How To Secure Your Financial Future
Being a millennial is great. We grew up watching the original Nickelodeon and Disney shows, enjoyed the Backstreet Boys in their prime, and now get to enjoy things like Netflix, Instagram and the crippling pressure of society to have our financial future figured out.
Yeah, I said it. On top of all those great things about being a millennial, those aged 23 to 38 have traded in their Lisa Frank binders and Beanie Babies for checkbooks, student loan debt, and home ownership.
But adulthood doesn’t have to be so scary! There is a way to not be one of the 62% of millennials who are living paycheck to paycheck.
It’s time to break the stereotype that millennials are the most financially unstable generation. It’s time for us millennials to take control of our financial future so we can empower ourselves and show our children what it means to be successful. Are you ready? Here’s how you can take control of your financial future right now.
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Form good money habits early.
A big thing missing from our millennial curriculum is financial literacy. I never learned about debt, saving for retirement, investing, or 401(k)s when I was in school. While we can’t go back in time, we can start forming better money habits right now. Some of these healthy money habits include credit card use, budgeting, and saving for emergencies.
1. Know when to use a credit card
Research shows 40% of millennials have credit card debt. First rule of thumb: never, ever spend money you don’t have. If you can’t afford to pay off your credit card each month, you should not own one. Credit cards can actually be powerful tools if you can use them correctly (hellooo cashback and free flights!). However, if you aren’t paying off your bill, you are accumulating 15% to 20% interest on the total amount you already owe each month. That is a nightmare snowball effect waiting to happen. If the credit card thing doesn’t work out for you, use cash. There are a lot of personal finance bloggers out there who encourage the use of “cash envelopes” to organize your spending funds on a monthly basis.
2. Keep track of your money
Budgets are also a crucial part of a healthy financial life. While a formal written budget isn’t required (although it helps), you should know how much money comes into your bank account every month and how much you spend on things such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and other expenses. Without knowing these numbers, you will blindly spend money without acknowledging how much wealth you are accumulating or how far away you are from your financial goals. This is also where using cash envelopes may help control your spending since you are only allowed to spend what you put in those designated envelope funds.
3. Start an emergency fund
Emergency funds are one of those things people wish they had… when an emergency happens. In fact, two-thirds of Americans would struggle to come up with $1,000 in an emergency situation. Think about it: what if you got a flat tire, or your dog needed emergency surgery, or your laptop spontaneously combusted before a big deadline? Could you afford to fix it? That’s why it’s critical to squirrel away a portion of your paycheck every month into a separate, high-yield savings account. Not only will a separate account eliminate your urge to spend the money, but you can earn interest on your deposits. Win-win.
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Compromise on certain activities in order to save more.
Millennials say they spend an average of $478 a month on “nonessential” purchases, like dining out, entertainment, luxury items, and trips. That’s over $5,700 a year wasted on frivolous expenses! Why in the world is this happening if two-thirds of this generation are living to paycheck to paycheck?
If you want to start saving more money and paying off more debt, it’s time to put down the bottomless mimosas at brunch and make some compromises. This concept is called “living within your means.” If you can’t afford those all-day booze fests, shopping sprees or extravagant trips, you probably shouldn’t purchase them in order to keep up with the Joneses. Your future self will thank you for it!
It can be hard, I know. I get FOMO all the time when I see my friends out on the weekends, enjoying breweries and sporting events. But because my priorities include becoming financially independent and saving for another home, I have to make sacrifices now to enjoy my freedom later. I can’t do that if I spend $100 every weekend on nonessentials.
Instead of participating in expensive weekend events or going shopping every time you get paid, do something free or relatively cheap with friends. Have a potluck dinner party and watch a movie. Host a game night and everyone chips in to create a signature cocktail. There are plenty of ways to still have fun in your 20’s and 30’s without shelling out hundreds of dollars every month.
Understand the power of compound interest.
Compound interest is the concept of earning interest on top of interest—it’s one of the most powerful tools to make money, especially while you’re young. There are a ton of ways to reap the benefits of compound interest such as investments, a high-yield savings account, and your 401(k).
Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you invest $1,000 in the stock market, which earns an average 8% interest every year. Next year, you would have $1080. And the year after that, you would earn an additional 8% on top of the $80 interest you just received ($1080 x .08), bringing your year two total to $1,166.40. See how that adds up?
Imagine if you invested the $5,700 from your nonessential yearly spending. If you contributed that amount each year with an 8% return, you’d have over $44,400 in only five years! *mic drop*
That’s why it’s so important for your financial future to start investing while you are young. As you can see from the graph below, saving in your 401(k) or any other investment account while you’re in your 20’s is the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time you are 65.
Ditch the victim mentality.
I have to put my bad cop hat on now. I love you guys, but we cannot blame other people for our financial situations. We are in complete control of our spending, earning potential, financial education, and ultimately our financial future. I’m a huge advocate for keeping personal finance personal, meaning it should be what’s best for you, it should be kept private if you choose, and it’s completely dependent on your actions and habits.
A recent viral Twitter trend was the inspiration behind the topic for this post. #MillennialRetirementPlans was trending on Twitter this fall. While some of the tweets were pretty funny, there were a few that proved our generation may be too reliant on blaming others. Check some of them out below:
It seems like our generation believes we will never retire, our parents should help us out, and student loan debt will consume us until the end of time.
But here’s the thing. There are millennials who are already retired. There are millennials who have paid off their student loan debt (like, $200,000+ in only a few years!). There are millennials who are debt-free. And there are millennials who are saving for retirement (like me!). If other people can do it, that means it’s not impossible to achieve.
The big question is: how can YOU get there?
Smart money habits. Budgeting. Investments. Consistency. Sacrifice. Accountability. Discipline. Lots of PB&J’s. Last season’s outfits. Rinse and repeat.
As the great Brittney Spears once said, “Now I’m stronger than yesterday. Now it’s nothing but my way.” You can do it. Form your financial goals. Follow a plan. Be stronger than yesterday.
Your financial future is looking brighter already.
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Hannah Spurrier is the founder of Just Our Two Sense, a website educating readers about personal finance, entrepreneurship, marketing and more. As one part of the Just Our Two Sense couple, Hannah brings her digital marketing expertise and desire for financial freedom to the table alongside her boyfriend Brian’s experience in real estate, sales, stocks, and other money-making endeavors.