Even as the U.S. economy as a whole recovers from the Great Recession, Millennials (those born from the early 1980s through the early 2000s) continue to struggle with student debt and slow job growth. The lackluster economy and student debt aren’t the only things holding back Millennials from attaining financial independence and success.
Let’s take a look at five money mistakes Millennials tend to make—and see how we can correct them.
1. Avoiding a budget.
One of the most basic mistakes—not budgeting—can lead to living beyond your means. This puts pressure on your future financial plans and goals, even if you have a good eye for what things like groceries or car insurance usually cost. Doing the math and knowing if you’re breaking even or able to save more each month is crucial for building a buffer against debt. It can be as easy as starting to use a new online or mobile budgeting tool. You don’t even need to leave your desk.
2. Misusing credit cards.
According to a study by the credit-reporting agency Experian, Millennials are struggling to pay credit card bills on time, while also having one of the highest credit utilization rates of the four generations listed. Credit utilization, also known as the debt-to-credit ratio, accounts for the ratio or rate of your balance (what you owe) compared with your overall credit limit.
From the study, Millennials’ average rate is 37%, which is above the 35% or less that creditors prefer. As a result of these two factors—late payments and high credit utilization—Millennials have the lowest credit scores across all four generations. Consider a credit score as a financial report card, which means you should turn in everything on time and pay the balance in full every month.
3. Renting forever.
It’s no secret that Millennials are not active homebuyers. Homeownership is important to consider because ultimately it costs more to rent a home than to buy one in many areas. Plus, Millennials do not build equity when they rent indefinitely. Of course, many Millennials still find themselves traveling and exploring without plans to settle down yet, but in the event that a reasonable deal on property comes up down the road, it would be wise to consider purchasing.
4. Saving little to nothing for retirement.
Surprisingly, two in three Millennials intend to retire by age 65, but approximately 70% have not started saving for retirement, according to a 2013 survey by MainStreet.com and GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communication. Even more disconcerting is that half of all Millennials plan to draw income from Social Security, even though full payments from reserves are set to cease in 2033.
The journey to retirement begins with a single payment, then another. If you’re lucky to have an employer’s 401(k) matching plan, take full advantage of it and make above-average contributions. If not, build your own IRA, choosing a Roth or traditional IRA, and set aside a percentage of your monthly income toward it.
5. Skipping life insurance.
Getting insurance in general may seem daunting, but it’s good to consider the various types, even ones you don’t think you need at first. Life insurance is one that might not have come up yet, but there are reasons to consider it.
One of the benefits of getting a life insurance policy early on is that it will likely cost you less now than later—life insurance is cheaper the younger and healthier you are. Plus, you have no idea if your health might change, which could make getting coverage much more expensive or even impossible later on. And remember that co-signers on any financial accounts you have may be liable for your debts should anything happen to you.
From the basic act of budgeting to considering life insurance, these actions can help ground your financial future. Saving for later in life is the foundation for having a debt-free life and securing retirement plans. As a Millennial you may still be finding your way in this economy, but you can help prevent any of these five financial mistakes from adding to your burdens.