Millennials have been known to have unique values when compared to other generations, and a popular trend over the past decade has been the rise of “tiny living.” On a quest for less, younger generations sought out minimal, shoebox-style homes and now, millennials are uprooting that tiny home lifestyle and taking it on tour.
As most Americans were forced to work from home over the past year, many took the time to rethink their values, priorities, and what their dream life looks like. While touring the country in an RV tends to be associated with retirees checking off bucket list items, the numbers show that younger generations are beginning to do the same.
New Normal, New Priorities
According to a survey from the RV Industry Association, millennials are now more interested in buying an RV than any other age demographic.1 Why is this the case? Well, one theory is that millennials are beginning to form a perspective that experiences bring more happiness and joy than material items, therefore causing them to search for a lifestyle that aligns with those beliefs and values.
Additionally, high housing costs may be playing a significant role in this trend. If purchasing an RV, touring the country, and living a life full of experiences is cheaper than buying an average home in your area right now, it makes sense that the numbers are reflecting a rise in the nomadic lifestyle. Also, with the shift towards remote work, people don’t necessarily need to stay in their high-cost-of-living city just because that’s where their workplace is.
How to Create Options for Yourself Financially
If you’re seriously considering the glamping life, whether as a part-time road thing or a permanent lifestyle change, the first step is to take care of the future. Prioritizing your investment situation can help you to begin to open up the doors to new opportunities with your money.
As always, you want to make sure you’re taking care of your retirement savings. Contributing enough to your 401(k) to get the company match is just good sense – it’s free money. But you should also strive to contribute up to 15% of your salary. When it comes to investing, time is your best friend. Don’t neglect your future self by making decisions that are only based on short-term interests.
When thinking about financial flexibility, knocking out debt should be towards the top of the list. This is because when you have debt, you don’t own all your incoming cash flow and when aiming for flexibility, cash flow is an important piece of the puzzle.
And a significant aspect of your monthly cash flow is saving a portion of it. If you don’t have one yet, establishing and maintaining an emergency fund is another key to embracing this lifestyle as it can help cover any unexpected expenses along the way. A general rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months of your living expenses saved but depending on your comfortability, it may make sense to aim for closer to 9-12 months.
With any excess funds, it’s typically recommended to prioritize investing in taxable accounts for additional long-term growth, but since this is emergency money you want to dial back the risk. With interest rates low a money market may not be the way to go, but there are other options that can preserve your capital while adding a bit of growth potential.
Prepping for an RV
In that same survey cited above, the RV Industry Association reported that this is the first-time millennials have been more intent on purchasing an RV than any other age group.2 So if you have a desire to load up the family and take a trip like the Griswold’s, you’ll need to have a plan to make it happen.
In thinking about buying an RV, one of the first things to consider is the cost and this can be approached just like any other financial goal. The price can range anywhere from a modest new car all the way up to the cost of a single-family home3 so take some time to think about the potential costs, and then work backwards to determine how much money you’ll need and what your savings rate should be. Depending on what your dream is, you may be able to save for the whole amount or just put together enough to make financing the rest affordable. If your heart is set on an Airstream – you’ll need to make some changes to your budget and your discretionary expenses now.
When making a large purchase, an important aspect that commonly gets overlooked until the time comes is credit scores. You may be several years out from your purchase target date while you save, which is a good time frame to give your credit some attention. Just a slightly higher score may allow you to get a lower interest rate, potentially saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the length of the loan. Keep the balances of each credit line under 30% of the line’s credit limit, and of course make your payments on time.
To experience van life without committing to a purchase, a more cost-effective approach may be renting a recreational vehicle for a period of time. This can help avoid the need to take on debt which may make living on the road a little more feasible and requires less of a commitment.
Adding to the last point, paying off debt should be a priority because being debt-free can allow you to keep your expenses lower and more manageable if you had to give up a source of income to adopt this lifestyle. However, if life on the road costs less than your previous lifestyle, it may help speed up the payoff process as you would be able to put more money towards outstanding balances.
Also, having additional streams of income can be helpful to cover any unexpected costs as well as to continue putting money towards other savings goals such as retirement or college savings. With the rise of remote work and online side hustles, building additional income streams, from anywhere in the world, has never been easier.
Each generation tends to have their own values and for millennials, those values are shifting towards a prioritization of experiences over material items. For those who have a desire to uproot their current way of life and hit the road, it’s important to think through all the potential scenarios and carefully plan out your financial situation to ensure the new lifestyle is sustainable.
- Chang, Brittany. Millennials Are Flocking To Rvs Like Never Before During The Pandemic, New Data Shows. Business Insider. December 22, 2020.
- Malczan, Nicole. Average RV Costs with 19 Example Prices. Camper Report. 2019.
The information contained herein is intended to be used for educational purposes only and is not exhaustive. Diversification and/or any strategy that may be discussed does not guarantee against investment losses but are intended to help manage risk and return. If applicable, historical discussions and/or opinions are not predictive of future events. The content is presented in good faith and has been drawn from sources believed to be reliable. The content is not intended to be legal, tax or financial advice. Please consult a legal, tax or financial professional for information specific to your individual situation.
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