Many Millennials say they’ve learned good financial lessons from watching older generations struggle with the consequences of bad money management in the Great Recession.
But saying and doing are two different things — and recent polls suggest that when it comes to the “doing,” Gen Y isn’t doing enough.
Consider these facts on Millennials and money, specifically when it comes to saving, from a recent US News article:
“While eight in 10 millennials say the recession taught them the importance of saving for the future, only 55 percent of the 1,639 millennials surveyed have actually started saving for retirement. Those who aren’t yet putting money away say they think they will be able to begin doing so at age 35.”
It’s true that today’s young professionals are juggling a lot when it comes to their finances. Between debt, regular monthly bills, and trying to catch up on big life milestones that might have been initially delayed right after college, it can be difficult to make room for savings.
But it’s a crucial step Millennials need to take — and they need to do it now.
Why Gen Y Needs to Save Now
Your 20s and 30s are your prime saving years. What you’re able to put away today will grow exponentially over your working years to create a sizeable nest egg when you’re ready to start living off the wealth you saved and earned.
That’s because compound interest needs time to really go to work for you. Check out these enlightening posts to learn more about how this mathematical force can grow your wealth in incredible ways if you give it enough time to do so:
- The Extraordinary Power of Compound Interest
- The Power of Compounding, Or How 1 Penny Doubling Every Day Turns into $10 Million by Day 31
- Why Compound Interest is a Saver’s Best Friend
How Gen Y Can Save More
But here’s the thing: according to the same article and numbers pulled from the same study, Millennials know all this. It seems that as a whole, our generation understands that personal financial education is crucial, knows that financial success stems from living within your means, and believes in the importance of saving for retirement now.
So why aren’t we doing anything about it?
We may get the why, but we might be struggling with the how. If that sounds like you, consider taking these actionable steps to make sure your actions are in line with your knowledge of personal finance and building wealth:
Take advantage of retirement accounts. The easiest place to start saving is in accounts that will match your contributions. In other words, go straight to your HR department and ask about retirement accounts from your company.
Have your contributions deducted straight from your paycheck (so you’ll never miss them because you’ll never see them) and ensure you’re putting in enough on your end to get the full company match from your employer.
And ask if there’s any kind of program that automatically puts future raises into your retirement account. This is a great way to boost your savings as you grow in your career, without you having to actively change your contributions.
Start earning more. Take initiative, be proactive, and go after opportunities to increase your income. This may look like earning a raise at your current position, seeking employment with another company, or establishing a side hustle or part-time gig in your off-hours from your regular job. And if no opportunities fall into your lap? Be tenacious and create your own.
Keep living like a college student. Even if you do start earning more — which is awesome — don’t let your lifestyle creep up with your income. Maintain a basic standard of living and embrace being a little frugal. No, you don’t need to survive off Ramen noodles, but you should aim to keep your expenses as low as possible so that you free up more cash to contribute to savings.
Make it automatic. Don’t give yourself a chance to spend when you know saving is so important. Once you know you have a budget surplus (in other words, when you aren’t spending every cent you make), create an automatic transfer to your savings account.
Take the next step and invest. Saving is a good start, but you need to go from saver to investor if you want to achieve big financial goals. Look into low-cost investments for the long term and create a diversified portfolio.
Ask for help. Yes, investing can be overwhelming and complicated — but when done smartly, it’s the key to growing wealth in such a way that you attain financial security, stability, and independence. If you’re confused or don’t know where to start, that’s okay. Don’t hesitate and reach out for help.
And don’t think that you can’t afford professional advice, either. Seek out a fee-only financial advisor who can specialize in your unique needs, goals, and financial questions as a member of Gen Y.