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6 Financial Tips for Millennials

Personal Finance

The mortarboards have been flung, tassels are hanging from rearview mirrors and a new group of college graduates are staying up until 3 a.m. submitting their resumes to every job opening they can find on the worldwide web.

man with sunglasses sitting comfortly in freindly workspace

It isn’t just the angst of entering the workforce and desperately seeking employment that keeps young millennials up late at night.

The idea of getting weaned off the bank of Mom and Dad is enough to startle even the most fearless new graduate awake at night, drenched in a cold sweat.

A lucky few suddenly feel flushed with cash after signing onto their first job.

Plenty of advice exists about finding a job, learning to network, and always giving even menial tasks 100% effort.

While career advice is important for all millennials, money advice may play an even more important role.

Here six simple tips to ensure millennials can handle their personal finances independently.

1. Set a budget

This doesn’t mean every penny has to be tracked and your checkbook must be balanced before bedtime (but I wouldn’t object).

Setting a budget means knowing how much of each paycheck should go towards bills, savings and then happy hour and shopping.

The first priority should be taking care of basic human needs: food, shelter and modern ones like lights, Internet, and the phone bill.

Most graduates also need to budget for debt payments, most likely in the form of student loans.

The remaining money can then be viewed as excess funds to shop, watch movies, squire a love interest about town or whatever.

When first starting out, excess funds might only amount to a paltry sum each month – so be careful not to spend more than you’ve earned.

If you are lucky enough to make big bucks right out of college, it’s incredibly important to set a budget to avoid lifestyle inflation and debt.

2. Pay yourself first

Paying yourself first is the holy grail of personal finance advice.

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Start saving money from the very first paycheck, in addition to contributing towards retirement.

Put money in a savings account to build the all-important emergency fund. You should aim to have three to six months of living expenses in savings and easily accessible – so not invested – in case the unexpected happens (such as job loss, medical emergency, car wreck).

Three to six months of living expenses might seem out of reach, but all you need to start is a small amount. If just $5 from each paycheck goes to the fund, that’s okay.

It’s about building an important habit of saving. Just be sure to increase that $5 as paychecks increase.

3. Contribute to your employer’s 401(k)

Except under certain circumstances, always contribute to an employer-matched 401(k) or similar retirement fund.

By procrastinating, or failing to do so at all, you are leaving hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars on the table.

Pensions are going the way of the VHS, so a 401(k) is often the preferred way to financial stability in retirement.

4. Don’t accumulate credit card debt

Credit cards are an effective tool for building credit history and even earning some lucrative rewards, but be warned, don’t buy more than you can afford.

Don’t get into the habit of paying the minimum amount due on a credit card. It does nothing but charge interest.

Paying only the minimum doesn’t help improve credit scores. Pay the credit card bill on time and in full each month.

Confused about how to handle credit card debt? Try using MagnifyMoney.com.

5. Create a strategy to pay off student loans

Assess student loan debt and research how to effectively pay it down with the least amount of interest accruing.

Does it make sense to consolidate? Are student loan forgiveness programs available? Which loans have the highest interest rates? Can you afford to pay a bit more than the minimum to help pay down the principal faster?

Take the time to create a strategy and explore free resources like ReadyForZero.

6. Ask for help

Transitioning to life after college can be overwhelming. It doesn’t matter if it’s freelancing or a job with a six-figure salary (think petroleum engineers), handling life’s finances can be daunting.

Reach out for help or guidance from people you trust (professors, friends, parents, coworkers), even if that means sharing a helpful book or website.

You can also look at how inflation can affect your wealth using our inflation rate calculator.

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Photo credit: wili_hybrid via photopin cc

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