Your 20s will give you some of the most exciting times of your life. You’ll slowly begin to fall into the person you’re destined to be, which could mean anything from settling into a career, to finding the right person, learning how to cook, making some investments, traveling the world—the possibilities are honestly endless.
Far as your life’s timeline is concerned, your 20s are the real sweet spot because you’ve learned from the trials and tribulations of your adolescence, and you’re still full of enough piss and vinegar to really stir things up and make moves.
Perhaps most importantly, your 20s also are going to (hopefully) be the first time in your life you really experience what it’s like to have a little money in your pocket. But with that dough comes the chore of learning how to manage it.
Here are 6 money moves everyone in their 20’s should make this fall:
Start a Retirement Account
Young professionals hear it all the time: You’re not growing up in the same workforce as your parents. While your mom and dad may have done 40 comfortable years with the same company, your generation isn’t going to have it quite as easy. In fact, according to data compiled by LinkedIn, on average, millennials will change their jobs four times in the first 10 years of their career.
What that means for you is that while companies used to take a vested interest in the lives of their employees with things like pensions or 401k plans, that burden is falling more and more on the shoulders of individuals. The only real way to ensure a comfortable retirement these days is to lay the foundation yourself.
Check out 401k plans, investment strategies and things like Roth IRA accounts to start putting money into. The best thing about these accounts is that you get a decent return on them, and when you retire, a lot of it is tax-free.
On average, if you start putting $5,000 into a Roth IRA account every year at age 25, you’ll see a rough return of 8% on your investment. If retiring at age 65, that’ll yield something like $1.4 million—tax-free.
Being able to fall back on a corporate 401k/match plan is nice, but make sure you’re putting in the work for yourself.
Tackle Your Debt
For young adults, taking on debt has become a normal thing. In fact, in 1016, the average college graduate had over $37 thousand in student loan debt alone. That’s not including any kind of automobile loan debt or credit debt.
All too frequently we see young people—even young people who earn a decent salary—being crushed under the weight of their debt. If you’re the kind of person just making the minimum payments now to get by, understand the longer you do that, the more interest is going to accrue on that debt, which means you’re setting yourself up to spend more time paying off more money.
Take these next few years—before children, a mortgage, your first wife (hey, don’t blame us—the odds aren’t exactly in your favor), etc.—to really get a running head start on chipping away your debt.
The sooner you get that paid off, the sooner you can start enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Get a Handle on Your Credit Score
Speaking of attacking your debt, your credit score is the key standard by which your credit worthiness is measured. Whether you’re applying for a credit card to help make a couple purchases for your new apartment, trying to get a good financing rate for an automobile purchase or taking out that small business loan with your good buddy (more on this in a second), your credit score is what lenders consider the most.
Your measurable debt has a huge impact on your credit score, but so do things like your payment history, the types of credit accounts you have and how many applications you’ve made for new cards. The best thing to do is order your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re entitled to one free credit report every year, and you can read more about that at the FTC.gov website.
Start a Business
Facts don’t lie. According to a recent Gallup poll, 57 percent of adults dream of someday owning their own businesses, but only something like 10 percent of them actually find the time and courage to take the leap and make it happen.
Your 20s are your best time to hustle because, well, aside from having the physical energy to work a full-time gig and crush a side hustle, you also have the time to focus on it.
Some of the world’s most renowned entrepreneurs got their start in their 20s, including Mark Zuckerberg, David Karp, Blake Ross, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban and plenty of others. Capitalize on your good ideas before life grinds you to a halt.
Learn More About Personal Finance
“Personal finance” is a phrase with a broad range of definitions, but can be summed up like this: Your relationship between your money and you. That means budgeting, retirement planning, investing, determining measurable cash flow, etc.
We’ve spent some time covering a lot of very specific aspects of personal finance, but it’s important for you to understand what, exactly, it is and why it plays such a critically important role in your life.
Being able to look at the overall forest is equally important as being able to examine every individual tree. Luckily, with the weather getting chillier, you’ll have all the time in the world to read up on how to get a hold on everything. There are a lot of personal finance resources out there for you, but here are some of our favorites:
- Five Cent Nickel
- The Golden Money List by Zen Habits
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich
- The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy
Start Working on an Emergency Fund
Finally, start working on your emergency fund. And by “emergency fund,” we mean emergency fund; not “vacation fun happy play time rainy day fund.”
Once you’ve taken a look at your personal finances and determined a solid monthly budget for yourself, look at what’s left over. Take a chunk of that (half, if you can) and throw it into a separate savings account. If there’s nothing left over at the end of the month, you may want to consider cutting out some unnecessary expenses or even biting the bullet and picking up some side gigs.
The idea here is to start off slow. Try to put away $1,000 or so by the New Year, and then from there, work your way up to three months worth of money, six months worth of money, etc.
If your finances are in order and your eyes are on your money, you should be able to figure out exactly how much you need to live. Remember: There's no need to trigger premature hair loss over the thought of your future. With some prep and savvy, you'll have it made.
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