Now that college is over, you are entering a new chapter in your life. It can be exciting, scary and overwhelming all at the same time. You are starting off your career and earning a steady income, but you’ve never had the responsibility that comes with it. As a result, you need some solid advice for the financial things to do in your 20s.
For most of you, this will be the first time you are earning a steady income. And as crazy at this sounds, you need to know what to do with your money in order to get ahead.
This is why I created this guide to help you build wealth in your 20s. By following the steps outlined below, you will be able to make smart financial decisions managing your money. This will allow you to grow your wealth and have a lot of options and opportunities in life.
And who doesn’t want to live a life where they have more opportunities and choices? You can have just about everything you want, as long as you follow these tips of financial moves to make in your 20s.
So let’s get started!
How To Build Wealth In Your 20s
In order to build wealth in your 20s, you need to be proactive in every aspect of your financial life. This means you need to manage your finances when it comes to the following:
- Budget tips for 20 somethings – click here to jump to this section
- How to save money in your 20s – click here to jump to this section
- Building wealth in your 20s – click here to jump to this section
- How to start investing in your 20s – click here to jump to this section
- Paying off student loans in your 20s – click here to jump to this section
- Insurance you need in your 20s – click here to jump to this section
We will tackle each one of these individually and at the end, I’ll highlight the most critical financial moves to make in your 20s as well as give you a list of financial goals to achieve in your 20s. (Click here to jump to this section)
Budget Tips For 20 Somethings
While making and following a budget doesn’t sound very exciting, it is an important step in how to manage your money in your 20s.
I know you look at some people and see their luxury car or name brand clothes they wear and you want this too. You can have these things, but not right now.
Here is why. If you simply start spending your first paycheck on these things, you will create a bad habit. You will always want the latest gadget, fashion, car, whatever. You won’t save anything and in 20 years, you will wake up and wonder how you got to where you are.
There is a good chance you will be in credit card debt, have auto loans, and a huge mortgage. As a result, you have to get up and work a job you may very well hate because you have to pay the bills.
You see, when you have mountains of debt, or debt of any amount, you aren’t working to pay yourself. You are working to pay someone else.
For example, if you are in credit card debt of $500 and you make $500 this week at work, you were working to pay the credit card company. All the money you earned is going to them.
You have nothing to show for getting up at 5am, fighting traffic, dealing with people you dislike, fighting traffic again and going to bed. All to repeat it again the next day.
But if you didn’t have that $500 in debt, the money you earned is yours. You decide to spend it on a nice dinner out. Or you decide to save and invest it so you have more options in life.
This is why you need to budget. By keeping track of how much you are spending, you avoid going into debt. And when you avoid debt, you can grow your wealth and enjoy life more.
How do you get started with a budget? There are a few options out there for you. Here are my favorites:
- Spreadsheets. They offer you 100% control and customization. The downside is you need to know a little bit about Excel and need the time to manually update it. Here are 10 free templates for you to start with if spreadsheets sound like a match for you.
- GoodBudget. This is a budgeting app that gives you the option to manually update it, or you can pay a small fee and it will be automatically updated for you. All you have to do is review it. You can learn more here.
- Tiller. Tiller is a hybrid of both options. It is a spreadsheet, but it is automated so you just have to review it. But you also have control in making it look and act exactly how you want. You can try it out here.
When it comes to setting up a budget for the first time, there are some guidelines you can use to follow to make sure your money is being spent wisely.
For example, some people swear by the 50/30/20 budget. This budget has 50% of your income going towards survival. Think food, housing, basic clothing, utilities, etc. for this category. The important thing to remember here is the word survival. Your money is only going towards the things you truly need, not want. So buying an outfit for the weekend doesn’t qualify.
Next, you have 30% of your budget going towards lifestyle spending. This includes vacations, cable, hobbies, and so on. Finally you have 20% which is used for long term goals. This means savings and paying off debts.
For most readers, I would stick to the 50/30/20 budget to get a handle on budgeting. I would also use any of the free templates I linked to above as they have categories already filled out. You just have to add in your numbers.
I know that some reading this will still refuse to budget even though it is important. So I have one more option for you. You don’t have to track any of your spending, or keep any sort of budget.
All you have to do pay yourself first and not overspend. This means when you get paid, you immediately take 15% of your income and move it into a savings account. After this, all you have to do is not overspend. If you don’t use credit cards, this should be a cinch.
But as great as this option sounds, you do have to be disciplined with it. If you don’t save first, or if you overspend, your finances will quickly spiral out of control. And before you know it, you will wake up one day stressed because your finances are a mess.
How To Save Money In Your 20s
Now that we have budgeting down, you might notice that your expenses are more than your income. This means you need to find ways to cut back and save money. Even if this isn’t the case, it’s important to find ways to save money in your 20s. The more you do this now, the more saving money will become a habit, making it beneficial to you for the rest of your life.
So what are some ways to save money and how much should you be saving in your 20s? Let’s look at ways to save money first.
As I mentioned in the section above, you need to make it a point to pay yourself first. This is by far, the most important financial move you ever make. By saving money from every paycheck, you build a cushion for when things go wrong. And they will.
And as your cushion grows, you will have the money for other things, like taking vacations, or splurging on something you really want.
What are the best ways to save money? I like to focus on big expenses first. This is because they have the biggest impact on your bottom line. Think about it, what is going to net you the most savings with the least amount of work, skipping a coffee every few days or getting your auto insurance premium lowered?
The answer is your auto insurance. By comparing quotes, you could save a few hundred dollars a year by doing 30 minutes worth of work. By skipping a coffee every few days, you have to proactively skip a coffee many times just to save $3 each time.
If you do the math, you’ll have to skip coffee over 66 times just to save the same $200 from getting a lower auto insurance premium and a lot more effort goes into skipping coffee all those times.
Here are my favorite big expenses to look into in order to save the most money with the least amount of effort.
- Keep your cable bill in check. By using the free service Trim, they will negotiate your cable bill for you, ensuring you are never paying too much. You can click here to try it out.
- Compare insurance quotes. Again, spending 30 minutes to get a lower premium can easily save you hundreds of dollars each year. I shop coverage every 2 years and regularly save $150 on average. I start my search using Allstate or Liberty Mutual to get an idea of what I should be paying and then reach out to a local insurance broker to get a few more free quotes.
- Shop around for groceries. Pick two stores in your area and compare the prices to see who offers the best prices. And don’t afraid to buy store brands. They are less expensive and just as good. Finally, plan your means around what is on sale.
- Refinance student loans. I’ll get into your student loans in more detail below, but refinancing your loans can save you a few hundred dollars each month in lower payments and save you thousands in interest over the life of your loans. You can learn more here.
But you shouldn’t stop with big expenses when saving money. The little things can add up over time and so you should put some effort into saving money here too. Just don’t make it your main focus. Focus first on the large expenses you have, then the smaller ones.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to save money in your 20s on the little things.
- Use cash. It’s amazing how much less you will spend when you pay with cash instead of credit. Try it out for a couple of weeks and see for yourself.
- Ask for a discount. When you are at the store, before you buy something, ask if there is a discount you could get. This could be a coupon or a discount for paying in cash. You’ll be surprised how often the clerk has a coupon they can apply to your purchase.
- Shop the dollar store. Not everything at the dollar store is worth your money, but there are some things you can buy and save a good amount of money on. For example, greeting cards. You can get them 2 for $1 versus paying $5 for a card anywhere else.
- Be smart when eating out. Try to split plates or only go out when there are specials for happy hour.
- Learn your values. When you know what you enjoy, you can spend money on these things and stop spending money on things that don’t fulfill you. Too many people buy things hoping to be happy and these things don’t add any value to their lives. Buying these things only holds them back financially because they are literally wasting money. By buying things that add value to your life, you can save a lot of money.
Finally, be sure to check out the post I wrote that has 115 different ways to save money every single month.
You might wonder why you should go to the trouble of using the tips above to save money if money isn’t an issue for you. The reason is simple. The more you work to keep your expenses low, the more money you can save.
For example, if you just pay yourself first, you might be able to afford a nice vacation once a year. But if you use additional tips to keep your expenses low and save even more money every month, you might be able to take 2 vacations a year.
Taken one step further, financial independence is when you can survive solely on your savings. If your expenses are low, you can choose to not work a lot earlier than you ever thought possible.
The point is, by making it a habit to save money, you allow yourself to take advantage of opportunities in life. For me, this came about when I was laid off from my job.
For anyone without any savings, this would be a stressful time. They would be scared about how to cover their bills and at the same time, scrambling to find a new job.
While I did have some stress about the situation, I wasn’t afraid. My wife and I had a large savings to fall back on and eventually, we decided that I would start my own business. I am excited to work every day and love what I do.
This wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t make it a point to pay ourselves first and find additional ways to save money.
One final note on saving money. Don’t think I am telling you that you have to live a boring life now and save every cent in order to enjoy your future. I want you to enjoy today to its fullest potential. But I also want your tomorrow to be better than you thought possible too.
This is done by simply being a smarter consumer today. Don’t just give in and buy everything you see. Ask yourself if you really need it. If you don’t, skip it and save your money. In addition, take a few minutes every day to figure out how to save money on the things you buy.
Tips For Building Wealth In Your 20s
When it comes to making money in your 20s, there are two areas for you to earn the most money possible and get ahead financially.
- Your career
- Side hustles
Let’s start with your career since for 99% of you reading this your career is your greatest asset. What do I mean by this? This is the thing that will earn you the most income over your life.
Yes you will make money by investing in the stock market and saving money, but your career earnings will easily outpace this.
For example, let’s say you are starting off your career at age 23 earning $35,000 and you get a 3% raise each year until you retire at age 65. You will earn a total of $2,753,215.
And this assumes an annual raise of 3%. If you work smart, you can achieve a 5% raise or more and dramatically increase your lifetime earnings.
Using the same scenario above but with a 5% annual raise, you end up making $4,474,391 throughout your career. That’s a difference of $1,721,176!
How do you earn a higher raise? The answer is by becoming valuable to your employer. If you make it a point to step outside of your job description, take on additional roles, and help out your manager, you can achieve a higher than average raise.
But it won’t happen overnight. You have to work hard to make it happen. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this means you will have to work 100 hours a week. If you work smart, you can earn a higher raise without putting in the long hours.
I go into more detail about this process in my post on the simple steps to earning a larger raise.
One more point on career advice for 20 somethings. Whether you are still looking for a job or are happily employed now, you have to negotiate your starting salary. By doing this, you can dramatically increase your lifetime earnings.
For example, let’s say you are offered a job making $35,000. You take this offer and earn a 3% raise each of the next 5 years. Your ending annual salary is $40,575.
But let’s say you countered when offered $35,000 and started making $37,500 instead. Assuming you earn 3% raises each year for 5 years, what does you salary look like?
You end up making $43,475 a year. That is $2,900 more a year. If you look closely, you will see the important thing here. When you negotiated, you earned $2,500 more a year. But way about th other $400? Where does this come from?
With a higher starting salary, each of your raises are greater in amount as well. See the chart below for a breakdown.
By starting off with a higher salary enjoy at least $75 more every year. And this amount only gets bigger as compounding takes over. So if you are still looking for work, negotiate your salary. If you have a job, negotiate your salary at your next job. It is critical to do this. And employers expect you to negotiate. You just have to come back with a reasonable starting salary. Here is a great resource to help you out.
By negotiating your salary and becoming valuable at work, it will allow you to grow your wealth in your 20s and set you up to earn even more money in the future.
Now we turn to side hustles to grow your wealth in your 20s. When I graduated college, making money on the side was called moonlighting. But I like the term side hustle more. Basically you are spending some time outside of your career to earn additional money.
Some of you might think I am expecting you to head out and work a part time job at McDonald’s or Michael’s earning $7 an hour. This is not the case.
I am talking about finding ways to make a lot more money per hour and working fewer hours. Your goal should be to make roughly the hourly rate you are earning at your career, or more.
If you are making $25 per hour, then this is the goal. Now, some of the options to make money aren’t going to specifically have you work for an hour and make $25. You might be working for 10 minutes and make $6.
At first glance, this $6 is a waste of your time since you need $25 per hour. But you have to remember you are only working for 10 minutes.
If we take $6 and multiply it by 6, we get $36. I did this because there are six 10 minute periods in one hour. So doing this side hustle earns you $36 per hour, which is more than your goal of $25.
When evaluating if a low paying side hustle is worth your time, be sure to understand how long it takes you to complete and then do the math to turn your earnings into an hourly wage.
So what are some good paying side hustles that I have found worth my time? Here are my favorites.
- Survey Junkie. With this side hustle, you take surveys to earn extra money. They don’t take long either. If you spend 30 minutes before bed a few nights a week, you could end up with a decent amount of extra money. You can click here to get started.
- Opinion Outpost. This side hustle is another survey site. Follow the same advice as above and even use both to really boost your side income. You can click here to get started.
- Swagbucks. With this side hustle, you can do a handful of things to earn cash or even gift cards. You can take surveys, play games, watch videos, surf the internet and more. You can even get cash back by shopping online through Swagbucks. New members get $5 when you sign up, and you can click here to get started!
- Ebates. This side hustle is a cash back website that allows you to earn money when you shop through the Ebates portal. New users get a $10 gift card just for signing up and you can get started here!
Here is how I use the above side hustles to earn some extra cash each month. When it comes to surveys, I spend 30 minutes 3 nights a week before bed. I have a friend who rides the train to work. On his hour-long ride, he takes surveys and makes a good amount of money.
Next let’s look at Swagbucks and Ebates. Before I buy anything online, I visit each of these sites to see if I can earn cash back by shopping through them. Most times I can.
So, I see which site offers a larger cash back amount and I shop online through their site. Here is how it works. I’ll use Ebates as an example.
I visit Ebates and search for the online store I want to shop at. In this example, I’ll use Best Buy. When I click on the Shop Now link, I get sent to Best Buy’s website and I shop as I normally would.
After I make the purchase, I get credited with cash back from Ebates. If the cash back amount is 2% and I spend $100, then I made $2.
That is all there is to it. You take an extra 2 minutes to shop through either Swagbucks or Ebates and you earn money.
You might think this $2 is pointless. But remember it only took me a minute to complete. When I shop online for Christmas gifts, I easily make a few hundred dollars. This is because I do all my shopping though Ebates or Swagbucks and each online retailer sets a different cash back amount. Some go as high as 25%.
I easily earn close to $1,000 in cash back every year by doing these simple things.
I also do other things as well, like sell things on Amazon that earns me more money on the side. Even this blog used to be a side hustle for me. At one point, I was making close to $10,000 a year through the various side hustles I was doing.
And I wasn’t budgeting that money for my daily expenses. I pretended it never existed and just invested it. After 5 short years, my finances were looking really good. I had more than $50,000 in savings just from side hustles. This allowed my wife and I to travel a lot. Over the course of a few years we took trips to Belize, Mexico, Grand Cayman, St. Martin, Anguilla, and Ireland.
I encourage you to read through my post that covers more than 51 ways to make extra money. It has ideas to help you make anywhere from $100 a month, up to $1,000 or more.
When it comes to making money in your 20s, start off by following the career advice I offered and then find a side hustle you enjoy doing to make money on the side. Then do like I did and pretend the extra money doesn’t exist.
How To Start Investing In Your 20s
It now comes time to talk about investing and why it is important to start a retirement fund in your 20s.
For most of you reading this, you weren’t affected by the recent stock market crashes, but this doesn’t mean you are safe. Here is the thing about investing. The market goes up some days and it goes down some days. It could move in either direction a lot and get scary at times.
But over the long term, there are more up days than down and as a result, the market tends to rise over time. Just look at the below chart as an example.
The up years outnumber the down years by close to a three to one margin. In other words, over the long term, you will make money investing in the stock market.
If you invest for the long term, meaning 10 years or longer, you can expect to earn an average return of 8% annually. Whereas if you put your money in a savings account at a bank, you are lucky to earn 3% annually.
What impact does this have on the growth of your money?
Below is a chart comparing the annual returns of the S&P 500 Index from 1995 through 2017 as well as the annual returns of a bank savings account.
If you put $10,000 in to each of these and forgotten about it, how much would you have today?
If you invested your money into the stock market, you would have $90,516. That is close to $70,000 more than if you put your money into a bank savings account.
As you can see, investing your money is critical for your long term financial well being. But don’t think this means you should skip putting money into a savings account. You need to have some money in a savings account for emergencies.
This is because the money will be safe in terms of you not losing it, like can potentially happen when investing in the stock market.
Therefore, you need to put money into a bank savings account for emergencies and other short term savings goals. Short term means less than 5 years.
For everything else, you need to invest in the stock market. But starting investing in your 20s in the stock market can be overwhelming if you don’t have any knowledge about investing.
Luckily I am here to help. For starters you should read my post on becoming a stock market millionaire. This will give you the basics you need to know, as well as links to more reading.
In the meantime, you need to open an investment account. I have two options for you, depending on your situation.
- If you are in a good place financially and can afford to invest $25 or more each month, open an account with Betterment. They are an online advisor that does everything you need to be successful. All you have to do is take 10 minutes to open your account and set up a monthly transfer. They do everything else for you. Click here to get started.
- If money is tight and you can only afford to invest $10 or less each month, open an account with Acorns. They too will do everything for you, but they invest smaller amounts of money. They will also round up your purchases and invest your change for you. It’s incredible how well this system works. You can get $5 for opening your account and you can open your account here.
Now that you see the importance of investing in the stock market, why is it important for you to start your retirement fund in your 20s?
The simple answer is time. Time works wonders when it comes to investing. The longer you have for your money to grow, the more it compounds upon itself.
Let’s look at a simple example. You invest $25,000 at age 25 in the stock market and it grows at 8% per year until age 65. You never invest another dollar and after those 40 years, your money grew to be worth $543,113.
Now let’s say you invest $25,000 at age 35 and it grows at 8% annually until age 65. Again, you never invest another dollar. After those 30 years, your money grew to be worth $251,566.
By simply putting off investing 10 years, you cost yourself $291,547!
Take a minute and think about what you could do with an extra $291,000. Time is powerful when it comes to compounding you money so the sooner you start investing, the better off you will be.
I know investing for your retirement in your 20s doesn’t sound exciting or even important. But it is. You need to invest something, every month starting now into your retirement account. The easiest way to do this is with your 401k plan at work.
Fill out the form with your employer to invest 10% of your pay and your future self with thank you.
But what if you are thinking you will just start investing in 10 years? You see the example above and think you will still be OK financially. While right now this plan seems fine, let’s look at life in 10 years.
Odds are you may be married. You may even have children. You probably have a mortgage too. All these things cost you money, more money than you are spending now and money could be tight.
The reality is most people who follow this plan end up not starting to invest at age 35, or 40 or even 45. Life happens and they forget to start. Then money gets tight and they plan to wait until they have more money.
The end result is they never start and wind up never being able to retire. They have to work their whole life.
And for those that eventually do start, they see how much money they will need for retirement and think getting there is impossible.
Paying Off Student Loans In Your 20s
Ah, student loans. The bane of your and many of your peers existence. I remember having student loans and I won’t lie, paying them back for close to 10 years was not fun.
Having a large monthly bill for $300 or more can really crimp your options in life. Remember the point I made earlier about credit card debt and working to pay someone else instead of enjoying the money yourself?
Well your student loan debt fits this description perfectly. While you might want to stop paying your loans or pray that one day the government will let you erase your debt like they did for the big banks back during the housing crisis, your best option is to pay them off.
And pay them off as quickly as possible. How do you do this? There are really only 2 steps to the process.
- Look into refinancing your student loans
- Pay as much as you can each month
When you refinance your loans, you accomplish 2 things. First, you get a lower interest rate on your debt. This saves you money over the long term. For example, if you owe $25,000 and are paying 6% for 20 years and only pay the minimum, you are looking at paying a grand total of $42,985!
If you can refinance and lower your interest rate to 4%, you end up paying $36,358. You saved $6,627 just by refinancing.
And when you refinance, you typically can lower your monthly payment too. So instead of paying $300 a month, you may be paying $200 a month.
You can play with the calculator below to get an idea of how much you can save by refinancing.
If you refinance and your new monthly payment is $200 but you pay $250, you will pay off your student loans in less time and save close to $9,000 in interest.
All this sounds great, but how do you refinance? The easiest solution is to visit LendEDU. In less than 10 minutes, you will have a free quote for your new interest rate and monthly payment. You can choose to refinance right then or not at all.
I highly encourage you to look into this. It’s a simple way to lower your monthly payment and save a lot of money overall.
After your refinance, your next step is to pay as much as you can on your student loan debt each month. Here is a guide to help you pay off your student loans fast.
Some of you are living on a tight budget as it is and can’t afford to pay extra on your student loans. But you can. All you need are a couple of side hustles.
By earning some extra money on the side, you can make a huge dent in your student loans. Just paying an extra $100 a month will save you close to $10,000 and have you pay off your student loan debt 10 years early.
And you can easily make $100 or more a month by following the tips I outlined in the building wealth in your 20s section of this post.
Insurance You Need In Your 20s
This post about how to build wealth in your 20s isn’t complete without talking briefly about healthcare. Ideally, you will be covered by your employer’s healthcare. But choosing a plan isn’t as simple as it used to be.
To save money, many employers now offer high deductible healthcare plans. This means that you pay out of pocket for a lot of your healthcare each year until you hit your deductible. After that, co-insurance kicks in and you pay a lot less.
In many cases, your out of pocket costs will be $3,000 or more before you hit your deductible. This might sound scary to some of you reading this, but you can make out like a bandit financially if you are smart.
Here is how it works. Chances are, in your 20s you are healthy and rarely need to have any expensive procedures done. As a result, you won’t be paying much out of pocket for healthcare. This is because in most plans, preventive care, like annual physicals and dentist visits are covered by your plan and you pay nothing.
You take some money and put it into your health savings account. This is an account that you save money in and use to pay healthcare related expenses. The money you save is taken out of your paycheck before you pay tax on it, and it grows tax free. If you use the money for healthcare expenses, you don’t have to pay taxes on it when you spend it.
The trick here is to put as much money as you can into this account and wait to use it until later on in your life. Many people use a health savings account like a Roth IRA. They invest the money, let it grow, and then spend the money years later on healthcare costs.
Here is a perfect example. When the companies my wife and I worked for switched to a high deductible plan, we were saving around $100 a paycheck in the account. Our employers also contributed a small amount to our health savings account as well every time we were paid.
We never used the money for health related expenses because we were healthy. We invested it instead. Fast forward to today and we have over $25,000 in our health savings accounts. We use some of the money to pay for healthcare now, but plan to let the money grow tax free until we are much older.
If you are working part time or on your own and are not covered by your employer’s health plan, you need to buy coverage. I know that saving your money instead sounds like a good idea, but the truth is, you never know when you might need health coverage.
And with the costs of medical procedures skyrocketing, you need to have coverage. Otherwise, you will dig yourself a financial hole you can’t ever recover from. This is why medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy.
To find health coverage, check out this site. And be sure to set a reminder to shop around every year so that you are getting the best deal for your money.
One last point about insurance and that is disability insurance. Everyone talks about the importance of health insurance but disability insurance is just as important to you at this age.
According to the Council For Disability Awareness, someone in their 20s has a 25% chance of becoming disabled before they retire. And this injury could have a major impact on what jobs you can work and how much money you are able to earn over your lifetime.
The bottom line is, it makes sense to look into having disability insurance. Too many people think it won’t be them until it is too late to get coverage.
Options And Opportunities In Life
Throughout this post, I’ve talked about how to manage money in your 20s so you have more options and opportunities in life. I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about what I mean by options and opportunities.
Earlier I mentioned how I was laid off and wasn’t stressed because we had a nice nest egg to fall back on. Additionally, I ended up starting my own business at the time as well.
This opportunity only came about because we did all of the work of making sure we followed these financial tips in our 20s. If we didn’t get our money in order, I would have been scrambling to find a job and the stress would have been immeasurable.
Here is another example. Let’s say you don’t like your job. You want to switch careers and do something more fulfilling, but it pays less. If you don’t have your finances in order, you don’t have the option to take the job that will make you happier.
You are stuck at a job you hate. But if you had worked to build wealth in your 20s, things might be different and you could take that lower paying job and still get by.
Or maybe in 10 years you will find yourself married and have a new child. You or your spouse may decide that staying home to raise your child is important. If you didn’t make these financial moves in your 20s, you might not have this option. You will have to put your child in daycare, which is another added expense.
This is what I am talking about when I say you have more opportunities and options in life when you get your finances in order.
Simply put, money opens doors and gives you choices. You can take a lower paying job, survive financially and be happy. You can take a year off to travel. You can stay home to raise your kids. You can start a business. You can retire early.
They are all options when you have your financial house in order. When your financial house is a mess, none of these are options. You are stuck and will stay there until you get your finances in order.
I have seen both sides of this in life. I’ve seen friends who made it a point to enjoy life today and followed the financial moves to make in their 20s. Today they are enjoying life more than ever.
I have also seen friends ignore this advice and now 20 years later are miserable and are not fun to be around. They are stuck and can’t seem to get ahead. Every time they try, something else comes up and pushes them back down again.
Critical Financial Moves To Make In Your 20s
Now that we have covered all areas of your finances, let’s talk specifics and put them into an easy to follow list. I’ll highlight the critical financial moves to make in your 20s so you will be putting yourself into great financial shape and will have many options and opportunities in life.
Here are the most important financial tips for your 20s. Note they are all important, so they are not ordered in importance.
- Save 15% of your income. If possible try to save more than this. But with student loans and possibly credit card debt, this could be tough. But do your best to save at least 15% of your income. This can be done in a variety of ways, like 10% saved in your 401k plan and 5% in a savings account. Just don’t get lost in the details. Focus on saving as much as you can.
- Keep living like you are in college. I know you want nicer things now that you have a steady income, but the longer you wait to “upgrade” your life, the more financially set you will be. So try to keep living like you don’t have a lot of money. This will make it easier to save at least 15% of your income. Just make sure you find a healthy balance between enjoying today and setting yourself up for tomorrow.
- Pay off your debt. I can’t stress enough how important it is to pay off your debt. When you owe other people money, it limits your choices in life. By getting rid of your debt, you open more doors for the choices you can make. And if you need a plan to pay off your debt fast, check out this post on the snowball method.
- Start investing now. When it comes to investing, time is your best friend. I showed you how waiting just 10 years to start investing can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t make the mistake and think investing $25 a month is pointless. It will grow in time and you’ll be thankful you invested in your 20s.
- Get the most out of your career. Step outside of your job description and take on new roles and responsibilities. Keep note of them all and how the company benefits. Then present this to your manager in hopes of earning a larger raise. Also put these on your resume. Having this information on your resume will help for your next job too.
Financial Goals For Your 20s
Now that we have covered how to build wealth in your 20s, let’s talk goals. By the time you hit your 30s, you should have certain financial aspects of your life nailed down. Here is a list of financial goals for your 20s that you need to hit before you turn 30.
#1. Emergency fund with 6 to 9 months worth of living expenses. You might think that you don’t need to save this much in an emergency fund, but should an emergency happen, you will be happy that you have this cushion. The reason is simple. When an emergency happens, like a broken down car, a lost job, etc. it is stressful. When you have ample savings, you take away some of the stress.
Think about it. What is more stressful, having a car that needs $2,500 worth of work and having no money to pay for it, or having a car that needs $2,500 worth of work and having $25,000 in savings? I’ll take the savings any day of the week.
#2. Saving of 15% of your income. For some reading this, saving 15% of your income right away might not be possible. This isn’t the end of the world. All you have to do is make it a point to get your finances in order so that by the time you hit 30 years old, you are saving 15% of your income.
For example, let’s say you are only able to save 10%. Work to increase this by 1% every year and you will be saving 15% by the time you are 30.
Some of you might be interested in having a dollar goal here. But that isn’t possible for a variety of reasons. Where you live, how much you make, whether you were in school until 28 or you graduated at 22 all make a big difference. So aim for saving 15% of your salary. And if you really want a number, play around with the numbers in this post to see where you stand.
#3. Zero credit card debt. Paying off your credit cards should be a priority and by the time you are hitting 30 years old, you should have the debt wiped out. This should be made simpler by paying extra each month and using some of the money you are making through a side hustle.
#4. Significant progress on your student loans. As with a retirement amount goal, having a number goal for your student loan debt it tough too. Again, everyone has a different amount of debt and income.
So your goal should be to have a significant amount of student loan debt wiped out. Try for 75% or more. Remember, the less debt you have, the more options and opportunities you will have.
#5. Investing extra money. In addition to your retirement savings, you should have some money in the stock market in a taxable account. This would be used for long term goals like buying a house, a car, etc.
The amount you have isn’t as important as having an account and making it a habit to regularly put money into the account each month.
#6. A profitable side hustle. Any extra money you can make on the side is going to help you tremendously throughout your life. Start off by using the options I listed, like Survey Junkie and Swagbucks for starters. Then be open to new ideas as well.
Just remember the most important part. Make sure you enjoy doing it. It will never feel like work and you will want to do it.
#7. Track your net worth. Your net worth is telling you how you are doing financially. To calculate it, you simply take your assets and subtract your liabilities. The result is how much you are worth.
The goal is to have this number increase on a regular basis. How do you get it to increase? Pay off debt, save and invest. That’s it.
I like to calculate my net worth monthly, and you can see how to do so in this step by step guide. But you can also use Personal Capital as well. It will calculate your net worth for you and help you save money on investment fees and create a retirement plan for you, all for free. It’s a powerful tool and my wife and I swear by it. You can get started by clicking here.
And speaking of Personal Capital, check out this post I wrote on financial tools I use. Using these tools has helped me go from being in credit card debt to being on track to retire by 55.
#8. Have goals in life. What do you want your career to look like? How do you see your future playing out? Don’t look at this as only an exercise to try to figure out what you want to do in retirement. Look at your entire life.
For example, when I was dating my wife and we were talking about marriage and starting a family, we both made it clear that we wanted to be there for the kids. We wanted to be able to attend their school events and their extra-curricular activities. We can’t do this if we are working at jobs until 8pm every night.
So we started to take action so that we would have this option. Will we be able to attend every event? Probably not. But we will be able to be there for as many as possible.
The point is, take the time and figure out what you want in life and start making plans for it. Your plans will change as you grow older and you get married and start a family. But by making goals now, you will set yourself up for your future years.
#9. Work on yourself. In addition to having goals in life, make it a habit to improve yourself every day. This can be as simple as reading everyday or going for a walk. By making sure you are your best, you can enjoy life more and this opens the door for more possibilities in life.
So there is your outline for how to build wealth in your 20s. I realize it was a lot of information, so take it one section at a time. The important thing is that you work your way through it so that by the time you reach your 30s, you are in great financial shape.
Just remember the key points. Enjoy today but still work to plan for and save for tomorrow. The better you can balance this, the more you will enjoy life now and in the future and the more you will be able to take advantage of any opportunities that come your way.