You’ve heard me offer this advice dozens of times to teens and young adults: Save your money – even if it’s just a few dollars every week.
But how can Generation Y-ers sock away anything for the future while trying to find the cash to cover college tuition? And what about banking some money while trying to land a job in a crummy economy?
Those questions – both good ones – came from a reader in response to my column several weeks ago about several new mutual funds specifically geared to helping 18- to 22-year-olds build a retirement nest egg for 40 years down the road.
The reader wrote that the column was “completely out of touch” with the financial hurdles facing teens and young adults.
“Really,” the reader concluded, “does anyone begin building a nest egg for retirement right out of college?”
There’s no doubt that college costs are going to the moon and leaving millions of graduates with heavy debt. Likewise, if you’re 22 years old and unemployed or just starting out in the workplace, finding any money to plunk into a retirement savings account might not be atop the priority list.
But here’s where I ring the warning bell: Many teens and young adults aren’t even trying to save money for tomorrow, the next month, or the year 2055.
Here you are, at 21 or 22, and your financial future is still stuck in neutral.
Some are too consumed with consumption. Others believe there’s too little left in their paycheck after covering apartment rent, a car payment, gasoline, the cell phone bill and the cable TV package.
If you’re in these camps, it’s time to change your way of thinking. Start by taking the word “can’t” from this discussion.
Here are a few ways to jump-start savings:
– Open the envelope, please: You don’t have to be the children of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or Michael Dell to be saving money. Try this with a couple of envelopes: Write “college textbooks fund” on one and on the other “long-term savings.” For every day you forgo the early-morning latte, the school vending machine soda or dinner at the sub shop, stuff a $1 bill in each envelope. At the start of the weekend, pinch a ten from your wallet and add it to your stash.
Set a goal, be disciplined on the follow-through, and remember that one way to save money is to spend less.
– Emergency preparedness: Time to buy a set of tires or cover a major car repair? If you are earning a paycheck, set up an automatic payroll deposit that transfers $25 or $50 each pay period straight into a savings account so there will be some cushion to soften the bill.
– Free money is good: If you’re new to a job, take advantage of any savings supplements offered by your employer, such as a 401(k) retirement account where the company matches your contribution up to a certain limit.
That not only puts you in the savings game, but maybe ahead of the game for the long haul.