For years our parents told us “get good grades” and “do your homework”, we were lead to believe that would get us into a good college. Then we completed college applications, applied for student loans and went on awkward road trips with our parents to check out some campuses. The mantra evolved because in college we believed good grades would lead to a good job. Four years later, if you got all your classes, we walked across the stage thinking about our next steps venturing out into the world.
Millennial’s have earned the title of the most indebted graduating class in history, with over $1.2 Trillion in current student loan debt. In addition to that we aren’t earning as much as our parents did when adjusted for increases in the cost of living, and we’re highly skilled at spending money. With high expectations for our future, we’re off to a dismal start. The job market has been tough for recent graduates, under-employment is at historically high levels and barriers to starting a business have made it more difficult and expensive to begin. With school loans to pay and the living expenses adding up there’s a lot of pressure related to our future and our finances. We can choose to sit back as a victim of the times or take responsibility by standing up in the drift and moving forward.
Personally I feel I’ve come a long way since graduating and believe there are three things, in particular, that helped me build a solid foundation for my future. If it weren’t for the advice below I would not be where I am today.
Be a young active citizen in your community. Through all your years in school you’ve developed many relationships, now that you’ve graduated it’s crucial to continue expanding your network. While social networking online has value, it is difficult to establish meaningful relationships without personal interaction. Make it a point to meet with people face to face, you don’t have to be a social butterfly, introverts will naturally attract one another in conversation. There are so many opportunities for young people to step up and it can have a major impact on their futures. Networking geared towards young professionals is a great way to start and there are plenty of groups that facilitate this. For example, the United States Junior Chamber is a great place to start and there’s probably a local chapter near you. I’m a long standing member of my local Junior Chamber, it was the first board of directors I ever served on, and I gained valuable leadership skills from those experiences. Another good place to start is with local non profit organizations or your local city council. Get involved on a committee or take a board position. These types of organizations need more young people with aligned interests to be involved. If you’re more comfortable connecting through culture or religion, there are likely several cultural and spiritual groups in your community, it’s great to align yourself with people that share similar values. And if you’re still looking for more ideas, check out the alumni association at your alma mater.
Know your money. Start by taking inventory of the money you have and everything you owe. Be honest with yourself, this is not a game about making the numbers look pretty. Whether you’re in the red or in the black, these are the facts, and you need to be aware of it. Next, get a bit more detailed. Use statements and online banking to help keep track of the money coming in and out of your accounts and get a handle on where you are spending your money. If you’re spending a lot of cash, and by this I mean physical dollar bills, this is a bit more difficult because it’s a manual process to track it. If you spend using a debit or credit card, online banking tools and other technology can help you keep track quite easily. If your up to it separate your spending into different categories; be as detailed as you are comfortable, the more specific the better. I could go on talking about budget goals and ways to reduce spending but the key here is awareness. If you make time to connect more with your finances to know what’s coming in and how it’s going out, you will naturally catch yourself thinking more about your spending, in a good way. Appreciate this heightened sense of awareness and act on it. For now don’t be concerned with the amount of comma’s or zero’s, when you’re young, time is on your side.