Are you twenty-something who feels overwhelmed by your personal finances? Youre not alone. When youre just starting out and learning to manage your money, theres a lot to learn and many milestones to work toward. How do you know what to prioritize? What should you accomplish first?
Use this as your guide to goals. Gaining these achievements will put you in a great position for financial success throughout the rest of your life. If youre in your 20s, start working now to accomplish these six money goals.
1. Aim for a Positive Net Worth
Many people are graduating from college and starting life with a negative net worth. Between consumer debts and the heavy burden of student loans, Gen Y needs to repay a lot of borrowed money. If you have credit card debt or student loan debt, create a repayment plan. You can use free tools like ReadyForZero to help you. Aim to pay off your highest-interest rate date first; thats the one costing you the most money each month. By paying off debt youll increase your net worth. (Heres how to calculate your net worth if youre not sure).
The other way to move your net worth toward a positive number is by increasing your assets. I recommend you do this in two ways: save money for emergencies and invest money for your future.
2. Have an Oh Shit! Fund of at Least $1,000
Life happens, which is why you need emergency savings. Or as my friend likes to call it, her Oh shit! fund. This is the account she dips into whenever something unexpected causes her to use the above phrase. This is a cash savings reserve that you set aside to handle unexpected expenses and financial emergencies -- without busting your budget that month or putting yourself into debt to cover costs.
Start by saving $1,000. This will cover a car repair, doctors bill, vet bill, etc. Then work towards three to six months of your net pay. Set up an automatic contribution to your savings so that you dont clean out your savings completely if you have to dip into it.
3. Get Your Full Company Match
Think youre too young to save for retirement? Youre never too young to think about securing financial stability for your future. Take advantage of any employer-sponsored accounts you have access to, like a 401(k), 403(b) or SIMPLE IRA. Contribute at least enough to secure the employer match if its offered. That means if your employer will match 50 percent of the first 6 percent, you better be contributing 6 percent so that you get that 3 percent from your employer.
There arent a lot of legitimate opportunities in life to get free money, and a company retirement plan match is one of them -- dont pass it up. You cant go back and get your match later on, so take advantage of it every year its available to you.
4. Max Out Your Roth IRA
But dont stop there: you can open your own Roth IRA, too. Individual retirement accounts come in traditional or Roth versions. You can contribute up to $5,500 in 2014 if youre under 50. This breaks down to about $458 per month. Dont worry if that seems like too much to put away. Save what you can -- even if its just $50 or $100 per month -- and harness the power of compound growth while youre young.
5. Establish a Side Hustle
Even if youre working full time, you probably have a few extra hours in your week when you could be earning a little more money.Think of how much faster you could get out debt or build your savings by earning an extra $500 or $1,000 a month through a lucrative side hustle.
Theres only so much you can trim your budget or slash your expenses, so sometimes it really is about earning more money. Often, a side hustle can turn into a full-time career that you love. My fellow financial blogger Kali Hawlk transitioned from a day job to being a full-time freelancer in just a year.
6. Protect Yourself and Your Stuff
No one enjoys thinking about worst-case scenarios -- but part of being responsible with your finances is looking into what kind of insurance is appropriate for your situation, and protecting your family and your assets should anything happen to you.
If anyone relies on you financially, you need life insurance for those dependents. (I highly recommend that millennials get term life insurance coverage, not whole life.) Also, make sure you sign up for disability insurance through your employer to protect yourself in case you can no longer work. If you own home, insuring it is essentially mandatory, but if you rent, you should protect yourself and your stuff with renters insurance. (its cheap, too.)
You should also look into estate planning, even if you dont think you have enough assets to warrant it. You likely have more than you think. And if you were to pass away without a will, everything would be settled in probate by a judge who will have no way to know for sure what youd really want. If you want to have some say in what happens to what you leave behind, spend a few hours with a lawyer or some will-writing software, and make your wishes clear.
Sophia Bera is a virtual financial planner for millennials and the founder of Gen Y Planning. She is location-independent but calls Minneapolis home. She offers a free Gen Y Planning newsletter.