#YOLO: The age-old question about money is, can it buy happiness?
December 29, 2016 | Melissa Matson
TD Ameritrade interviewed two working professionals, who are both Millennials, to understand their spending and savings habits as well as their feelings about money.
A recent TD Ameritrade survey found that saving and the financial security it may bring makes people happier than spending, while only a quarter of Millennials say spending money helps them enjoy life.
“Our research shows that it isn’t so much having more money as it is saving money that can make people feel more financially secure and happy,” says Dara Luber, a retirement and long-term investing professional at TD Ameritrade.
As we look into the lives of these two Millennials, we learn how much money means to each of them and whether it is important to have money to spend or to save.
Job: Account Executive
Sharett is a young working professional who works in retail management and lives at home with her parents. Like many young people, Sharett has bills and debts that she must pay each month. While she is responsible about paying the bills she has, Sharett identifies as someone who chooses to spend her money rather than saving it.
“A few years ago when I first began working, when I was in college and I had internships, the first thing I did was setup a savings account. The majority of my savings assisted me throughout the year when I was in school and needed to pay for food, buy books or to cover any additional expenditure,” said Sharett. “Now that I’ve graduated and I actually have a full-time job, I really do not save as much as I should. I have money set aside in my 401(k) but not in the savings account.”
Sharett details that the cause of her “spending habit” is shopping. If she’s out at the mall or browsing online, her first instinct is to purchase the item. The reason for her frivolous behavior is because Sharett knows there is more disposable income on its way. “I know when income is coming in, and I know I won’t necessarily need to save it for the short term, only for the long term,” shared Sharett.
Sharett explained that she’ll begin considering saving for a down payment on a home or saving for larger medical expenses in approximately 10 years. At the present moment, Sharett does not contribute to a healthcare plan and is not covered by her parents. Therefore, she’s unsure how she would afford a medical emergency. For her long-term savings, Sharett expects that she’ll be able to dip into her retirement account when she turns 65. However, she said it’s unrealistic to believe that’s where all of her money will come from in retirement.
Sharett believes her money habits will change over the next 20 years and by that time she should scale back on spending on focus on retirement. She’ll have accumulated everything that she could possibly want, which will allow her focus on yielding her investments. Whether long-term or short-term, Sharett feels money can buy happiness. She feels money equates to freedom, so if she wanted to visit family across the country she could purchase a plane ticket and hotel room.
Family: Married with children
Eitan is a Millennial is his early 30s who is an established attorney with a family to support. He and his wife recently faced some life-changing events that impacted their finances, including having twin babies, various medical bills, Eitan’s student loans and child-care related expenses.
Eitan was able to handle all of these expenses as a result of his frugal spending habits and innate desire to save. When Eitan makes a large purchase, such as a car or a home, he is more inclined to pay the debt off immediately rather than accumulate revolving debt. “With my student loans, I aggressively either pay them down or make direct tuition payments,” Eitan explained.
While Eitan anticipates his expenses to evolve, he says he doesn’t foresee his money habits changing in the future. Eitan has been someone who saves his money from a young age. Now that he is in a stable career, he has the funds withdrawn monthly from his paycheck and automatically put into his 401(k).
Eitan’s approach to money and happiness is different than Sharett’s. He doesn’t view money as the gateway to happiness, instead he sees debt as a reason to cause unhappiness. “I never thought of money as making me happy. I do think that struggling with money and expenses would be something that would be a great detriment to happiness,” explains Eitan. “I find that I’m happy to spend it on a family member, close friend, or charity to make them happy. In terms of happiness, you choose to be happy.”