Building Wealth From the Ground Up

Cathy Butler - Morgan Stanley

If you are coming into wealth for the first time, a unique set of challenges presents itself.

During the day, the next generation of wealth is busy building startups or running projects for major corporations. If you are an individual coming into wealth for the first time from a low- to middle-income background, a unique set of challenges presents itself as you attempt to both manage and enjoy your hard earned-wealth.

One of these challenges may be student loan debt. Besides navigating yourself out of debt, it can be tough to navigate relationship dynamics and commitments when you are new to wealth. You may feel an understandable pull to give back to your family and community, but have a hard time balancing these commitments with those of your own self-care and personal investment.

As your financial position improves, it is common to experience guilt and overwhelming feelings as you notice your improved position relative to your family and friends. These feelings can have an impact on how you relate to your family and community, and how you understand your role and function in those relationships.

Couple these feelings with others' new perception of you as a “wealthy" person, and it can be easy to fall prey to a perceived responsibility for others that exhausts your emotional and financial resources. Here are a few ways to take care of your own financial health as you navigate this exciting but challenging new position of wealth.

Start Saving Now
When we're young, it is easy to feel as if retirement is a lifetime away. We may spend very little time, if any, thinking about practical ways to prepare for our golden years. "I'll take care of that in a decade or two," one might think. But if anything teaches us that the time to start saving is now, it is the importance of compound interest on your retirement contributions.

For an example of how compound interest can make a considerable difference, imagine this example of a 22-year-old who starts contributing 10 percent of his $60,000 annual salary to his 401(k), with two percent added by his employer. By the time of his retirement, he could end up with over a million dollars as his nest egg. In comparison, imagine a 45-year-old who contributes $1,000 per month, but over just a 20-year period. She will reach retirement with around 50 percent less than the 22-year-old—even though she contributed more monthly and more in total over the life of her contributions.

Compound interest is a perfect reason to start saving now, even if all you can afford at the moment is a modest monthly commitment of less than 10 percent of your salary.

Build a Budget
Scrap the “entitlement gene" mentality that is all too common among millennials. This is a mentality that resists advice, especially when it comes to budgeting. Rather than focusing on near-term pleasures, build a concrete and coherent five-year plan to hunker down on short-term success.

In addition to the five-year plan, there are certain “rules of thumb” in the immediate term that may help to align you with smarter budgeting. For example, it is suggested not to let your monthly rent exceed 30 percent of your gross monthly income. Relatedly, try not to let your vehicle expenses exceed 10 percent of your income. And while it can be hard to determine how much to spend on your wants unless you have concrete figures, consider working with a 30-percent-and-under after-tax allowance for discretionary expenses.

S.M.A.R.T. Investments
S.M.A.R.T. investments are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-oriented. There are a number of ways to invest your wealth for long-term benefit. You might finally make a go at that startup idea, or invest in further education. Purchasing your first home is another great way to invest your new wealth and ensure that this wealth supports you in the longer term.

It is understandable and admirable to want to give back to your family and community, but you will be of more service over time if you take care of your own financial health first by investing in yourself. These three suggestions (saving for retirement, budgeting and investing) can help you to feel more grounded in your financial future, and also help to offset the stresses that come with new wealth. iBi

Cathy S. Butler, CFP, CRPC is a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley. For more information, visit www.morganstanleyfa.com/cathy.butler.

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