The Great Recession created a perfect storm for millennials. It was the worst financial crisis the United States had seen since the Great Depression, and it left millennials playing catch up with their finances in the hopes of someday being able to retire. But even as they fight to break even, millennials continue to accrue debt.
The Federal Reserve recently released a study showing millennials have accumulated more than $1 trillion in debt including mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and student loans. Additionally, Schwab’s 2019 Modern Wealth report revealed that 62 percent of millennials are living paycheck to paycheck while only 38 percent feel financially stable. Despite that statistic, millennials also say they spend nearly $500 a month in nonessential purchases.
While the numbers above look grim, there is still hope for millennials pursuing the “American Dream.” It is important to remember that paying off cars and credit cards, buying a home and working toward retirement are not impossible feats. Like everything else in life, finances are about balance and finding an approach that works best for you.
Create a budget. Budgets are not “one size fits all,” and no two people will have the same financial goals. First, find a strategy that balances rewarding life experiences and saving for the future. Be realistic when crafting your savings and spending goals. For example, you can’t expect to go immediately from saving nothing each month to saving $500 a month. Start with a number that is easily attainable and increase the amount when it’s feasible.
Automate your finances. It’s easy for us to spend more than we save. The trick to overcoming that urge is to put our finances on autopilot. If your paycheck is set up with direct deposit, have a portion of it automatically deposited into a savings account that you don’t touch. Also, set up recurring transfers from your checking account into your savings account. Automatic bill pay is another great way to get ahead. Using online bill pay ensures that your bills are paid on time and you don’t have to remember to pay them (or buy stamps to mail them out)!
Track your spending. How much money do you spend at Starbucks each month? How many Amazon boxes arrive at your door each week? Chances are, like most of us, you don’t keep track of a $5 purchase here or a $10 purchase there. But those small amounts begin to add up and they can add up quickly. There are a number of apps like Mint, Quicken, and Twine – that aggregate your financial transactions and organize them by category so you can create and monitor a budget. Get some budget set up tips here.
Avoid impulse purchases. Overspending is a common interference to achieving financial goals. The more we give in to unplanned or excessive purchases, the harder it is to save money or stick to a budget. Rather than caving to those impulse buys, implement new habits to help avoid traps. Give yourself a waiting period for large purchases. During that waiting period, talk to someone such as a friend, partner, or spouse who is financially sound – and get their opinion about the purchase before you pull the trigger.
Consider a side hustle. Part-time work is a great way to make a little extra money that helps trim down debt or pad a savings account. There are multiple rideshare apps and food delivery apps that allow you to work when you want and as much as you want. If you have a particular skill set like writing or computer work, you can always look for ways to contract out those skills to make a little extra money doing freelance.
Trim your monthly expenses. Do you have a gym membership you never use? Are you paying for cable you barely watch? Does GrubHub make regular deliveries to your place? The average millennial spends more than $500 a month in nonessential purchases. Look at your budget and see where you can trim items. Replace cable with a streaming service. Make dinner at home. Get rid of that gym membership you never use and go for a run outdoors. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can build back your savings by eliminating unnecessary bills.
At First Financial, we offer our members a variety of services including financial planning and credit management counseling. We want to help you find a way to save for your future in a way that also meets your immediate needs. Contact us to schedule an appointment to review your financial situation and find a path that gets you where you want to be.