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Youth is the time to experiment and make mistakes. But if you let yourself live too freely, you could make blunders that you will regret for the rest of your life. This is especially true in finances. You should be able to go out and enjoy yourself, but you should also think seriously about your future. Here are a few things you should do in your 20s that will make the rest of your life that much easier.

1. Open a retirement account

Even if your work doesn't provide you with one. Most retirement accounts have a ceiling on how much you are allowed to contribute within a year, but there are no minimum required payments beyond your first deposit. Putting aside a small nest egg early will really build up over time. Ideally, you would still contribute a certain amount each month. But if your finances are really tight, you can just put some money away and forget about it. Read our explainer on the difference between Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) accounts for more.

2. Pay off as much of your student loans as possible

Forty percent of Americans under 30 have student loans. If you're one of them, use your 20s to pay off as much of the total amount as possible. Instead of just making the minimum payments, add a little extra each month. It won't be fun. However, it will be easier to use your extra income for this now rather than later in life when you will probably have other responsibilities like a mortgage payment. Lowering your total debt will also result in less accrued interest and ultimately less to pay off later on.

3. Build your emergency fund

If you don't have a savings account at this point, you really should open one. Contribute a set amount to it with every paycheck. Your savings will build up quickly if you're saving consistently. Ideally, you wouldn't touch this money unless an emergency expense pops up. However, dipping into it on occasion for a small treat now and then isn't too big of a deal. Having enough saved to cover unexpected car repairs or medical bills will save you from a lot of unneeded debt.

4. Limit unnecessary debt

Speaking of debt, limit how much you have. This sounds like common sense, but you should really be aware of how much you're spending on your credit cards. To limit how much you're spending, treat them like a debit card. Don't spend if you can't afford it. Do not ever use your credit card for frivolous items. That's the fastest way to spiral into even more debt.

5. Keep your credit score decent or excellent

Ideally, you should be able to pay off your cards every month. This should be easy if you're only using them for routine expenses. Paying off your entire balance will yield a pretty excellent credit score. But if you can't pay off your whole balance, make sure you're at least paying the minimum amount on time. Building and maintaining a good credit score will set you up for life. It will make it easier to get a better apartment or mortgage payment down the road.

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

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 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.

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