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Millennials & Money: What We Are Doing Right, What We Are Doing Wrong, and What We Can Learn

Millennials.

Born between 1981-1997, we are the largest and most studied group in history. We have a collective $1.7 trillion in spending power, we are arguably the most educated and driven group; and unlike our Generation X counterparts and those who came before then, we are worse off than any other generation.

All 75.3 million of us.

However, unlike Generation Z (which comes after us) and X, we are taking life by the horns and riding that sucker until the wheels fall off. We are getting married later in life, we are waiting to have children, and we are continuing to fight to make the world a better place for future generations.

So how are we worse off, and what does it have to do with finances?

Three words:

STUDENT LOAN DEBT

We are the student loan generation, with the average Millennial being saddled with nearly $50K a piece in debt (I know people who are a half million in SDL from going to med school). As if being saddled with tremendous debt for education isn’t bad enough, we came out of college with our expensive pieces of paper, only to find that there weren’t any jobs willing to truly pay us.

I say this as someone who went to school for chemical engineering. There were many starter ChemE positions that only paid $28K-$40K a year, and they wanted you to have already at least 2-3 years of experience. (Before anyone asks, my GPA was a 3.6 and I had research experience, plus I accomplished this with 4 kids).  For this reason, alone, I saw many of my cohorts say screw it, and just continue on to a Ph.D. program just so they could have a bit more money coming in, and hopefully, obtain a better job when they came out.

But not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do that. We learned quickly that being a history or art major was pointless, and that if you wanted to make money you needed to go into a stem field (which I did, but I guess it should have been computers instead).

Those of us who were lucky to get jobs were given wages so low, that if we were married and had kids (you know “did things the right way” by society’s standards), we would be below poverty level. The average Millennial is severely underemployed, some not even making $12/hr with a degree. My husband who was a former social worker was probably making $10/hr. How ridiculous is that? He then went into law enforcement and was still paid around the same terribly low wages (for a dangerous job at that).

“Be what you want to be, do what you love”, that was no longer that case for us. And for those who come after us, it will not be the case for them a well.

Millennials in particular are feeling their financial issues between 9 and 5. They spend an average of four hours per week on their personal finance issues at work, while Gen X spends an average of two hours on similar tasks. Baby boomers only spend an average one hour per week on personal finance matters.

It’s not all bad

As bleak as all of this seems, there is a bright side to our lives. We understand that it is short, and we intend on living it to it’s fullest.

We enjoy traveling and are arguably doing so much more than any other generation. We document everything…I mean everything (but I’d like to think unlike Generation Z, we are smart about the things we put online).

Like Boomers, we also have started creating our own. We are a generation of entrepreneurs and doers. There are more opportunities for us to work from home, and ever increasing ways for us to earn money, without degrees.

Even with all of this, there are still those Millennials who worry about their debt and what they can do to get a hold of it. If you are one of those, here are a few tips that I have employed as the quintessential broke millennial.

Know what you owe

In order to take control of your finances, you need to understand where you are. Most people avoid talking finances, checking the mail, or even answering the phone because they know that they just don’t have the funds to cover everything.

Been there. Done that. Took my life back.

Face your fears head on, instead of burying your head in the sand. Gather your bills or collection letters, write out your debt, and make a plan.

If you have poor credit start rebuilding.

I know this can seem like a nightmare, but there are tons of ways to do this.

If you don’t have great credit and are looking to save money, I would suggest trying Self Lender. They have what’s called a credit builder account. You choose increments in which you want to make payments of either $48.50, $97 or $197, and they apply those payments to an account which will earn you interest. At the end of the 12 month term, they cut you a check for the money deposited plus interest. The best part of this is that each month payments are made on time, it is reported to the credit bureau as a positive mark. If you want to know more, read here.

Take control of your student loan debt-NOW

If you are avoiding those phone calls from Sallie Mae or Navient (grrr), stop. There are income-based repayment options available for you to take advantage of. Unfortunately, if you had the unfortunate luck of getting a private loan like I did, then this is not an option for you. Private lenders do not offer as many (and from my experience) are not as helpful when it comes to working out how to get these paid if you are riding the struggle bus. Don’t ignore your loans. If you can get an IBR do so, immediately.

Set up monthly payments for your bills

Now, I normally don’t advocate auto payments for anything. But in this instance, I would say do it through a service like Card.com. You are able to order a card, with any cool design you want (hello Lisa Frank!), and what you can do is set up to have a certain amount deposited to your card either every pay period or month and have your bill payments drafted from there.  Just be careful, as you would with a regular bank account, make sure you have enough to cover what you have set up to pay out.

Invest

You don’t need a ton of money to start investing. Sites like GiveAShare and Stash make it possible for you to own stock at reasonable rates.

With GiveAShare it’s simple; pick the company you would like to have stock ownership in and simply purchase. It’s that simple. Keep in mind that the rates depend on the company. For instance, Amazon was around $1900 while Fox News was $67. Disney (which is the most popular) is around $204. While one share of stock may not seem like a lot, it is something. And if it’s all you can do starting off, I suggest you go for it.

Stash allows you to start investing with as little as $5 per month. You can choose a variety of investment methods and amount to suit your needs. I’m more on the conservative end of things, but that is just because I am only starting to get my feet wet.

If you sign up for Stash through my link, you will get an extra $5 to invest! Don’t ever say I didn’t give you anything!

 

 

 

 

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