Everyone is experiencing some economic effects due to the coronavirus pandemic. For some, the main focus is on growing their emergency fund. For others, the biggest money move is planning a budget and sticking to it.
Today, millennials are the second largest age group. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials have slightly less wealth than Boomers did at the same age. One of the main reasons for this is the amount of debt millennials carry, which primarily comes from student loans.
Whether you are just finishing college, embarking on a new career or thinking about starting a family, getting your finances in order is key to financial freedom. Here are six money moves you should consider making now.
1. Create a budget
If you don’t have a budget already, now is a great time to create one. There are several free templates, tutorials and apps to get you on track. You can start with a budget planning calculator, and many people find a 50/30/20 budget is a great option to account for your wants, needs and savings or debts.
To stay in line with your budget, comparison shop all of your recurring bills. Look for better deals on your internet, cell phone plan and car insurance for more savings. A comparison tool like Squeeze will make this easy.
Tracking your finances is an essential part of planning for a sound financial future, so use the tools at your disposal. If you don’t know how your earnings and spending habits balance out, improving your financial situation will remain a vague idea, at best.
2. Pay down debts
Student loans are the biggest source of debt for millennials. A study from Experian found that the average millennials’ student loan balance was $34,504. Even if you were lucky enough to have some college savings or financial assistance, many of us still had to take on other forms of debt to pay for food and housing.
Whether you’re paying off student loans, credit card debt or other financial obligations, your top financial priority should be reducing your overall debt. This isn’t to say you should neglect savings or contributions to retirement funds, but you should focus on paying down all debts. . By doing this, you can also better your credit score and work toward making major purchases like a home, auto or business.
3. Build your credit
The basic tenet of building credit is showing a consistent ability to borrow and pay responsibly. In other words, you need to take on debt strategically, paying off the principal and interest at a consistent pace to demonstrate that you are a good risk for lenders to trust and let you borrow for big purchases you may need.
Some people think that taking on debt is a bad thing, so it’s helpful to understand the difference between good debt and bad debt. Homeownership, for example, is good debt to take on. However, lingering credit card debt is bad. If you can’t pay off the balance each month, you should curb your spending. Life can throw us unexpected expenses, so some debt may be inevitable. If you have to take on debt, try to maintain a reasonable amount of debt based on your income and expenses.
Credit is a necessary evil if you want to make any major purchase in life, from buying a home to starting a business. Even taking on a lease or buying a car requires a credit check. Can you get by without a strong credit history? Try it, you’ll see.
4. Save for retirement
Now is a good time to become familiar with the concept of compound interest. It means you’re earning interest not only on the principle you contribute to an account but also on the interest that accumulates.
If you haven't already started saving for retirement, it's never too late to start. Say you put $100 in an account earning 10% interest annually. After a year, you have $110 with interest earned. The next year, however, you earn interest on all the money in the account, including the interest previously earned, so you now have $121. This is vastly simplified, but you get the idea – you can earn a lot more quickly with this type of interest.
When money sits long enough, your earnings become exponential, so starting early is the key to getting the most out of your retirement plans. In addition, many retirement accounts are pre-tax income or tax-deferred, and some employers offer a percentage of matching funds for 401K accounts, which you should always take full advantage of.
5. Compare insurance
Shopping for insurance is one of the most overlooked ways to save hundreds of dollars every year, whether it's for your car or home.
When it comes to auto insurance, most of us have been with the same insurer for years and likely have never shopped for new insurance - even though premiums keep rising every year! Squeeze helps consumers get multiple quotes quickly in order to find the lowest rate, with the average savings for users topping $700 a year. That's something to take to the bank.
6. Start investing
Investments are just one key to financial planning many millennials ignore. Find ways to earn while operating at a risk level you’re comfortable with, and make the most of the investment opportunities now–without risking your bank balance in the process.