How to get out of your 20s in great financial shape
So, you’re in your 20s. You’re on your own, whether that means you have your own place or at least you’re old enough to come and go from your parents’ place at any old time you please.
It also means that it’s time to get at least a little more serious about your financial future. Because, before you know it, you’ll be much older. And, if you follow some of the good advice we’ve assembled here, the older you will thank the younger you.Trust us on this.
To help you get started, we’re going look at three checklists, assembled by financial experts, that offer advice on where you should be financially focused in your 20s.
First up: Business Insider’s “Smart things to do with your money in your 20s”
Your 20s come with a bunch of firsts: your first apartment, first job, and of course, your first consistent paycheck. While it can be tempting to start spending your newly earned money in all the same places, that may not be the best option for your financial future.
Here are what they cite as the top 7 areas to focus on:
- pay off student debt
- enroll in your company’s 401(k) plan
- Contribute to a Roth IRA
- Create a budget and monitor your cash flow
- Establish savings goals and start setting aside money
- Get the insurance you need
- Create an emergency fund
About #1, they had this to say: “In 2013, a full 70% of college students graduated with debt, averaging $30,000 in student loans. Student loan debt, in particular, is often blamed for preventing young people from buying homes, so the sooner you can start living debt-free, the better.”
About #2, they quoted certified financial planner Jonathan Meany: “‘Pay yourself first,’ says Meaney. This means, first and foremost, contribute to your 401(k) if your employer offers one, and take full advantage of your company’s 401(k) match program — which is essentially free money — if it has one.
Next: Some surprising additions to the list from Kiplinger
In “10 Financial Commandments for Your 20s,” Kiplinger has a #1 you might not have considered, but when you think about it, you’ll wonder why it doesn’t lead every list:
- Develop a marketable skill
- Establish a budget
- Get insured
- Make a debt-repayment plan
- Build an emergency fund
- Start saving for retirement
- Build up your credit history
- Quit the bank of Mom and Dad
- Clean up your online presence
- Get your key financial documents in order
About #1, they said this: “Before you can start worrying about what to do with your money, you need to earn some.” We say: true.
#9 returns to that theme, cautioning that you may be sending potential employers or colleagues the wrong impression: “Time to put down the red cups, folks, or at least scrub them from your public image. Like it or not, your social media activity is viewable by the entire Web-surfing world, including all your current or potential employers.”
And #10 reminds us of something important a lot of us forgot to do in our 20s: “You—not your parents—should have your birth certificate, Social Security card and other official IDs in your possession. Also keep a (password-protected or printed and hidden) list of all your banking and investment accounts, household bills and insurance policies, along with any online usernames and passwords.”
And finally: It’s time to invest
Forbes, an organization that knows a thing or two about making money, turns their attention to helping you grow your nest-egg in “How To Invest In Your 20’s: Financial Advisors Share Their Best Tips”
- Unleash the power of compound interest by investing early
- Consider investing as part of a broader financial plan.
- Realize that money is a tool.
- Ramp up your savings as you age.
- Ignore all the Joneses in your life.
- Invest in yourself.
- Automate your investments, then learn to live on less.
- Let Your Employer Help
These tips mostly speak for themselves, but #6 deserves special attention. Because “investing” isn’t always about the money, at least in the short term. It’s about finding ways to up your game, open your mind and, maybe, become a more well-rounded person:
“Read as many books as you can and attend conferences that support your growth,” says financial advisor Matthew Jackson. “More importantly, be sure to apply the best advice to your daily life. Few things can land you an increase in pay or new opportunity quicker than highly developing your skills.”
Wrapping it all up: Our list
To all of this sage financial advice, we’ll add just this:
- Enjoy yourself. Before you know it, you’ll be impossibly old. You’ll be 30.
- Just accept that everyone who tells you to start early is right. Because we are.
- Use sunscreen. SPF30 or higher. You’ll thank us in about 25 years.
See you in your 30s!