For many people, the start of a new year symbolizes a fresh start. Resolutions are made, goals are planned, and good thoughts are sent out into the universe. But sticking to your resolution isn’t always the easiest task—especially for young adults who are just learning to wade through the world on their own. If you’ve set out to gain financial independence in 2019, take a look at some of the best advice we have to offer for 20-somethings.
Start Saving Right Now
While it’s tempting to put off saving money in favor of renting a nicer apartment or buying a better car, stashing away cash right now is the best thing you can do for your finances. Think of it this way: you’re giving yourself the freedom to have a little bit of wiggle room. What if you need to buy a plane ticket to see a loved one who’s fallen ill, or you need pay rent for a month or two after getting laid off? Don’t trap yourself into a bad situation where you don’t have enough money to get you through an emergency.
Apart from creating an emergency fund, think about saving for retirement as well. Being old and gray might seem far away, but it will certainly pay off later down the road. Employers often match 401(k) contributions, which is essentially giving you free money to spend once you’ve retired. And if you don’t work for an employer that offers this benefit, you can easily start an IRA, or Individual Retirement Account, to make sure you’re prepared for the Golden Years ahead. Your future self will definitely thank the good habits you built as a young adult.
Make a Budget and Understand Your Habits
A latte here and a new shirt there can quickly drain your bank account if you aren’t keeping track. Don’t just spend your money willy-nilly—make sure you know where your Benjamins are going. The easiest way to do this is to set up a budgeting app that keeps track of your expenses. Many popular apps break down your purchases by category, so you can figure out what’s taking up most of your cash.
Once you know exactly where you’re money is going, you can learn to rein in excessive habits. Eating out at restaurants, shopping online, and ride shares can empty out your wallet in no time.
Don’t Get Caught Up in Credit Cards
Far too many young adults have dug themselves into credit card debt when they didn’t have to. Intriguing rewards and access to a high line of credit all look promising when you’re tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck. But even offers that start at 0% APR will come around and bite you once the initial introductory period is over.
While having a good credit score is important for taking out loans, buying a car or a home will typically happen later in life. Focus on the money you currently have in your bank account instead of the amount of money you could spend. It’s critical to live on the income you have, not on the income you wish you had.
Know How Taxes Affect Income
When you start making a steady salary, it’s important to know how taxes will affect your income. Do some research on what your paycheck will be after federal and state taxes are deducted. Is that still enough to cover your basic living expenses? If not, you might need to find a new job or scale back your budget to accommodate a smaller take-home pay. Community Tax is available to help you with all of your tax-related questions.
Spend on Experiences, Not Stuff
When you do have a little extra cash, spend it on experiences that will give you a lasting memory. It’s easy for 20-somethings to associate fancy cars and expensive clothes with happiness—popular culture constantly reinforces the idea that materialism is what matters the most. But what will those things do for you later in life? Use your newly found financial independence to do something that will bring a smile to your face fifty years down the road. Whether that’s visiting a foreign country or attending a concert, intangible experiences are the best reward for a well-balanced budget.
With these tips in mind, financial freedom is well within your reach in 2019. It’s time for you to fly the nest and build the life you want!