Well-educated, collaborative, technology savvy and socially conscious are just a few terms that are often associated with Millennials. Their comfort with technology and the incessant pace of change makes them prized employees in many organizations.
Less comforting, however, are the numerous challenges that Millennials face as they become card-carrying adults: crushing student loan debt, the ongoing economic hangover from The Great Recession, and housing prices that are quickly approaching pre-recession levels. Add in an uncertain labor market, and slow economic growth and it’s no wonder many Millennials feel anxious about life and money.
Despite these challenges, there are simple steps that young adults can take to gain control of their finances.
- Budgeting: a budget is like the friend you didn’t know you need, but now find that you can’t live without. Creating a budget is easy- just track your expenses for a few weeks, add in annual items like insurance premiums or a vacation, make an adjusted tally of the monthly total and subtract it from your income. Now that you have a starting point the real work begins. Look for creative ways to manage expenses and maximize savings, while ensuring that you pay your bills on time. Technology applications such as Mint and Digit can help track expenses and stealthily increase your savings.
- Pay yourself first: saving for retirement, a first home, or other goals will require some discipline. Help make this as painless as possible by deducting your savings directly from your paycheck. And, yes, starting early really does make a difference. A 25-year old that saves 10% of their $50,000 salary in a retirement plan that earns an average return of 6% per year will have almost 38% more in retirement savings at age 67 than someone that waited until age 35 to begin saving.
- Understand your benefits: if you are fortunate enough to work for a company that provides insurance and/or retirement benefit plans be sure you understand how they work. Many firms offer health insurance, and some may include life insurance, disability income insurance, and dental or vision coverage. Just as important as knowing what they do cover is knowing what they don’t cover, and when you may need to purchase a supplement to these plans.
- Build your credit profile: begin by checking your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. To establish or enhance your credit profile, you can obtain a secured credit card, or become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card (and pay the balance in full each month). Opening a utility account(s) in your name is another way to help build your credit profile. Using credit responsibly can help you save enormous sums of money in the long run by reducing the interest rates that you are charged.
- Mind your career: begin with the end in mind and measure your progress along the way. Your goals should be well-defined, measurable and realistic. Look for opportunities for career advancement, build your professional networks and consider investing in additional education or training. Some firms may offer assistance with student loan repayment, or may sponsor additional academic or professional education.
Having a plan in place can make the uncertainties that lie ahead less stressful, and will put you on a solid foundation to achieve your goals. Happy adulting!
John Male, CFP® & Ginger McMorran (currently attempting to adult)
G&G Planning Concepts, Inc.
 Assumes an annual salary of $50,000 per year with 3% average increase. The example assumes a 10% salary deferrals beginning at age 25 and ending at age 67. The individual at age 35 is assumed to have an annual salary of $75,000, with a 3% annual salary increase. They defer the same 10% percentage of income.