Five Money Habits to Develop in Your 20s

Published on November 1, 2019

You might be feeling strapped for cash if you’re a 20-something.

No need to be ashamed if you do. Millennials and Generation Z have been subject to exorbitant college tuition rates and skyrocketing costs of living. Your parents’ story of “paying their way” through college sounds nice, but isn’t attainable in today’s economy.

Young workers make less than they did a generation ago, and over 30% of young adults are considered “financially precarious” due to their lack of financial literacy and income stability.

Your 20s should be a time of freedom and exploration. This is also when you develop habits – good and bad – you’ll carry into old age.  Establishing good financial habits now is key to effectively managing your money in the long-term.

Here are five financial habits everyone should incorporate in their 20s.

1. Learn To Budget

Creating a budget is the first step to getting your finances in order. Take stock of your expenses and income and, if possible, budget for some of your money to be put into savings each month. Sitting down to work on a budget may seem foreign and tedious to those not familiar, but it pays off in the long run.

Put together a budget and you’ll be ahead of the game – just around 30% of Americans have and stick to a household budget. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 33% of the average household budget is spent on housing. So don’t fear if you’re spending the majority of your income on your house or apartment – you’re not alone.

Look into budgeting apps if you need a helping hand. Pluto, for example, lets students navigate a budget that plans for long- and short-term spending.

2. Save

Young people often have a hard time thinking about saving money. Instead, they’re putting most of their hard earned cash towards necessities like housing and utility bills. But putting just a small amount away consistently can pay large dividends.

Recent stats show that our savings habits aren’t dire, but they’re not exceptional, either. One survey found that 23% of people never transfer money from their paycheck into savings. Even by putting $20-50 away each pay period, you’ll start to accumulate a nice nest egg or emergency fund.

3. Think Ahead

It’s not easy to think long-term when you’re in your 20s. Retirement seems ages away and it can be difficult to establish lifelong savings plans when you’re caught up in work and school. Try to start piecing together retirement savings as soon as you can – whether that be through an employer-provided 401k or a Roth IRA.

Little by little, you can develop a financial cushion for your retired self. Starting to save for retirement now is much less anxiety-provoking than doing so in middle age.

4. Be Aware of Your Credit – and Keep it in Good Order

Your credit score affects your ability to buy a house, purchase a car and borrow money. This number will play a big role in your spending power at some point in your life. So it’s important to nurture it even if you’re not relying on it now.

Pay bills on time and don’t rack up large amounts of credit card debt. The “age” of your credit matters, too. Lenders want to know that you’ve been building credit consistently over time. All the more reason to open credit-bearing accounts earlier rather than later.

5. Spend Wisely

Do your best to avoid impulse buying. Budget for a purchase you’ve been waiting to make, whether it’s that new TV or a trendy pair of headphones. Bad habits are hard to break – don’t set yourself on a path towards irresponsible money management.

By sticking to a budget you’ll find that it’s easier to save for big-ticket items. Think about needs and wants. Decide whether there are certain purchases you can go without when taking stock of your spending patterns.

Now’s the Time

Young people face many obstacles to financial wellness. And your 20s is full of moving targets to navigate – work, school, relationships. Even though it might seem intimidating, it’s important to start thinking about money earlier rather than later.

It’s much easier to start financial planning when you’re healthy, young and have an abundance of free time. It gets more difficult – and nerve-wracking – as you age. The last thing you want is to be middle-aged and wondering how you’ll retire.

Financial literacy isn’t nearly as widespread as it should be, and many millennials and Gen Z’ers weren’t given the skills they need to become effective money managers. So, unfortunately, this group needs to learn how to budget on their own.

But that definitely doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Start early, and put money away whenever you can. Your older self will thank you.

David Reiling is a finance contributor to Grit Daily. He is a social entrepreneur with a long history of innovation in community development finance. As Chairman & CEO of Sunrise Banks, David’s visionary leadership has positioned his social enterprise for long-term financial sustainability and positive social impact.He is also a published Author of Fintech 4 Good. David has been recognized by Trust Across America as one of “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business” for the past four years, earned an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, been named Finance & Commerce’s “Innovator of the Year,” received Minnesota Business Magazine’s “Good Leader” award, earned the Corporate Citizenship Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Corporate Citizenship and won a Stevie Award for Best Corporate Social Responsibility Program.

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