Talk about a teaching moment. The financial crisis that just notched its five-year anniversary was the ultimate classroom for investors and savers. And, according to a new survey by Fidelity Investments, Gen Yers - those born between 1981 and 1988, - were taking better notes than just about anybody else. FOX Business Network's (FBN) Gerri Willis, host of The Willis Report (6PM/ET), weighs in below on some money lessons from the Great Recession:
1. Buy what you can pay for.
If there was any resounding lesson from the financial crisis it was this: Don't buy things you can't afford. In the build-up to the bust, homebuyers bought bigger and more expensive houses than they could afford and Wall Street financial firms gorged on risky debt. As a result, consumers and banks got into deep financial trouble. Venerable Wall Street names like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns went out of business. And, more Americans lost their homes than at any time since the Depression. During the downturn, 12.2 million foreclosures were started or completed. You may have a wish-list of things you think you absolutely "need," but it's important to consider actual needs versus wants. It's easy to charge away on a credit card and think you'll pay for it later, but consider the trouble this could eventually result in. Create your own personal guidelines for spending and saving and stick to them.
2. Go against the herd.
As the stock market and the housing market tanked during the financial crisis, many Americans pulled their money from stocks and other investments believing that it was unsafe to invest. How wrong they were. The market has rallied 33 percent since the start of the downturn. If you had stayed put, keeping your money in for the long term, you would have emerged a winner. These days, 55 percent of Gen Yers feel confident about financial matters, compared to just 47 percent of seniors. Trust your gut and don't just go along with what everyone else is doing.
3. Save for emergencies.
Seeing is believing. Gen Yers saw the consequences of parents living at the edge, living paycheck to paycheck Here's a lesson Gen Yers have taken to heart - 71 percent contribute to emergency funds compared to 52 percent among boomers.
4. Set aside what you can for retirement.
There was a time when financial advisors talked about the three legs of retirement: the pension, Social Security and the 401 (K). These days Gen Yers largely believe only their savings in a 401(K) or other investment vehicle will be available to them. Pensions have largely been abandoned by corporate America and Social Security's future is wobbly at best.
5. Get financial advice.
In the worst days of the downturn, many investors panicked. Concerned that the system would collapse, or that the economy would never recover from recession, some figured that getting some of their money back was better than getting none. Had they had an advisor to talk them off the ledge, perhaps the advisor could have stopped them from selling at lows. Interestingly, Gen Y millionaires are more likely to work with advisors, but be sure to do your homework on an advisor's background before taking their advice.
6. Don't be greedy.
I can't tell you how many people I knew in the real estate business during the housing boom, who would say, you might as well buy now because prices are only going up. History proved that one to be wrong. Instead of loading up on a single asset, like housing, because you can, you are always much better off spreading your money around. Asset allocation isn't sexy, but it sure is smart.