Ever woken up with last night's makeup still on, an uneaten slice of pizza on the bedside table, a jackhammer in your head, and an account balance that only adds to your already building nausea? Ever spend way too much on take out because you're just too exhausted from your job—that doesn't pay you nearly enough for your long hours—to cook? Or maybe, tired of the unhealthy work/life balance your company offers instead of benefits, you spontaneously booked a plane ticket to some Instagram worthy island, and decided you'd figure out the money part later, after all, everyone on Instagram seems to be on vacation. We get it, and we don't blame you.
Being a young professional in 2019 means a whole host of challenges your parents never had to worry about. Between the toxic culture of non-stop productivity, mounting student loan debt, the tendency many companies have to take advantage of millenials, and the way social media forces you to compare yourself to your peers; it can feel like getting ahead financially is a losing game. And when that non-stop stress builds to a breaking point, it's understandable that you may start to let financial best practices fall to the way side in order to stay sane. Your mom is going to tell you the same thing over and over: budget, don't go drinking, eat at home etc. and while that's all good advice, the truth of the matter is your life isn't simple and the world is changing around you all the time. With the specific struggles of the average millenial in mind, here are our top financial tips for people just starting out in, what baby boomers would call, "the real world."
Take a Course
We know, this is adding another expense to your already tight budget, but we promise if you can find the money for an online course in basic finances or economics, it's worth doing. It's absurd that people are just suddenly expected to emerge from college fully equipped to handle things like taxes, budgeting, and investing, when just a month before they were eating ramen in a dorm room doing homework for a class called "the post modern implications of beekeeping." There are even some free options out there.
Get a Cheaper Apartment
We know, sometimes this just isn't an option, but be honest with yourself, how hard did you look for a more affordable apartment? Or did you just make whatever work so you didn't have to think too hard about it? In many cities, there are options for rent controlled apartments, and even housing lotteries to help you take your money farther. As a good rule, housing should be 30% of your income. If it isn't, or that just isn't a possibility for you right now, think about how you can cut down on costs of living. Could you get another roommate? These kind of savings are ideal, because they don't require will power to maintain the way so many financial tips do.
Yes, we know this sounds counterintuitive, but there is something to be said for making investment decisions that don't exactly feel safe. Millenials have been told their whole lives to be careful with money and to work hard to hang on to material security, but the problem with playing it safe is you're very unlikely to see any returns. Investigate the options you have for your savings, and don't be afraid to make minor mistakes, afterall, there is no better way to learn.
Don't Depend on Your Credit Cards
A classic mode of budgeting back in the day was to get all your monthly spending money for the month in cash, divide it up into envelopes (groceries, eating out, drinks, entertainment etc.) and then if the money in the envelope runs out before the end of the month, well, that's that. Most millennials rarely carry cash, but maybe it's time to consider going old school. If you take a certain amount of money out of your "going out" envelope before a night at the bar, you're much less likely to get carried away than you would be with a debit card on an open tab. Once the cash is gone, you know your budget for that particular area of your life is used up, and you're less likely to accidentally overspend.
Pay into an Emergency Fund
Many millenials report having very little back up plan were they to suddenly lose their job or suddenly need a significant amount of money. To avoid this situation, follow the age old rule: pay yourself first. That means pay into your savings every paycheck, even if it's just a small amount. Most importantly, this practice creates good habits of saving, and you'll begin to understand the satisfaction that comes with watching a savings account grow.
When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.
A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.
One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.
The Federal Reserve
The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.
This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.
The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.
Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.
Frugal gifting often gets a bad reputation. However, this shopping method does not make you cheap — it makes you practical. Frugal gifts often avoid waste and overspending and can be just as meaningful (if not more so) as any other present.
With the National Retail Federation predicting each consumer this holiday season to spend upwards of $1,000 on holiday gifts amidst an economic recession —this year might be the perfect time to reconsider your spending budget. We've formulated the ultimate list of frugal gift-giving ideas to get you started.