As kids we all dream about living the grown up life – Earning your own money, buying a house, car and living the good life. But what we aren’t taught is how to cope with everything that comes with growing up. With your first real job you take your first step into this magical grown up world and are soon faced with a new challenge – How to manage your finances.
A survey by George Washington University in the United States revealed that about 34% of millennials polled were not fully satisfied with their current financial standing and 18% were not satisfied at all.
Most of us have just started out, are clearly not experts at managing finances and usually live paycheck to paycheck. But even when we earn a relatively good income why do we end up broke month after month? The answer is simple – our financial decisions aren’t aligned with our future financial needs.
Here’s offering young adults practical advice on how to navigate the world of grown up finance.
Stay on top of your budget
The money game demands you to be the boss of your wallet instead of it getting the better of you. For this to happen, you need to take charge of your income and keep a tab on where it’s going.
This is where the old fashioned budget comes into play – A map to drive your money in the right direction. Whether it’s the notes app in your phone, an excel spreadsheet or a budget app to track your finances, choose one that works best for you and make it your holy grail.
Start with the very basics – The fixed and big ticket items such as rent, utility bills, insurance, and monthly debt installments. After you have deducted these, you would have a realistic picture of what you’re left with to spend and eventually have fewer nasty surprises when the bank statement shows up.
[Related: The 50/20/30 budgeting rule – Does it work?]
Money can’t buy happiness but it sure can make you comfortable. And with social media offering a heavy dose of FOMO, millennials find themselves struggling to keep up with their peers. Even when this may seem like a never ending trap, ask yourself the most important question – Do I really need this? The sooner you learn to separate wants from needs, the better you’ll get at making smart lifestyle choices.
Simple switches in your daily coffee, dine out, entertainment and shopping habits can take you a long way and show clear results at the end of the month. And when you do see them, make sure to treat yourself for the achievement!
Pay off your debts
If you owe money to the bank like an education loan or so, your focus should be on buying your financial freedom back without any delay (missed payments). With the piling up interest working against you, you need to have a strategy in place. This can be something as simple as: I am going to pay off my ___ loan by paying ___ amount every month. If you have multiple loans, start with the one with the highest interest and so on.
Educate yourself about the world of finance
Getting your first credit card can make you feel empowered, but in reality it’s actually doing the opposite, putting you in a vulnerable spot. When used right, it can ease your big purchases into easy installments, but any unchecked frivolous spending can take you down a dangerous path riddled with financial mistakes.
Like everything else, you can shop for the right credit card, bank account and loans and choose one that offers the best value whether in terms of a good interest rate, low fees or even the rewards and discounts offered.
The smart way to use your card is putting all the automated expenses (utilities, insurance, subscriptions etc.) on it and using your debit card/cash for the rest. For finance, check if transferring your salary to the bank can get you a better rate.
[Related: 5 ways to curb your shopping impulse]
Have a financial plan A… and plan B
You have just ventured into the world of grown up finance and retirement may seem far far away. But sadly with ups and downs in the job market, that’s not the only thing you need to be prepared for. For the very least you need to have an emergency fund- a stash of money set aside for the rainy days.
Once you have some positive numbers (savings) in your bank accounts, it’s time to think about growing this money to ensure your financial well being. Consider less risky options such as savings accounts, deposits or bonds and then gradually move on to riskier but highly paying investment options.
If you plan well, spend smartly and save enough, you’ll come out of our 20’s and 30’s feeling far more confident about your financial future.