Hey you, Millennial. Listen up.
Millennials are sometimes seen as the unfortunate generation.
It often seems that the Baby Boomers have taken the best of what's available, while Generation X is always standing in line just ahead of the Millennials.
If you're a Millennial yourself, there's nothing to be gained from feeling cheated; it just means you'll have to change tactics and work a bit harder.
Here are 29 actionable financial tips that millennials need to take right now.
If you take enough of them, and make them part of your financial plan going forward, you might start finding yourself further ahead, and faster, than you thought possible.
It's time to show the Baby Boomers and Gen X'ers what's up!
1. Set at least one financial goal to achieve this year.
If you've never been much of a goal setter, then you'll have to walk before you can run. Set one financial goal that you can achieve this year. It should be one that is fairly substantial, but doable within the remaining months of the year at the same time.
The point is, if you can successfully achieve one goal, you can achieve others. Start slow and work your way up.
It took me a while to get used to setting goals, but I now I review my goals every quarter. I contribute my revenue more than doubling because of consistent goal setting.
2. Create a three-year plan.
A plan is different than a goal, because you are setting an objective — usually, several of them at the same time. You're also allowing yourself a specific amount of time to accomplish them, and creating a series of action steps that will enable you to make them happen.
Let your imagination run free here; you can include as many individual goals within your plan as you like. For example, you can set a plan that includes getting out of debt, starting or increasing your retirement savings, or building an emergency fund.
Set the plan for three years, and then create strategies for how you'll achieve each objective within that timeframe. It is very important that your plan be in writing — even formally typed out, like a business plan. Then you can refer to it on regular basis, at least until your action plan(s) become second-nature.
3. If you aren't saving for retirement, get into a plan right now.
Despite your young age, retirement will be here before you know it. The earlier you start, the better you will be prepared when that happens.
A lot of people shy away from setting up a retirement plan because they feel overwhelmed by the amount of money that will be required. But you can take it in small steps, and starting a plan is pretty easy to do. Sign up for your employer-sponsored retirement plan at work, or, if you don't have one, set up an individual retirement account (IRA). My pick, of course, is the Roth IRA. Here's the best places to open a Roth IRA.
You can fund either account through payroll deductions to be taken right out of your paycheck. It doesn't have to be a lot, but get started now.
4. If you are in a retirement plan, increase your contribution by 1%.
If you're already in a retirement plan, but making some minimal contribution, plan to gradually increase it. Once again, you don't have to do anything dramatic here. Just plan on increasing your contribution by 1% of your pay each year.
If you're currently saving 6% — which is typically the maximum to take advantage of employer matching contributions — increase it to 7% this year. Next year, plan to increase it to 8%, and by an additional percentage point each year there after. If you can increase it by more than 1% per year, then you'll be that much better off.
By increasing your retirement contributions in small increments, you'll hardly notice the change in your paycheck, particularly if you're getting annual pay raises of at least 2%. Soon enough you'll be saving double digits for your retirement — 10%, 15%, even 20%.
By then you may be looking at a reasonable prospect of early retirement. In fact, you can see how this family man was able to retire at 30 because of his outrageous savings rate.
5. Tune out the 'doom and gloom.'
The world is always telling us why we should be worried about everything — let go of it all. You should be concerned, not worried, and sufficiently concerned to take the kind of action that will make the worries go away.
6. Pay off one credit card …
If you have too much debt, you probably already realize that you won't be able to get out of it anytime soon — and you don't have to. Pick one credit card, and plan to pay it off as soon as possible.
The one with the smallest balance is your best chance to make it happen quickly.
7. … Then pay off one more credit card.
Once you payoff that first credit card, no matter how small it is, choose another to target for payoff. It should be the second easiest card to pay off, which probably means it will have the second smallest balance.
Once you have two cards paid off, you'll have your debt snowball rolling, and you can keep going until all of your credit cards are paid. It's okay if it takes several years, because you'll be making progress with each card you pay off along the way.
8. Set your bills up for auto-pay.
Paying bills is more than just annoying — it can be emotionally debilitating, particularly if your budget is on the tight side. Spare yourself the aggravation, and set up your bills for auto payment. You'll have to do this with each payment that you have, but once you have most or all of them set up this way, you'll have more time for everything else you want to do — and a lot less stress.
9. Create financial affirmations.
At the beginning I talked about setting at least one goal, and also creating a three-year financial plan. You should also create financial affirmations.
Affirmations are brief sentences and sayings that resonate with you. For example, they can deal with the benefits of taking certain actions, helping you to create a certain mindset necessary to achieve the goal, or simply restating your plan. They should be in writing, and placed in areas of your home that you are in frequently. For example, placing affirmations on your bathroom mirror is a way to guarantee that you will see them each and every day.
You can write phrases such as In five years (or four, or three, etc.) I will be debt free, or I'm a saver, not a spender. The idea is to create sayings that will help you to cement in your mind that you are fully capable of achieving your goals.
10. Read at least one good financial book.
In a perfect world, you would plan to read one good financial book every month. But if that has not been your habit in the past, you may have to settle for choosing one good book and getting it read.
I would be remiss if I didn't recommend my book, "Soldier of Finance," as a good book to start with. But don't stop there. There are plenty of excellent books on finance available; you should investigate and read as many as possible.
And while you're at it, you should also become a regular follower of a few select financial blogs. May I suggest Good Financial Cents as one of them?
11. Volunteer to work with the less fortunate.
Sometimes a little bit of perspective goes a long way when it comes to getting the upper hand on your finances. One of the best ways to do that is by doing volunteer work helping the less fortunate. Seeing people who are in worse situations than you are can make you realize how fortunate you really are.
Contributing to your favorite charity is a worthy way to help, but nothing beats getting involved in a more direct way.
12. Drop a free-spending friend or two.
It's been said that we're the average of our five closest friends, and if your social circle is dominated by free spenders, they could be unconsciously sabotaging your efforts at greater financial responsibility. You may be busy trying to keep up with your free-spending friends at the expense of your own finances.
If that is a problem in your life, you may want to drop a free-spending friend or two, and replace them with some new friends who are, shall we say, more conservative in their lifestyles? It could end up being the most important step you ever take toward financial independence.
13. Start teaching your kids about finances.
There's sometimes a natural inclination to want to shield our kids from the often harsh realities of personal finance. But if your parents did that with you and your siblings, you may be struggling with the result even now.
Gradually introduce your kids to the world of personal finance. You never want to give them more than they can handle, but you should begin making them aware of the impact of money on their lives as early as possible.
An allowance is a good way to start, particularly if it is tied to chores. You can complete the lesson by making them aware of what things cost, particularly those they're interested in buying. Just make sure that they pay with their own money!
14. Save — don't spend — your next windfall.
This is simple in concept, but super hard when the check is in your hand. Yet it can make all the difference in the world. For example, rather than spending your next tax refund or bonus check, deposit it into your emergency fund or your IRA.
That will convert temporary income into permanent savings.
15. Find simpler ways to entertain yourself.
Entertainment is likely the biggest black hole in the average household budget. It can cost $70-$80 to take a family of four to the movies, $200 to attend a major league baseball game, and $100 per ticket to go to a concert to see a popular musical act.
Look for entertainment that's closer to home and more basic. Spend more time with family and friends (your more frugal friends), take up productive hobbies like reading and gardening, and learn to window shop. It's not that you have to swear off more traditional forms of entertainment, but it will help immensely to keep them to a minimum.
16. Learn to cook.hen you learn to cook, you're killing several financial birds with one stone:
You're eating in more, which means you're eating out less — and saving yourself a small fortune on restaurant meals.
You're creating another activity to occupy your time, so that you're not out spending money filling the hours with high-priced entertainment.
You're making it easier to entertain family and friends in your home, which will save even more money on entertainment.
Cooking is also a skill, and nearly any skill that you learn will make you feel better about yourself, and less dependent on spending money for the same purpose.
17. Visualize what being debt-free will look like, then write it down!
This is entirely a mental activity, but one that can pack a lot of punch. If you currently have a lot of debt, start visualizing what it will be like to be completely debt-free. Imagine how that will feel — particularly the absence of stress in combination with greater freedom.
That visualization will give you something very real to aim for. Write down whatever feelings that you have, that way you can refer to it as frequently as is necessary. It's another form of financial affirmation, but one that is specifically aimed at getting yourself out of debt.
18. Keep your old clunker for one more year.
Most people mostly want a new car — but they don't necessarily need one. Unless your car is certifiably ready for the scrapheap, keep it at least a year longer than you intended. That will mean one more year without a car payment, and one more year to save up money for a larger down payment, so that the monthly payment will be lower when the time to buy finally does come.
19. Brainstorm with someone whose financial goals are similar to yours.
If you are establishing financial goals that are different from what you've traditionally had, you'll need some company helping you to stay on track. Find someone with similar financial goals to yours, and spend time on a regular basis brainstorming about various ways to make your plans work. You should try to get together at least monthly, so you can exchange ideas and even hold each other accountable.
20. Start an exercise program.
Spending money is sometimes a substitute for more productive pastimes. Think of it as a form of creative avoidance. If you start a regular exercise program, you'll probably find that you feel better about yourself, and will have less time or need to spend money to buy things that will make you feel better.
It will also increase your health, which will make you less dependent on costly healthcare. Exercise also has a way of helping you to focus, which can only help if you're trying to establish new financial plans for your life.
My workout regiment of choice is Crossfit and I love it! Crossfit might be too extreme for you, but that's okay. It's important you find the workout program that gives you the motivation to get your butt off the couch and work up a sweat.
21. Commit to spending less than you earn.
If Personal Finance 101 was a real course, spending less than you earn is a lesson that would probably be covered on the very first day. No progress is possible with personal finance unless you can arrange your budget so that you'll have extra money each and every month. That will be the capital source you'll use to increase savings and investments, and pay off debt.
22. Get serious about your emergency fund.ith large retirement funds and generous credit lines, having an emergency fund can seem so old school that you may not get around to ever having one. It's important to understand that a retirement fund is not an emergency fund, and credit lines only lead you deeper in debt — which sets up the next emergency.
Get serious about establishing and funding an emergency fund. Once you have it, leave it for legitimate emergencies only.
23. Lighten up on your TV time.hat does TV have to do with your finances? Maybe everything! The whole purpose of TV is advertising, and the whole purpose of advertising is to get you to buy things that you wouldn't ordinarily purchase. It's very likely that the less time you spend watching TV, the less money you will need to spend.
24. Make your next big purchase through Craigslist.
In a world where convenience is so highly prized, the typical routine whenever we need something is to head to the nearest big-box and buy it. Quick and hassle-free — but also expensive. Before you buy anything brand-new, especially a major purchase, check and see what's available on Craigslist. You may find the very item that you need, just a couple of years old, at a fraction of the price you would pay for a brand-new unit.
You may not be able to do this on every major purchase that you make, but doing on just a few major purchases can save you several thousand dollars.
25. Let go of your past financial sins.
Do you find yourself agonizing over past financial mistakes? It could be a "good job" that you quit (or got fired from) and have never recovered the salary level. It could be a failed business. It can also be a previous bankruptcy or foreclosure. Whatever it was, don't let it continue to define your life.
The past is the past, and you can't change it. More importantly, your mission now is to move forward and create the best life possible. You can't do that if you're still ruminating over mistakes you made years ago.
26. Learn to shop without your credit cards.
A funny thing happens when you shop without credit cards — you're unable to spend money you don't have. Use your debit card for routine shopping trips, and save your credit cards for the times when it's absolutely necessary — like when you need travel insurance on airline tickets, or need a buyer's protection plan on a major purchase. That will keep your credit card balances from growing more than you intend due to impulse buys.
27. Take a shot at earning some money on the web.
Multiple income streams are becoming more important as job security continues to fade. One of the best places to begin creating one is on the Internet. Many thousands of people are doing this right now, and you can too.
Do some research, and determine what kind of web business you might be able to start. It could be starting your own blog, doing subcontracting work for other blog owners, writing articles for blogs and websites, or selling some sort of product or service. If you're pretty adept at the social media, you might even try your hand at becoming a social media manager for several websites.
Start small, and plan to grow it over several years. You can work at home, and work at your own pace. And it could provide the extra cash flow that you will need to build up savings to pay off debt.
28. Learn at least one new work-related skill.
Make a list of skills that would make you more valuable to your employer, or to a future employer. Choose one on the list that is either most valuable or most doable from where you are right now, and plan to master it.
It could be the skill that either gets you a bigger raise, or puts you in line for a promotion. Plan to do that every year from now on.
29. Become transitional, not transactional.
I saw this on Facebook the other day, and it stuck with me. Most of us are pretty good at being transactional — as in dealing with the situation that's right in front of us. But by becoming transitional, you begin to think of the big picture, like making major changes and improvements in your life.
See yourself is in a constant state of flux — always ready to move, to be flexible, to implement life-changing strategies. That will put you in a position to create a whole new lifestyle. And where finances are concerned, it's important to always be moving forward, if only a little bit at a time.
By Jeff Rose
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which course of action may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor.
Investment advice offered through Gerber Kawasaki Inc, a registered investment advisor. Please consult your investment professional before acting on any advice.