I recently hit the half-way point of my twenties. Once my Zoom party had ended and the virtual candles were all blown out, it dawned on me that I needed to start seriously saving for my future. For years, my mother has recommended that I start my retirement fund. In my head, I would think, “I’m too young for that, I’ve loads of time!” And yes, I am young and yes, I do have time, but at some point, you have to start. The sooner you start, the more you save.
But how do you start?
I’ve scoured the web and asked older peers what advice they would give their younger-saving-selves. Everyone’s of the same opinion – start early, get ahead. Make worthwhile habits now that will help you stay financially secure.
So, tick these 10 steps off your to-do list and you are certain to find your financial flow.
1) Change your perspective
When you graduate college and start working full-time, the thrill of a consistent income is absolutely liberating. Finally, you have money! You can buy Xbox games and facial mists to your heart’s content. Unfortunately, spending money like you’re on Beyonce won’t help you save. (Unless you ARE Beyonce….)
That’s why this step is the hardest but the most important. You have to change your perspective on money. Instead of considering your finances in the short-term, you need to think about the bigger picture.
2) Set financial goals
Where do you want to be this time next year? Do you want to live in a nicer apartment? Move cities? Buy a car? Travel around Asia? It’s great to have goals like these, but you need money to achieve them. So set some financial goals for yourself. Write them down, share them with a friend or get creative about it and make a vision board. Then, work backwards. If your goal is to have $5,000 in your emergency savings fund by next year, figure up how much to save each month and then each paycheck. Then it’s easy to automate a transfer to your savings account and just watch your savings grow!
3) Educate yourself
Learn about personal finances. Different banks have different options for young savers. Some even have specific accounts for graduates. Websites like wallethub.com and findabetterbank.com allow you to find the bank that suits you best. Talk to your employer about company programs that can help you save. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube Channel, too!
4) Get organized
You (not your parents) should have all your important documents, like your birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, apartment lease etc. Keep a list of any bank accounts, savings bonds, policies that you have, along with online usernames and passwords (save yourself the pain of being on hold with customer service). Make sure you have the details of any old savings accounts that your parents might have opened. Keep all this information in a secure place that you can access easily.
5) Establish a budget and STICK TO IT
Everybody hates the word budget. But without one, you risk overspending on non-essentials and undersaving for the important purchases. Budgeting is about identifying your needs, your wants, and your saving targets, as well as tracking your spending. Understanding the difference between a need and a want can help you make small sacrifices that add up to big savings.
Keep your budget simple and easy to implement. The 50-30-20 rule is a popular method. The basic rule is to divide up after-tax monthly income so that 50% goes towards needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings. Use apps like Mint to help you track your spending and allocate your income to the right places.
Jayla shared a video recently about how she likes to budget, make sure you check it out if you need some tips!
6) Start an emergency fund
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the future is never certain. That’s why it’s extremely important to have an emergency fund. It’s typically a savings account where you keep an untouched sum of money that covers essential expenses. Minimum is about three months of savings for a single person. The majority of young savers probably don’t have a lot to save, but getting into the habit of frequently saving even a little money every payday is a huge step.
7) Prioritize paying off debts
Ignoring your debts is like ignoring a leak in your roof. It may start small and be easy to forget but the more you ignore it, the worse it gets. You end up with a much bigger problem to fix, like greater interest payments and lower credit scores. Construct a debt-repayment plan and try to set-up automatic payments to make your life as easy as possible.
8) Underspend on rent
If you’re paying a lot of rent, it’s very hard to free up money in other areas of your budget, and makes saving very difficult. So try and keep this cost as low as possible. A good guideline is 30% of your salary after taxes. For example, if you bring home $3,000 per month after taxes, your rent should be 30% of that, or $900. However, this will fluctuate depending on where you’re living and what your other expenses entail.
9) Get insured
Now that you’re an adult, it’s your responsibility to protect your health and your belongings. Paying for insurance can feel like burning your money, but nothing will derail your savings faster than an unexpected medical / dental / home-repair bill you’re not insured for!
10) Start saving for retirement
I know that retirement seems like a long way off when you’re in your twenties. Unfortunately for us, experts are saying that the current generation of twenty/thirty-somethings will need to save for retirement for as long as their work career. Using an online retirement calculator will give you a good (and shocking!) idea of how much you need to save.
So long as you start early, you will be fine. Talk to your employer about 401K or other retirement plan options. Try not to think of it as subtracting money from your paycheck, but consider them automatic payments to your future self.
What is one step you’ve implemented into your Financial flow?