A 20-Something’s Guide to Smart Financial Choices

by / ⠀Startup Advice / July 24, 2012

There are many struggles facing recent college graduates in today’s society. We’ve all heard about them in the media—endless discussions of mounting student loan debt, a bitingly competitive job market, and an overall failing national (and potentially global) economy. Sure, this is a lot to take on as a 22 or 23 year old whose college safety bubble just burst. But, we—the 20-something’s of the world—aren’t nearly as wounded or weakened as many people would like to make us out to be. While the times are most certainly tough for the youth generation today, these youngster 20-somethings have also spent the past four years preparing for the approaching “real world” of a failing economy, rough job market, and drowning student debt. <br>

One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a true adult in the “real world” can be the new financial responsibilities you suddenly have to take on. With your first “real” job comes the struggle of “first job finance” issues. Consider these newbie real-world financial issues to better master the world of financial responsibility and freedom.

Building Credit

Building strong credit is very important as a new college graduate. With constant talk of record breaking student debt and huge national debt, taking out a credit card doesn’t necessarily sound like the best of ideas for many 20-somethings. Already likely in the financial hole (so to say) with student debt, taking out credit can feel like you’ll just be digging that hole deeper. However, that’s where smart credit use comes into play. Building strong credit is an important aspect of adulthood. It is through strong and reliable credit habits that you can make educated large purchases.

Explore your credit options. Find a card that offers some sort of rewards program that will benefit you and your lifestyle. There are many cards out there that offer cash rewards that can help pay a portion of your balance each month. The absolute number one tip to building credit as a young newly employed adult is to use your credit like debit. Pay off your balance in full each month. I realize this is a very ideal situation, but I’m a firm believer in not spending more than you have until you really have your financial footing.

Saving Wisely

Saving your money wisely is all about knowing what you have to save. For 20-somethings just entering the world of “real” employment, saving can be a tricky thing. Those of us who are lucky enough to find solid employment are faced for the first time with actually having some money of our own to spend. This slight financial freedom can lead to some very unwise financial habits. Take a look at how much you actually spend and what you spend it on. Understanding your money habits is the best way to then revise them and turn them into smarter choices. Something that many newbie college grads fail to do is create a habit of saving each paycheck. Pay yourself first—this is the best financial step you can take. Set up your finances to automatically put a portion of your paycheck into your savings account. By paying yourself first and making something that is done automatically, we can contribute to our savings painlessly.

Smart Investing

Investing is the next most important aspect of making smart financial choices as a young adult. This is the number one area that newbie grads fail to succeed in most often when it comes to finances. As newly graduated and newly employed individuals, the last thing on our mind is typically retirement. But, of course, retirement is one area of our finances we should consider early for the best results. Of course, everything depends on your own personal situation, but, if you are able to contribute to an employer supported retirement plan, do so. Do your research on 401ks and retirement issues in general. The more you know about the process, the better prepared you will be to deal with it. If you have the means to do so, consider opening a Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA). These accounts allow you to contribute a chunk of money to an account where it can grow tax free, with better interest rates, and you do not have access to it until you are of retirement age. I realize that putting away the money you just gained access to until you are in your 50s is not a very desirable thing—but, preparing for the future is the first sign of true adulthood.

Lauren Bailey is a freelance blogger who loves writing about education, new technology, lifestyle and health. As an education writer, she researches and contributes to a guide to online colleges and welcomes comments and questions via email at blauren 99 @gmail.com.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.

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