Gen Y, Use Your Money

Personal finance scares a lot of people. But money can be about joy, doing what you love in your young adulthood, and living the life of your dreams. It’s time to see how to use your money to build security and confidence.

Build a safety net with savings. Laying the groundwork for financial success starts with establishing an emergency fund for unexpected expenses that might otherwise bust your budget or push you into debt.

Save $500 and then work up to $1,000 and keep saving until you have three to six months of your income set aside for emergencies. Save at least one month of net pay for emergencies before you start aggressively paying down your debt.

Set up direct deposit from your paycheck so a set amount goes to your savings account and never hits your checking. Start with $100 a paycheck and increase this amount as your salary increases. You’ll be surprised how fast your net worth rises with automatic monthly contributions.

Crush debt. After you accumulate at least one month’s emergency savings, allocate as much as you can toward your credit card debt. Pay off the card with the highest interest rate first while you continue to pay the monthly minimum on all your other debt.

The quickest way to get out of debt: Increase your income. Pick up a second job, freelance, babysit, mow lawns, build websites, sell things – whatever you need to do to earn extra money. Allocate this extra income toward your debt.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Establish a nest egg. Your future needs attention even at your early age. For millennials, retirement plans include not only possibly leaving our jobs in our 60s but also financial independence – and that can come at any age.

Sign up for your employer’s retirement plan if you qualify for a company match; talk to your human resources department if you’re unsure about a match and contribute at least enough to receive your full company match. After that, I recommend you start a Roth individual retirement account at a discount brokerage firm.

Contributing $100 a week toward retirement and earning a 7% rate of return nets you more than $1 million after 40 years.

Spend wisely. Use your financial resources for what for what you believe is right. Go through your monthly spending and then ask, “Does this purchase match my values?” If not, try to curb spending in that area.

Spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But how do you spend? Saving for concert tickets, going to a play or springing for your next vacation can be some of the best ways to spend that offer the most long-term satisfaction.

Empowerment via your finances means learning how to make the most of your money to live the life you want. Financial planning, critical to success, allows you to see that money isn’t too scary or too complicated. Even this soon in adulthood you can – and should – make great decisions and do more with your money.

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Sophia Bera, CFP, is the founder of Gen Y Planning and is the top Google search for “Financial Planner for Millennials.” She works virtually with people in their 20s and 30s across the country as she builds a location independent practice. She is a contributor for the AOL Daily Finance website and has been quoted on various websites and publications including Forbes, Business Insider, Yahoo, Money Magazine, InvestmentNews, Financial Advisor magazine and The Huffington Post. Sophia is a sought-after speaker and presenter and in her free time enjoys performing as an actor/singer and traveling the world. Follow her on Twitter @sophiabera or sign up for the Gen Y Planning Newsletter to stay up to date on financial articles geared toward Millennials. Oh, and she’s not your father’s financial planner.

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