8 Personal Finance Tips for Young Adults

The basic concepts you need to embrace in order to take charge of your financial future

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Young adults have plenty to gain by learning to be smart about money.

Have you ever taken $40 out of the ATM and a few hours later asked yourself where that money went? Or, do you use your debit card to make purchases but don’t keep track of them…and then wonder how your balance got so low?

While everyone can benefit from learning about money management and taking a more hands-on approach with their finances, young adults – including those just starting a career or a family and others still in high school or college – have plenty to gain by learning to be smart about money, and a lot to lose by making uninformed decisions.

“As a young adult, even if you don’t have or earn a lot of money, the financial decisions you make today can affect your lifestyle now and for years to come,” said Luke W. Reynolds, Chief of the FDIC’s Community Outreach Section. “The good news is you don’t need to be a finance expert to take charge of your financial future. A few basic concepts can go a long way.”

Here are EIGHT tips to get you started.

1) Create a personal financial plan that will make it easier to boost savings and control spending.

“It isn’t how much you make that’s important, it’s how much you keep,” said Paul Horwitz, an FDIC Community Affairs Specialist. Start by keeping track of what you earn–and what you spend and where. Then take a sharp look at how much you spend on optional purchases, such as restaurant food and entertainment, and instead put some of that money to work for your future by saving or investing it. “The key is to make some hard decisions about ‘needs’ versus ‘wants,’” added Horwitz, “because every dollar we spend on something we don’t really need is a dollar we don’t have to save or spend on something we do need.”

Steps to increase savings and control spending:

– Open a savings account and regularly add to it. Also “pay yourself first” with a set percentage of every dollar you get going to savings. “Set a realistic savings goal and remember that even $5 or $10 a week can add up over time,” Horwitz explained.

– Arrange with your employer to automatically transfer some of your earnings to a savings or investment account.

– Build up an emergency savings fund you can use to pay for major, unforeseen expenses.

– Consider a separate account to save for big-ticket purchases, such as a new TV or bicycle, instead of charging them on a credit card and paying the money back over a long time with a lot of interest.

– Limit the amount of money in your wallet or purse and in your checking account, so you’re less likely to spend it. Only carry a credit card when you plan to use it. Also do your best to limit regular living expenses, such as food, transportation and utilities.

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  • Afeerah

    I enjoyed this article. It mostly touched on methods of savings that I am already practicing. The article mentioned savings accounts and having several different accounts to accomodate each financial goal one set. However, as a young adult, I found that having a savings account did not force any financial discipline upon me and I was often quick to transfer money from my saving to checking account whenever I wanted. I found that having a certificate of deposite served the same purpose and introduced consequence to my spending. If I were to close my CD just to get the funds I would lose a percentage of the money I had saved. It also obligated me to put money into every month or I would be penalized. I found that this forced me to save more and I recommend this practice to all of my friends, family members, and young mentees who have not yet learned the self-discipline required to save on their own.

  • John Simons, BE Editorial Director for Personal Finance

    Good advice, Afeerah. CDs are a great choice for socking away money–in a place that isn’t readily accessible (and tempting).

    Although the article isn’t specific about different types of savings vehicles, CDs, money market accounts, and money market funds are good, safe, low-risk options for saving money. A few months ago, BE ran a piece called “Best Places to Stash Your Cash,” which discussed several ways to use these savings options to your advantage. Check it out.


  • great advice….

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