Millennials - Here's How to Adult Like a Pro
Millennials, or those born between 1981 and 1996, have faced possibly the most uncertain entrance to the workforce of any generation since the Great Depression. The earliest millennials entered the job market just in time for the Great Recession, while the youngest now start off their careers with the mass layoffs brought on by the Covid-19 shutdown. Having to take jobs that they were often overqualified for while facing an ever-increasing burden of student debt, many have been financially strained from the moment they graduated. While it has been a rocky start to be sure, it's not too late to start making smart money moves to make up for lost time.
Build Up Emergency Savings
Perhaps the most important move anyone can make, and often the first, is to build up 3-6 months in an emergency fund. There will ALWAYS be unexpected and large expenses right around the corner, but paying 20% interest on a credit card to cover these expenses will only set you back further. It might be that you start with $20 per week into an envelope, or maybe you have the discipline to contribute to a savings account with your bank. Whichever method works for you, implement a plan and stick to it..
Paying Off Debt vs. Saving
With student loans and credit card bills common hurdles for millennials, many are unsure of whether to prioritize funding a savings account or paying off debt. While you may tell yourself that paying down that credit card bill will free up income, without established emergency savings your credit card IS your emergency fund. Make sure you take care of step 1 before moving to step 2. Pay your minimum monthly bill, and once you have an emergency fund in place, you can then begin to attack that debt balance with extra payments.
When To Saving For Retirement
Make sure you sign up for your company's 401(k) plan as soon as you are eligible, typically 90 days after your first day on the job. You should aim to contribute 10% of your paycheck, or at least up to your company's match. For example, if your employer offers 100% matching contributions up to 6%, you should contribute at least 6%. That is "free" money after all. If you have never invested before, or if the idea of choosing "the right investment" seems daunting, fear not. Most plans offer target retirement date funds which allow you to simply choose the date of your estimated retirement (usually at 65) and let a money manager determine which investments to hold.
Once that emergency fund is in place, debt has been paid down and you are contributing to your retirement plan, you can then start to work towards other goals such as purchasing your first home or that slightly used car to replace your 200,000 mile clunker. So whether you just got your first job or have been employed for 15 years, follow these simple tips to help set you up for success and put money issues in the rearview mirror.