10 Money Moves Baby Boomers Taught Millennials That Are Now a Lost Art

Unlock the secrets of financial wisdom as we revisit the lost knowledge of Baby Boomers.

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Updated June 6, 2024
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Some money moves are timeless and unchanging: Always learn marketable skills and spend less than you earn. It’s also important to start planning for retirement as soon as possible.

However, other adages become less applicable with time.

Many Baby Boomers have given their millennial children advice about money. However, as these millennials have entered adulthood, they’re finding that the following money tips are now obsolete.

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Stay away from credit cards

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While credit cards can be misused, they can also be an important financial tool. As long as you pay off the balance each month to avoid accruing interest, credit cards have advantages that debit cards and cash cannot match.

Many credit cards offer rewards through travel points or cash back. That means using the best cashback credit cards and other great cards can save you money, provided you pay off your balance each month.

Credit cards also tend to have better fraud protection than debit cards and offer other perks such as extended product warranties and rental car insurance.

Finally, responsibly using a credit card can help boost your credit score.

Balance your checkbook

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A growing percentage of transactions are now executed digitally. Such transactions quickly appear in your account, and that information can be accessed via an app or website.

That means there's less need to write down each purchase you make than in the past. Even when closely tracking your expenses, dozens of apps, websites, and forms of software help you do that automatically.

Most banks allow you to set up alerts when your account balance is low, saving you the trouble of balancing your checkbook.

Save for a house down payment

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With rising interest rates and real estate prices, owning a home has become much less affordable since 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors.

In many places, it’s cheaper to rent than to take out a new mortgage on a home. That has convinced many folks that saving for a down payment on a home they can't afford is futile.

Stubbornly high home prices aren’t expected to plummet anytime soon, so renting might be the better choice for many Americans through the foreseeable future.

Resolve $10,000 or more of your debt

Credit card debt is suffocating. It constantly weighs on your mind and controls every choice you make. You can end up emotionally and even physically drained from it. And even though you make regular payments, it feels like you can never make any progress because of the interest.

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Try it

Find a great company and stick with it

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It sounds logical that companies should reward loyal workers for their years of dedicated service. However, many workers find they do better by jumping from company to company.

For example, a survey by The Conference Board found that 29% of respondents said their pay increased by 30% or more when they changed jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting large pay raises with your current company can be challenging, so the advice of sticking with one employer might be a bit outdated.

Save tax returns, receipts, and documents in a folder

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If you’re like most people, you’ve got a file drawer or shoebox full of receipts, tax returns, and other important documents, just in case you need them later.

While the IRS recommends keeping a tax return for three years from the date you filed it, there’s nothing that says it can’t be a digital copy.

As long as you have legible, digital copies of things such as tax documents and business receipts and you have them safely stored and backed up, there is no reason to let the originals clutter up your filing cabinet. Instead, shred and dispose of them.

Have 3 months of emergency expenses tucked away

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While most people are at least trying to save some money each month, inflation and other factors can make building an emergency fund difficult.

In fact, 38% of households surveyed said they were significantly behind on building an emergency cash reserve, according to a Bankrate survey.

For many, socking away three months or more of expenses seems like a pipe dream.

Get a college degree

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Boomers used to push for everyone to get a college education categorically. However, burgeoning student loan balances have caused millennials to think twice about recommending university degrees to their kids.

Enrollment in skilled trades has climbed in recent years, promising in-demand careers for those in fields such as construction or HVAC repair. 

Most programs are much shorter and cheaper than four-year university degrees, making them attractive to new high school grads.

Invest in mutual funds

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It’s no wonder baby boomers have been pushing mutual funds as a great way to invest. Mutual funds are investment vehicles that allow you to invest in stocks and bonds, and many people have made good money using them.

However, a challenger to the mutual fund arrived on the scene in 1990 — the exchange-traded fund, or ETF. Many ETFs have lower fees than mutual funds, and you can trade them like stocks throughout the day.

The mutual fund still has its place but is no longer the only kid on the block.

Always engage in face-to-face networking

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There’s something special about picking a mentor’s brain over lunch or coffee. However, quite a bit of networking is now done virtually.

Nowadays, it’s easy to check in with colleagues, attend networking events, and meet new people without leaving your desk.

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for this. After curating your online profile, you can add people you know in real life and those in your niche or industry that you would like to get to know.

Face-to-face meetings are still important, but not nearly as much as in the past.

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Don’t talk about your salary

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Talking about how much money you make used to be taboo. Perhaps it came from concerns that others would be jealous. Or maybe it was a management tool to keep underpaid workers from challenging the status quo.

In either case, this trend has started to change in favor of salary transparency. Ten states have salary transparency laws in which employers must publish a salary range for a given position.

Such laws help new hires know whether a job would fit their requirements before they apply. They also discourage discrimination and allow current employees to negotiate for fair pay that can improve their financial fitness.

Bottom line

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With the economy, technology, and culture constantly evolving, it’s no surprise that financial advice should change too.

While the baby boomers who espoused this money advice doubtlessly had good intentions, the world has changed for millennials and Gen Z — and likely for those who come after.

If you want to get ahead financially, it might pay to leave behind some of the outdated wisdom of well-intentioned baby boomers.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson

Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.