About Tomorrow

Joe Kesler

I’M NOT MUCH OF a bartender. But when my wife and I hosted an art show in Missoula for a friend, I got the chance to serve wine while meeting a whole new group of people. Bankers—my usual social circle—tend to be strait-laced analytical types, so it was entertaining to spend an evening meeting creative folks from our thriving arts community.

One young couple, who sported an array of tattoos and piercings, had a story that caught my attention. I’ll call them Louise and Leonardo. They had recently moved to Missoula from Asheville, North Carolina, another cool mountain town with a lot of similarities to Missoula.

Not too far into the conversation, it became apparent that they’d moved to Montana on a whim, didn’t have jobs, had little money and held to a philosophy that emphasized living in the moment. The concept of deferred gratification wasn’t part of their thinking. They believed that they had many years ahead of them when they could work, but right now they wanted to pursue their passion for travel and new experiences.

Do you have a Leonardo or Louise in your life? I don’t want to minimize the challenges of discussing bourgeois values with 20-somethings infatuated with the pursuit of their passion at all costs. Are there ways to pass along financial advice without crushing their dreams of a life full of meaning and purpose? Here are my four suggestions:

  • Introduce them to their future self. Snapchat, for instance, has a photo filter called Time Machine that lets you watch yourself age, becoming a much older and grayer you. Some money psychologists see great value in this. The theory: If we can visualize our older selves, it will help motivate us to defer spending and instead save for the person we’ll become.

Face-aging apps can help open up a discussion with the Leonardos and Louises of the world—and do so in a fun way. When we’re young, it’s easy to find just about everything interesting and think that’s your life’s passion. But in truth, it can take years to discover what you’re truly passionate about. At that juncture, you’ll want to be in a financial position to do what you love. Perhaps using an aging app can help spark a discussion about purpose later in life and the wisdom of doing a little financial preparation today.

  • Show the power of compounding. For instance, you might demonstrate how saving regularly for a dozen or 15 years can help folks reach an inflection point, where their annual investment gains equal what they’re saving each year. The dream of never worrying again about money can be motivating to those who would prefer to focus their life on other matters.
  • Introduce the concept of ownership. Buy your Leonardo and Louise a few shares of a company whose products they use and understand. I did this with my granddaughter. She’s a big fan of Disney, so I bought her a share of Walt Disney Co. You might even get the stock certificate framed—and be sure to reinvest the dividends, so they see how that helps drive investment growth.
  • Lead by example. The goal isn’t to be rich for the sake of having lots of money. Instead, show how saving money allows you to live generously and to lead the life you want. There’s no more powerful example to the younger generation than an authentic life that has meaning and purpose.

Joe Kesler is the author of Smart Money with Purpose and the founder of a website with the same name, which is where a version of this article first appeared. He spent 40 years in community banking, assisting small businesses and consumers. Joe served as chief executive of banks in Illinois and Montana. He currently lives with his wife in Missoula, Montana, spending his time writing on personal finance, serving on two bank boards and hiking in the Rocky Mountains. Joe’s previous articles include Prepare for PainDoing Good and True Wealth.

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