We’ve designated March as “Millennial Money Month”, mostly because we like a lot of alliteration.
But we also recognize that young adults could use a little financial (and life) advice at this crucial point in their lives, especially considering the uncertain world they are facing.
So we’ll start with a few things they should know (and remember) when making tough choices about what to do next.
Go to school, but . . .
. . . don’t waste your time, and your (or your parents’) money. If you know what you want to do and where you want to go, great--pick a school and a major that fits with your current goals, knowing that you can always change your mind.
But keep in mind just because a school is more expensive, it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily get a better education than a less costly option.
This is especially true when weighing the merits of an out-of-state public university, versus one in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Or evaluating a private college with an eye-popping tuition sticker price.
Remember that if you plan on getting an advanced degree (such as Master’s, or PhD), it will matter much more to you and your prospective employers where that piece of paper came from, rather than where you earned your undergraduate degree.
And if you don’t think you’re “right” for college right now, don’t go just because you have nothing else to do, or all of your friends are going. Maybe take a few months (or years) to figure out your future.
Then you can begin your education when you’re a little older, and hopefully a little wiser.
Track your spending
Regardless of where (and if) you go to college, once you’re “on your own” the best way to demonstrate your money maturity is to begin watching where your money goes each month, and cutting it back wherever possible.
That could and should mean paying for everyday expenses with cash, and saving credit cards for true emergencies (such as a car repair).
If you have a big expenditure coming up (such as a Spring Break trip), begin setting money aside each week until you have enough to cover the cost.
And when it comes to deciding if you can afford anything beyond the basics, a good rule of thumb is if you can pay cash for it (and still cover your other monthly expenses), you can afford it.
If not, you may have to delay the spending until your piggy bank fills up.
All you need to monitor your spending is an hour each month with your bank statement, a calculator, a pen, and a notebook.
But if you prefer a digital solution, you can track your action with programs like Mint (www.mint.com), or You Need a Budget (www.ynab.com).
Start saving sooner
Yes, you’re young, and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. But take it from those of us who are little bit older. Time will fly quickly, and you will join the ranks of the middle-aged sooner than you think, or would like to.
One thing you can do today that your future self will definitely appreciate is begin setting some money aside from any earnings into some form of investment account, such as an IRA, Roth IRA, or 401k.
It doesn’t have to be much--maybe $50 or $100 per month. Start with a figure that causes a little bit of pain, knowing you can always decrease or stop the systematic saving if you have to.
Keep the questions coming
In the next few weeks we will go a little deeper on these and other money subjects that should be important to young adults.
But we will also answer questions you have about your situation, or about a Millenial for whom you are concerned (such as an adult child).
Send the questions to [email protected] All names will remain confidential, although we may not be able to answer each question we receive.