1. Create a budget.
A budget is essential. Make a list of all your income and expenditures, and add them up to see how you’re making out, monthly and annually. If you’re seeing a surplus, that’s great—but if not, you’ll need to tighten your budget by figuring out the amounts you need to make, save, and spend in order to make ends meet.
Even if it looks like you’re doing okay balancing your monthly budget, if there is room to scale down your spending, you should. Save a little extra and reroute that money into an investment.
2. Build an emergency fund.
One major car repair, injury, appliance replacement, or other big-ticket items can really set you back financially. Create an emergency fund against these possibilities and only dip into it when absolutely necessary. This way, you aren’t maxing out your credit cards or depleting your other funds if something unexpected pops up.
If you struggle with building up your fund, have extra money deducted from your paycheck so you’ll get a refund at tax time, then funnel that money into your emergency fund. And think of it this way: If you’re fortunate enough not to need your emergency fund, then you’ll be ahead of the game financially when your 50s arrive.
3. Set up a retirement fund.
Too many people wait to start saving for retirement until they reach middle age, which is way too late. Many millennials are tracking to follow suit, with two-thirds of them having saved nothing yet, despite the fact that they see retiring around age 61 as a reasonable goal.
Experts typically recommend that young adults should open an IRA or other retirement accounts, and definitely should invest in their 401(k) accounts, especially when employers offer matching funds. In fact, many Americans, in general, are missing out on this financially smart benefit. A solid rule of thumb is to put about 15 percent of your pay annually into a 401(k).
4. Think big.
A savings account is a smart idea; however, it’s not going to yield a big return via interest nor ferry you to early retirement. But if you do have money saved, then you have the option to make significant and potentially lucrative investments.
For instance, you could buy a rental property. You can list your home on vacation rental sites, collect rent, pay your mortgage, stash away the remaining funds, and build some equity. Over time, you might even want to add a property or two to your portfolio.
Or start your own business. Got an idea, passion, or golden opportunity? Take an entrepreneurial leap! Many businesses can be launched right from home on a shoestring budget. Put a plan together, get the word out on social media, then attend trade shows and other networking events to promote yourself and build your company.
These two options or similar ones put your wallet to work, and can eventually position you for solid financial footing down the road.
5. Take a few investment risks.
Even if you’re risk-averse, it’s not a bad idea to know how the world of investment works. Done right, it’s a venture that can be quite lucrative. Look into investing just a little at first, whether in stocks, bonds, commodities, real estate, your sister’s promising business, or another opportunity. Then watch your investment carefully to see if and when it pays off. If it doesn’t, look to shift into another type of investment.
6. Rethink your location.
If you’re living in an expensive city, consider a change of scenery. These younger years are a perfect time to try out new places, anyway. So why spend thousands a month on sky-high rent or property taxes? By moving to a more affordable city, you could save loads on rent and living expenses. For example, Omaha is a cheaper market than Los Angeles. Take your savings and put them to work toward your financial goals.
7. Watch your credit spending.
As millennials, we are firmly a part of the digital spending revolution, which is convenient but makes it easy to overspend. When you can’t pay off your credit card bill every month, you’re charging too much.
To avoid accumulating credit card debt, pay close attention to your spending, delete shopping apps off your phone (or at least keep yourself logged out), and track your receipts. If you’re already in debt, consider debt consolidation so you can get back on track. (And speaking of debt, if you’re still carrying student loans, look into loan forgiveness programs or refinancing.)
At this point in your life, you’re young enough that small moves can make a big difference to your financial future. While age 60 might sound far off, the passage of time can surprise you. If you’re looking to get on track toward fiscal stability, now is the time. Check off these bucket list items and watch your financial freedom begin to become a reality.
Written by Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life.
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This post was originally published on June 5, 2019, and has since been updated.