With retirement decades away, many young people just entering the workforce imagine themselves to have ample time to get around to saving and planning. However, financial experts recommend that young adults consider their future now, as waiting sacrifices valuable years of saving and planning.
Here are some tips for anyone who is considering their financial future.
1. Pay Attention to Your Spending
Unfortunately, many high schools do not offer practical finance classes that teach basic skills such as budgeting and investing. As a result, many young adults may find themselves with an income but little control over their spending.
Learning how to set limits on yourself and stick to a budget are basic skills necessary for developing a solid financial foundation. That means not running up credit card debt to make purchases or spending your entire paycheck when some of it could be saved, the consequences of which could be significant and lasting. For example, if you use a credit card and don’t pay off your monthly balance, your debt could continue to grow, resulting in a potentially substantial amount of your income going toward interest payments rather than paying down the credit card’s balance.
A better approach is to be more mindful of your spending and potentially delay purchase-related gratification. Do you really need a $7 coffee daily, or could you save that money for a special treat? Is that pair of shoes worth the interest you’ll have to pay on a growing credit card balance?
Making a budget and tracking your spending will force you to pay attention to your spending habits and consider the impact of purchases on your finances.
2. Save Now
The more you save for retirement now, the bigger the payoff will be when you retire. Plus, it’s never too early to establish a lifelong habit of saving.
Numerous options are available to help you save for retirement. Your employer may offer a 401(k) and provide matching contributions. If that’s not the case, check into a Roth IRA, which offers tax-free withdrawals (contributions are taxed) starting at age 59 1/2. Although that may seem like a lifetime away, the sum you accumulate over a lifetime of saving will be worth it once you retire.
3. Save for Emergencies
In addition to retirement savings, it’s important to begin building an emergency fund. Ideally, this fund would be enough to cover your expenses for six months if you lost your job. It could also be used to cover unexpected medical expenses, car repairs, or other large, unexpected expenses that don’t fit into your budget.
While traditional savings accounts are easy to use, they don’t generate a lot of interest. Better choices for emergency funds include high-interest savings and money market accounts, as well as short-term certificates of deposit. When you set up an account, make sure that you can withdraw money easily in an emergency.
When making a budget, savings for an emergency fund should be a priority, even if you can only save a small amount. In addition to building your savings over time, this practice should confer some peace of mind since you will be financially prepared for unexpected expenses.
4. Learn about Taxes
It’s important to understand how taxes work, as they can have a significant impact on your income and financial planning. For example, when you get your first job offer, you’ll need to know whether the salary is enough – after taxes – to cover your budget and savings goals. Likewise, if you receive a promotion or otherwise change jobs, you could secure a higher salary that moves you into a higher tax bracket that cuts into your raise. You can calculate your taxes with an online tax calculator.
5. Invest in the Market
Investing in the stock market can be intimidating, and many don’t invest because they’re afraid. However, following a set of easy rules for investing wisely in the stock market can reap significant advantages.
When purchasing stocks, which offer you partial ownership in a company, buy when they are priced low and sell when their value is higher than what you paid for your shares. Stocks can be purchased individually or in mutual funds, which means that you buy pieces of multiple stocks in the same purchase. New investors should choose mutual funds, as they spread your investment across numerous stocks and are less risky.
6. Enlist a Financial Planner
While managing your own money doesn’t require a finance background, once you move beyond the basics, it can be helpful to bring in a financial adviser. These professionals can assist you with creating an overall financial strategy, including plans for budgeting, saving, and investing. Be sure to hire a financial professional that only charges a fee and is concerned with your best interests rather than a financial adviser who receives a commission when you buy into investments their company supports.