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Recession Coming? For Millennials, it Doesn’t Matter

Control spending, look for fees, and pay yo' self: a financial retirement plan for Millennials

Photograph by Sharon McCutcheon
Photograph by Sharon McCutcheon

There is an economic downturn projected for 2019. This recession follows years of a bull market but here’s a secret I learned: for Millennials, this dip doesn’t matter. After taking a Financial Literacy course, I realize it’s the long game that’s crucial for my retirement and assets. This class helped me feel more powerful about protecting my future than anything else I did in 2018, including marching, donating, and voting.

Insurance, mortgage rates, credit, investing, and retirement—all of these adulty things were faced head on and accompanied by some pretty heavy homework during my semester with the TCI Foundation. However, as a young-ish professional (I’m a Xennial, which just means that each day I get to apply both acne and wrinkle cream), it was eye opening to learn that to secure my financial independence I needed to start getting serious about my money yesterday.

As a woman, it’s even more important to take personal finances seriously, do a check up, and set some goals. Women are far behind their male counterparts as earners. (Yes, we are still exhaustedly fighting for equal pay, especially women of color. Ever heard of Equal Pay Day?) Additionally, many women are out of from the workforce for months to several years due to giving birth and raising children, patronizingly known as the Mommy Penalty. Some are considered lucky and get back into their professional roles; however, they do suffer from lack of advancement in position or pay by being on leave.

Photograph by Sharon McCutcheon

Because of this, women need to be even more strategic with their funds and hyper aware of opportunities and traps. Financial independence with a safety net equals personal power: The power to change jobs if needed, to donate, to travel, and to leave bad situations. And, start NOW. The four most powerful words for a Millennial? Compound. Interest. Over. Time.

Want to get started? Here are a few tips.

Pay yourself first

Pay into a retirement fund. You can save up to $5500 per year in a Roth IRA. This money can be transferred directly from a checking account monthly, and when you’re ready to use it (after age 65), it comes out tax-free. Similarly, many employers have a retirement fund (401K or 403b for nonprofits) and match contributions. For example, if you put in 3% of your (pretax) pay, your employer will match 3%, effectively giving you a 6% savings plan each year. Match your employer’s contribution! It’s money sitting on the table.

Be ruthless in negotiations

Call companies that bill you and ask for better deals annually. As a good customer, it’s better for them to lower your payment than to lose you completely. This has worked for me with my internet provider, cell phone plan, and car insurance. Speaking of cars, when I bought my pre-owned car from a dealership I negotiated the buying price and asked for every discount possible. They gave it to me.

Reign in spending & be cognizant of consumerism

It is absolutely understandable to want to get new outfits, electronics, eat out, or just in general Treat Yo’ Self. However, be judicious. Every $100 dollars today is $1600 in retirement. I now think in Retirement Dollars! For instance, I know that walking into Sephora is a minimum $50 spent, which is $800 Retirement Dollars. New phone? That’s $3200 Retirement Dollars. Looking at the long game helps me curve impulse buys.

*Justin Timberlake’s voice* It’s gonna be fees

Look. For. Fees. Are they hidden? Yes. And oh-so-well. It’s worth it to do some digging to see how much your retirement account and credit cards charge because it adds up. How much? Just 1% in brokerage fees over a 30 year span equals $100,000 or more lost. What could $100k do in your life? Probably enough to consider digging for fees and transferring accounts.

Consider online banking

We’ve grown up used to the services and convenience of in person brick-and-mortar banking. However, many of us never use that service and online bank 100% of the time. If that’s the case, try an actual online bank like Ally.com or capitalone.com. Instead of having your checking or savings account sitting and accruing 0.01%, you could transfer funds and start passively gaining 2.0% on that money.

Really consider your housing needs

Unless you’re setting roots for more than 5 years, it might not make sense to buy a house. Being a homeowner and renting both have pros and cons and it’s important to decide what works for you. However, homeownership doesn’t necessarily have the tax benefits it once did, it’s not a guaranteed appreciating value, and you need to take into consideration upkeep, repairs, taxes, and insurance. Another option is to take what you might use as a housing down payment and put it into your retirement account. Then rent while saving towards your future.

These are just a few of the takeaways I gained in a few short months from one financial class. Look in your area for something similar to help with the process and get serious about protecting your future self. Financial literacy is imperative for every person. You’ll gain confidence, independence, and even decision-making power. That’s advice you can take to the (online) bank.  

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