Okay, so we want you to enjoy your money, especially in your 20s! Now’s the time to flex your financial muscles, buy fun things, and enjoy memorable experiences. We also want you to be in a healthy spot in your 30s and beyond and not drowning in consumer and student loan debt.
Here are some recommended money moves that will help you establish healthy habits and reach your financial goals.
1.Take Your Emergency Fund Seriously
No one anticipates a car breaking down or hospital bill but they come at unexpected times. Take some time to build up your emergency fund and make sure you have 3-6 months of take-home income saved. Depending on your situation, you might want to save more. For instance, if you own a home, you may want to have 8 months of income saved in case of sudden home emergencies, but if you’re single and renting, 4 or 5 months of savings suffice.
2. Take Advantage of 401K Employer Matches
You’re in a grown-person job and your employer is offering to match your 401K contribution up to a certain point? Four words for you: FREE MONEY, TAKE IT. Most US employers match 50 cents on the dollar up to 6%. That means if you put 6% of your paycheck aside to this retirement fund, your employee will put in 3%—that’s a 50% return on your money.
3. Make A Budget
You have life goals, but now it’s time to establish some financial goals. Spend some time plotting out what you want for yourself financially—maybe it’s to buy a home in your late 20s, invest $5,000/year in stocks, or not have to look at food prices when you go out to eat. Once you know your goals, establish a budget that helps you reach your milestones.
Having a budget that supports big goals for your money is critical because it gives you guardrails to stay within and motivates you to make smarter short- and long-term choices with your money. Plus, there are countless free budgeting apps available like Pocketguard, Mint, and Simple.
4. Snowball Your Debt Payments
The average American under the age of 35 has $67,400 of debt. This is a combination of mainly credit card debt, vehicle debt, and student loans. But it’s not just about the debt, but high-interest rates driving up the total repayment amount.
Thing is, there are multiple ways to tackle your loans—no matter what strategy you use, we encourage you to place a high priority on debt repayment. Debt grows over time and can hurt your ability to buy a home, take out new loans, or reach your financial goals in general.
We recommend the snowball effect: Pay off your smallest debts first and then you’re larger loans. This helps you build repayment momentum and once smaller debts are paid, it can make you excited to tackle more debt and put even more money behind your repaying larger, higher-interest debts.
5. Start Investing!
There are countless apps available that allow you to invest in publicly traded companies like Acorn or the Robinhood app. Many high-performing stocks can get expensive, so we recommend prioritizing debt repayment before you start investing. If you’re not sure where to start, financial consultants are a helpful resource. They can help you navigate low- to high-risk investments so you get the best possible returns on your money.
6. Save For What You Want
You need to treat yourself every now and again! Things and experiences are getting more expensive each year, so, chances are, that massage, fancy dinner, or gadget is pretty expensive. Instead of putting it on credit, make a habit of saving for it before making the purchase. It may take a few months or even a year, but your wallet will be happier if you make fewer large purchases on credit. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your treat was well-earned and well-saved for.
7. Supplement Retirement Savings
If you already have a 401K you’re paying into, excellent! Why are you even reading this blog, you’re killin’ the game!
But if you have a bit of wiggle room in your budget, you can start an additional retirement stream called an IRA or individual retirement account. Even with a small, monthly investment in your early 20s, an IRA benefits from compounding interest resulting in an exponential growth of your investment. That means you’ll get paid out from both your 401K and your IRA investments upon retirement.
8. Get Paid From Your Credit Cards
Not all cards are created equal—many are designed to offer some amazing benefits to cardholders. If you’re in the market for a new card, consider your options with an eye for the kinds of benefits you can get like cashback and points you can use for travel. With the cashback you get, you can save for trips you want to take or use it for discretionary spending—that way, you spend less out-of-pocket of unnecessary expenses.
Don’t submit to the temptation to have multiple credit cards, especially if there’s no need for it. Select one card that gets you the most benefits and be sure to keep up with payments.
9. Set A Budget When Spending On Others
When shopping for others, it can be tempting to splurge on high tech gadgets or expensive items. What can you say—you’re generous! But whether it’s Mother’s Day gifts, Christmas gifts, or presents for a friend or spouse, set a price limit and stick to it. You can get wonderful Mother’s Day gifts for $35 or less and Christmas gifts can have a $50 limit per person.
Especially if you’re dating someone and have new family members to shop for, family gifts can become an overwhelming expense if you aren’t careful. Use this budget to be especially thoughtful and couple physical gifts with video compilations of your loved ones, special home-made meals, small parties, or even handmade gifts to show them how much you care.
10. Don’t Skimp on Renter’s Insurance
43% of millennials are renters and less than half (42 percent) of that population has renters insurance according to a study by Liberty Mutual. Thing is, accidents and theft happen every day, and this type of insurance is necessary to protect personal belongings in your apartment. That means if a fire or flood destroys your belongings, your renter’s insurance would pay to have those belongings replaced.
And you can’t afford to replace that fancy comforter AND your favorite luggage set, much less the electronics you can lose if something disastrous happened in your apartment.
Use Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to find some of the things you need at a reduced price. Sometimes, nearly-new furniture, clothes, and appliances are available at almost no cost. Keep an eye on those sites for great bargain finds!
We wish you many years of financial prosperity and responsible money management! You’ve got this—the discipline you’ll learn by practicing these top money moves will pay off.💸