When you’re starting out in your career, there are so many things you have to learn all at once. You have to navigate the world of your first major job all while planning out your future career and when each step in that plan should happen.
It’s a lot to handle, especially when it’s added to financial stresses. Whether you’re in your early or late 20’s, you shouldn’t have to carry the burden of struggling with your finances while you start your career.
Make your life a little easier by reading this list of financial goals for 20-something professionals. After you learn more about how your finances could work, you’ll have more time to focus on succeeding in your job.
1. Become a Budgeting Pro
The first way to get into better financial habits is to practice making and sticking to a budget. Once each month, sit down with a planner and track how much income you’ll make for that coming month and what bills you have to pay. After you subtract your bills from your income, you’ll see how much money you have left to divide between your savings, your needs and your wants.
The key to budgeting is to stick with it. Don’t put in the work to create the budget and then act like it doesn’t exist when you drive by your favorite restaurant or see something new that you love online. Spend only what you give yourself an allowance for and your budget will be a success.
There are different ways to budget, so you’ll have to spend time figuring out what’s right for you. Work by hand with a physical planner, use an online calendar or look into a budgeting app that will help you automatically track where your money goes.
2. Make Regular Debt Payments
Almost everyone has some level of debt that they need to pay off. On average, people in their twenties have $22-42,000 in debt because of student loans or credit cards.
Your debt may feel like it’s crushing you, but you can work your financial situation so you can breathe again. Figure out what your monthly interest charges are for your credit cards and what your monthly payments should be for your student loans. Make a commitment to pay those off every month, no matter what.
If you have the room, add a bit extra to your payments to cut down how much you owe. Eventually, those interest charges will decrease because of it. Work your debt payments into your budget so it’s a firm and expected part of your monthly budget.
3. Save an Emergency Fund
Most young people live paycheck to paycheck because they’re just starting out in their careers. It’s hard to live like that, but it’s especially hard when you find yourself paying for something you didn’t see coming.
Car crashes, emergency room visits, or even a simple flat tire can gut a young person financially. The only way to protect yourself is to save an emergency fund over time with small deposits. That fund should cover at least three months of bills in case you lose your job, but should also be a financial cushion for emergencies like your car breaking down or visiting the doctor unexpectedly.
4. Start a Retirement Savings
Once you’ve got your budget set up, your debt payments scheduled and an emergency fund started, you can think about starting your retirement savings. Don’t stress about this step until you’ve really found a stable financial footing. Wait until you’ve met your emergency fund goal or knocked out a bit more debt.
After you decide to start your retirement savings, put away 15 percent of your annual pre-tax income each year. Automatic withdrawals from your checking account make that easy, and you can always put away more in the future when you feel comfortable doing so.
5. Plan for Your Future
What does your financial future look like? That may completely depend on your professional future. Figure out what you want from your career by creating professional development goals according to your career path. Think about things like improving your communication, finding a professional mentor or even learning to regularly declutter your workspace.
Once you know what you want from your career, you’ll have a better idea of how your financial life will progress. Use that to plan for your future. Give a rough estimate for when you’ll save for a house, when you’ll get a new car and possibly even earn a higher degree. You may not stick with the timing of those goals, but you’ll be better off for having planned for them.
Take Things Slow and Steady
As much as you may want to be debt-free, own your own home or make some other large financial leap, take things slow and steady for right now. After you get more comfortable handling your finances and forming a steady foundation for your financial future, you can set new goals and tackle them in time.
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