4 Things You Can Do Now to Save Money for the Future
There are a lot of things you can control about your money. Budgeting, saving, having challenging financial conversations with your partner, making smart investments when you can… all of these savvy habits will contribute to setting you up for success. Frustratingly, though, not *everything* is within your ability to manage (sorry to all the control freaks out there!), and there are factors playing out in the world at large that impact how effectively we can meet our financial goals.
If you’re a millennial, it might seem like the odds have been stacked against you. According to a recent study from Bank of the West, 60 percent of millennials believe in the American dream — a comfortable home of their own, a life unburdened by debt, and the promise of retirement after a rewarding career — but that doesn’t mean that the circumstances of their first decade or so in the adult world have been particularly conducive to achieving it.
“Millennials have drawn the short end of the stick so far when it comes to the market cycle, with many graduating from college and heading into a job market with little to offer them and record under-employment,” Ryan Bailey, head of Bank of the West’s retail banking group, says.
In addition to this subpar employment situation, millennials are paying down student loan debt after a bull market that would have been friendlier to them, and aspiring young homeowners were likely not ready to close on houses when housing prices and interest rates were low. Today, home buyers can’t deduct state and local property taxes from federal tax bills, according to Bailey.
Yeah, things have been pretty grim so far. But guess what? Generally speaking, they’re turning around! And given the fact that millennials still have plenty of years to plan for major milestones like home ownership, retirement, and the like, time can actually be an advantage to them now.
“Time is your new BFF,” Bailey says. “As hard as it is to get started, remember that your money has more potential to grow now than it ever will. Future you will thank you.”
Here are a few tips from Bailey that will help you make the most of this newfound time to benefit your financial future.
1. Get consistent. If there’s anything millennials have learned from the not-so-great financial circumstances they experienced in early adulthood, it’s that it can be nearly impossible to accurately time or predict the market. In order to establish a cushion for yourself and to ensure that you’re planning well for the future, set aside a fixed amount of your paycheck each month. With time on your side, this investment can really stand to grow! Your 401(k) could be a good place to start.
2. Try before you buy. You might be under the impression that owning a home is always the best option, which probably has you feeling rushed to make it happen. Resist the urge to hurry. According to the Bank of the West study, 19 percent of millennial homeowners say that their space doesn’t work well for them and 20 percent discovered damage after they moved in. When you have an abundance mentality with respect to time, you’ll be more likely to consider all factors before you decide to buy a home. This goes for other big purchases too. You don’t need to rush major investment decisions… nor should you.
3. Remember to account for expensive one-off purchases. “Here’s a secret,” Bailey says. “Adult finances are not hard, as long as you take stock of what you own and what you owe.” This includes random big-ticket purchases like wedding gifts and vacations. Budgeting is great, but if you don’t account for one-off expenses as part of said budget, it’s going to catch up with you. Balance those expenditures by tightening the purse strings elsewhere that month, or include a buffer for miscellaneous items in your regular budget.
4. Don’t live in denial about your debts. If you’re drowning in student loan debt or struggling to pay off old credit card bills, it can be easier to, well, not think about it. That’s not going to serve you well in the long run, though. Keep your debts top-of-mind and prioritize short-term debt with high interest rates first. The sooner you’ve settled these matters, the sooner you’ll be able to focus exclusively on what you want to save for and invest in going forward.
Rest assured that there’s hope for your finances. “It is important to keep in mind that, while time has worked against you so far, there is still plenty of it on the horizon and it can now work for you… if you take advantage of it,” Bailey advises. “Don’t let the past dictate the future. Making smart investment decisions will position you well to build the life you want to lead.”
How do you try to make time your friend when making big financial decisions? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)