There is much about millennials that befuddles older generations. From shrugging off home ownership to using apps to pay back friends, young adults tend to do things differently than baby boomers and Generation X. The same can be said for how they make their money.
Millennials have taken a different approach to employment than their parents and grandparents. And though stability may have been valued by older workers who stayed with the same company for decades, younger workers are looking for flexibility and aren't afraid to switch jobs to find it.
While younger workers may have different priorities for their employment – such as the desire to swap working in a cubicle for a coffee shop – they aren't all shunning 9-to-5 jobs for the gig economy. Read on to discover how millennials are earning money , building their wealth and setting themselves up for financial success .
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Not all millennials work side hustles. Perhaps because the gig economy seemed to mature around the same time as millennials began leveraging lucrative part-time jobs, people may be under the impression all young adults have a side hustle. Or, if they aren't making money driving cars for Uber or doing odd jobs on TaskRabbit, they're trying to become rich and famous as social media stars.
However, those are stereotypes that don't accurately reflect the generation, says Jeff Lenhart, a millennial and senior managing advisor at BKD Wealth Advisors in Kansas City, Missouri. "A lot of the millennials I work with are young professionals," he says. They may be doctors, lawyers or have other traditional occupations. "I probably have more retirees with side hustles than millennials."
It isn't to say that side hustles aren't important to millennials. According to the 2017 Millennial Economy Report by Levo, a networking platform for millennials, and Adecco, a staffing agency, 44 percent of surveyed millennials say they have a side hustle.
For those who do pursue this route for employment, the appeal may be to facilitate a certain type of lifestyle. "There is a real prioritization on spending money on experiences rather than on stuff," says Rich Ramassini, a certified financial planner and senior vice president with financial firm PNC Investments. Contract work or gig employment can provide income to pay for those experiences without tying millennials down to a job in which it's hard to get desired time off. What's more, it can provide extra cash for college graduates weighed down by student loan debt .
For young adults, flexibility is prioritized over job loyalty. Even if a millennial bypasses the gig economy and pursues traditional employment, they may not be likely to stick with one employer for long. "In Silicon Valley, there are a lot of companies where the average time [on the job] is less than two years," says Edward Stringham, president of the American Institute for Economic Research, an independent nonprofit focused on promoting a better understanding of economic issues.
"Millennials are much more apt to change jobs and change employers," Ramassini says. Layoffs and the economic cycle may be partly responsible for this transient approach to jobs, but it also reflects millennial values of empowerment and ownership in their employment.
Instead of being loyal to a single employer, millennials may be more willing than other generations to switch jobs if they think it will provide a better work-life balance. "We value flexibility and ease," Lenhart says. If an employer isn't willing to allow someone the chance to work remotely or take time off as needed, millennials are inclined to look elsewhere to find that type of arrangement.
"There's a huge push on employers to be open to nontraditional working environments," Lenhart says, and millennials are open to making major life changes to find positions that meet their needs. "We're not afraid to relocate to where the opportunities are." Lenhart says millennials aren't looking to sacrifice income though. They are often still seeking full-time jobs but hoping to negotiate a schedule that fits their lifestyle.
[Read: 6 Money Management Mistakes Millennials Often Make .]
Millennials are making retirement planning moves. When it comes to saving for retirement, it isn't clear yet whether the millennial approach to employment will affect their ability to meet long-term goals . "That's going to be an open question," Stringham says.
Side hustles typically don't come with benefits or employer-sponsored 401(k) plans . While millennial workers who are self-employed can contribute to IRAs to save for retirement, they miss out on employer contributions and matching funds for their deposits. Meanwhile, those employed in traditional jobs may get a 401(k) but lose out on employer contributions if they leave before they are deemed fully vested in the plan.
However, Ramassini says the bigger threat to millennial retirement savings is debt. "This is the most educated generation, and they have the student loans to prove it," he says. Paying down those loans may make it difficult for millennials to save regardless of whether they have access to a 401(k) or IRA. Young adults with limited disposable income may forgo savings in order to avoid defaulting on loans.
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Millennials aren't the same as their older counterparts when it comes to assessing job prospects. Rather than clock in at the same company for 40 years, they're willing to switch jobs frequently if it means getting the income they need and a schedule they want. And if their current position won't let them pay down debt or fully support their lifestyle, most are willing to add a side hustle to earn extra money. It's one more way in which the younger generation is blazing a path all on its own.
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