If you’re in your mid-20s, you might be feeling a bit torn financially.
Many financial experts say you’re doomed if you don’t start socking away all your disposable income right away. Not what you want to hear when most have just started earning a real income. On the other side of the coin, you have those friends who seem to have money to burn for trips abroad, frequent shopping sprees, and nights out on the town.
It was reflected in a study of American 20-somethings last year showing 24% were saving less than 5% of their income and 14% were saving none. Only half had retirement funds.
So what’s the optimal lifestyle? Probably one that strikes a budgetary compromise. While your future depends on your ability to start building wealth immediately, the uncertainty of life dictates the importance of enjoying it at every stage. Adulthood at it's finest.
Consider the following suggestions for balancing your saving and spending.
- Choose the maximum amount you can put into your employer-offered 401(k), which should offer among the best possible returns. Many companies will match your contributions up to a certain amount. This is essentially free money they're offering you to be financially wise and invest in your future.
- Aim to build an initial emergency fund of at least $1,000 and increase it to an amount covering three to six months of expenses. Consider this your insurance against auto or medical issues, unemployment, or anything else life may throw your way.
- “Pay yourself first” by having your bank withhold savings from your paycheck. Direct deposit is your best friend. Automate your savings and go on about your adventures.
- Take advantage of the time you have on your side. Compound interest can go a long way in a decade. If you start investing now in your retirement, you can allow for riskier but higher-return investments. Perhaps start with a Roth or traditional IRA.
- Foregoing all your wants can be difficult when you've just started earning a real income.. Your future self will thank you if you resist the spending temptation and focus on the future financials instead of the now. Going back to those friends who seem to have money to burn, you never really know, they may be in financial crises behind the scenes.
- As a rule of thumb, experts suggest allocating 50% of your income toward necessities like rent, food, and transportation, using 30% for discretionary expenses, and setting aside 20% for savings or to pay off existing debt. Still to this in your 20s and you'll be in good shape.
- Find ways to reduce spending in areas you care less about in order to open up funds for your priorities. Ex. If you ditched your cable bill, would that help you afford that trip to the Bahamas this spring?
- Follow financial guru Dave Ramsey’s four primary recommendations for 20-somethings: Agree about finances with your fiancée or spouse; avoid debt of all kinds; pay off student loans as soon as possible, and invest in good medical insurance.
Making sound financial decisions can seem challenging in our highly materialistic society, but smart 20-somethings find a way to protect their money while still getting the most out of life.