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Money Tips for 20-Somethings: 24 Ways to Get Smart About Your Finances

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Post-college finances can be tough to manage. Here are two dozen pro-grade tips to help you feel less anxious about money.

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15. Automate Everything

Ever wish you had an autopilot feature for the less enjoyable parts of your life, such as doing laundry, shopping for groceries, and cleaning your bathroom? Well, there's probably technology for those things, but let's stay on topic and talk about automating your finances. Anthony Kure, the owner and president of the Ohio-based, fee-only financial planner Kure Net Worth Management, says, "You rarely miss money you never see...I believe designing a purpose-driven savings and/or investment account goes a long way toward transforming your income into savings on autopilot."

Kure recommends sending a certain amount of every paycheck into a savings or investment account so that it never touches your checking account. This allows you to be disciplined about your savings without ever having to ask yourself: "Should I spend my money on a new iPhones 5S and contract when I already have an iPhone 5, or save it instead?"

Ross Lawrence of the Missouri-based Hoffman Financial backs him up, and suggests setting up automatic bill-paying functions and subscribing to a budgeting website that alerts you if a bill is above or below the norm. Why is this important? As Lawrence explains, "One of the biggest factors in determining your credit score, and one of the easiest to control, is missed or late payments. Automation can ensure that you don't miss a payment and also tell you about any pesky bank fees."

16. Clean Up and Protect Your Credit Score

Paying bills on time is the single largest factor in calculating your credit score, so put all your bills on auto-pay so you never miss a payment.

For this, Alan Moore of Serenity Financial Consulting, recommends using AnnualCreditReport.com to pull up your free reports. He advises that young people "go through them with a fine-tooth comb to be sure all of the information is correct.

"Most folks find an error the first time they pull their report, so go ahead and do so," he says. "Don't wait until you are denied credit to pay attention to it."

17. Educate Yourself

Read up on personal finance (see our list of recommended books and blogs below). Do the research and aim to know as much as you can. Dana Twight, CFP, the Founder of Twight Financial Education in Seattle, suggests in an email one simple way that 20-somethings can educate themselves beyond research: "Consider your upbringing and try to connect things your parents did (or didn't do) with your current ideas and behaviors around money."

For example, recall ways that your parents saved money on food, travel, and other expenses. Did they use coupons, hunt out deals, or budget in a specific way? Did they make dinners that could last for days as delicious leftovers? Or did they blow a lot of money on restaurants -- and have you adopted the same habit?

18. Find a Financial Mentor

As Todd Christensen, the Director of Education at the National Financial Education Center tells me, "Whether a parent, sibling, aunt or uncle, neighbor, or friend, find someone who is financially successful and ask them about their habits and behaviors."

Look for someone who will not just tell you about finance or teach you how to invest; look for someone who will involve you in their ongoing decisions and discuss past ones, someone who will explain, "This is why I decided to open a Roth IRA," or "This is why I invested in Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)." As Benjamin Franklin said, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn."

19. Get a Handle on Student Loans

Way back when you were choosing what college to go to, you probably took student loans and debt into account. That being said, the only way to truly feel the weight of student loan debt is to graduate, enter an entry-level, low-salary job, and have tens of thousands of dollars to pay back, plus interest.

Ellie Kaplan of Lexion Capital Management offers simple yet insightful advice for how get a grip on student loans. Her advice was to start early, and to take your time. As she said, "The key idea is not that a graduate must put all of their earnings into their student loans, but that they make progress on those loans every earning period. Making sure there is a dedicated flow of money into the student loans will ensure they don't get out of control and that they will eventually be paid off."

Serenity Financial Consulting's Alan Moore offers obvious but oh-so-important advice: "You need to know how much you owe, what the interest rates are, and craft a plan to pay them off." Don't guess, don't estimate. Know exactly, to the cent, how much you owe. Moore recommended using free services like Tuition.io and Mint.com to help track loans and create pay-off plans.
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