Millennials Must Chart Their Own Financial Course

It's never too soon to start thinking about your financial future, especially for Millennials at the beginning of their financial journey.

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There are a whole lot of mixed messages coming from media outlets regarding Millennials and money. According to some, they’re a generation that’s convinced that they are already financially doomed and they aren’t even bothering to think about their futures. Others claim that Millennials, as a group, are more financially responsible than either their parents’ or grandparents’ generations. As for the truth? Well, that’s probably somewhere in between.

That is, of course, the problem with generalizations. They tend to exist in the eye of the beholder, and they most often ignore the complex and varied reality they claim to describe. It would be more accurate to say that Millennials are just getting started building a financial future, and how well they do will depend as much on external economic forces as it will on their own behavior. Since there’s little anyone can do to control the future of the broader economy, the key to their success will be to focus on financial literacy and good money habits. To help, here are three things Millennials should do right now to secure their financial future.

Aim for Early Retirement

The first and the most important thing that Millennials can do to secure their financial future is to aim for an early retirement. The reason that’s important is that doing so establishes a lofty goal that encourages constant examination of one’s financial behaviors. Beginning to save early, even in small amounts, will be like a snowball rolling downhill – when you consider compounding interest, even tiny amounts of savings will add up much faster than you think. For proof, look no further than this compound interest calculator provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission. As you can no doubt see, even a modest contribution to your savings is worth the effort.

Take Care of Your Credit

It may sound obvious, but taking care to keep your credit as spotless as possible goes a long way towards assuring your financial health over the long term. That’s because having a poor credit score will increase your expenses in ways that you may not have considered. For example, a poor credit score will result in higher interest rates on loans, higher car insurance rates, and may even make it harder to find a job. Even if you have some negative information on your credit report or no credit at all, it’s never too early (or too late) to take steps to raise your credit score. To get started, look through a list of the best credit cards for people with no credit. Those cards are designed for helping people build credit, and they will report your dutiful payments each month. That will help to add more positive data to your credit report, which is an easy and reliable way to raise your score over time.

Plan to Pay Off Debt

If you’re one of the millions of Americans that are carrying some kind of debt (and chances are you are), coming up with a plan to pay it down is hands-down the most important thing you can do you secure your financial future. Unfortunately, it’s common among Millennials to be saddled with a combination of student loan and credit card debts incurred while preparing for a career. Those debts tend to have a crushing effect because they can feel so massive that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. To begin digging out from underneath your debts, prioritize payments on the debts with the highest interest rates, and work your way down. That will speed the process by eliminating your most costly debts first while you keep the others in a holding pattern. Also, wherever possible, try to refinance any loans to get lower interest rates, and try to stay away from carrying balances on variable-rate credit cards (the days of low interest rates are coming to an end).

Stick With It

It’s important to realize that in finances, as in the rest of your life, there are no guarantees. There’s no way to control for things like unexpected financial or medical emergencies, but that makes it all the more vital to get on to firm financial footing as soon as possible. Sticking to your financial plans and making good decisions is the best way to deal with the factors that are under your control, especially in the ways outlined here. All that’s necessary is a little forethought and fortitude to keep up your effort over the long term – and that effort will pay off in ways large and small, and result in a secure financial future.

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