asking open-ended questions during the interview process about how employees achieve worklife balance can lead to unexpected opportunities such as childcare, travel reimbursement, equipment upgrades and more. Even though negotiations may be new territory, with a little preparation and planning, Millennials need to ask for what they want so as to maximize the long-term benefits to them.