Last week Beloit College released the Beloit College Mindset List, as it has each August since 1998. Originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, the list provides a “look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college.”
For example, this year’s freshman class, born in 1994, have never known a time when history didn’t have its own channel, when there were tan M&Ms (or when there weren’t blue ones), or when “It’s A Wonderful Life” was shown more than twice during the holidays. They grew up talking about “who shot Mr. Burns?” not “Who Shot J.R.?” and while for them there’s always been an NFL franchise in Jacksonville, they’ve never known one in Los Angeles. That floppy disk icon for “save” in the word processing document is as anachronistic to them as the “CC” reference to “carbon copy” likely was to their parents’ email. And, perhaps most significantly, they have never lived in a world without the World Wide Web.¹
Despite those differences, the class of 2016 will one day soon be faced with the same challenges of preparing for retirement as the rest of us. They’ll have to work through how much to save, how to invest those savings, what role Social Security will play, and—eventually—how and how fast to draw down those savings.
Those fortunate enough to have access to a work place retirement savings plan at least stand to have some advantages their parents didn’t. They’ll have a better shot at joining those programs immediately, rather than waiting a year, as was once the norm. There’s a growing chance that they will be enrolled in those plans automatically,¹and with the option to increase that initial contribution automatically as well. The expanding availability of qualified default investment alternatives, like target-date funds, should make their investment choices easier and better diversified, and some will likely benefit from the counsel of a growing number of expert advisors. As for help in figuring out how best to draw down those savings in retirement, more choices and alternatives come to market every year.
However, they also have another big advantage (and one that helps make all those other advantages all the better): They’ll have the advantage of time, a full career to save and build, to save at better rates, to invest more efficiently and effectively.
It’s more than just a shift in mindset—and it could give retirement saving a whole new perspective.
- Nevin E. Adams, JD
¹ The full 2016 Mindset List (and links to prior years’ lists) is online here.
² EBRI has recently quantified the impact of eligibility for participation in a 401(k) plan on retirement readiness for Gen Xers. See this report online here. See also “Retirement Income Adequacy for Boomers and Gen Xers: Evidence from the 2012 EBRI Retirement Security Projection Model,” online here.