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    16 Millennials Shared Their Debt Struggles So Gen Z Can Learn From Them

    "I 'borrowed' pretty much all of the money in my 401(k)/IRA when I wasn’t working and had to have surgery. Big mistake."

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    According a past study, about 80% of Americans are in debt. And while carrying some debt might seem normal, the consequences of making a mistake can take you by surprise. So we asked the millennial members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about the debt mistake they hope Gen Z'ers avoid.

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    BTW, while these are very sound strategies, you should always evaluate your own personal circumstances and needs before trying to adopt financial advice. What works for one person may not always work for another!

    Here's what they had to say:

    1. "If you start a business, have a tax accountant teach you what is expected of you from the very beginning."

    2. "Be mindful of who you trust to pay you back."

    "I got a sob story from an ex. I felt bad and paid [their debt] with my emergency credit card. [The relationship] didn't work out, and now I am stuck paying it off. Just because it's available for you doesn't mean you should use it for others' debt."


    3. "I took a credit card with a $7K limit to college for 'emergencies.' By the end of my four years, it was maxed out because 'emergencies' quickly started to mean 'pizza and beer.'"

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    "I wish I'd never taken that card with me. It took over 10 years to pay it off because the interest rate was [wild]."


    4. "Get tips on filling out your FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid]! No one helped me, and I qualified for ZERO public assistance even though my parents were at the poverty line. Now, I'm stuck with these private loans that can't be forgiven or consolidated."


    5. "I wish I had taken a second to read the paperwork or made sure I understood what I was getting into when I got my student loans."

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    "Also, this may seem obvious...but BILLS ARE REAL. I spent soooo much time just hoping and wishing my student loans would go away. I wasted a lot of time and wrecked my credit. Also, I wish I had known more about credit scores and how much of an impact they can have on your life."


    Credit scores can be...complicated, to say the least. Your credit scores (yes, you have multiple) are based on information in your credit reports and are designed to help lenders decide whether or not to extend you a line of credit, like a loan or credit card. Since your credit scores can have a big impact on your life, it's a good idea to keep an eye them. Services like Experian let you check up on your FICO credit score (the one most commonly used in the US) for free just by signing up for an account. And if you're after a little more info, check out our handy guide to understanding credit scores.

    6. "I regret waiting too long to seek real help for my credit card debt problem because of pride."

    "I struggled for years to manage everything and tried to pay off chunks of the debt. But I would slide back into even more debt. I finally reached out to a financial counselor through a free city program (I'm in NYC). They were completely nonjudgmental, helped me put together a budget, and connected me with Consolidated Credit, a legit debt relief company. It's taken about four and a half years, but I was able to avoid bankruptcy, and this spring, I will have officially paid off about $50,000 in credit card debt."


    7. "I took out almost $60,000 in private student loans because I didn't qualify for any others when I went back to my dream school at age 24. I had to have a relative cosign."

    Model wearing a backpack
    Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

    "Then, I was diagnosed with cancer while at my dream school, had to drop out, and was left disabled and unable to work after. The lender didn't care about that; they just wanted their money. And, my relative didn't care either. I 'ruined their life.'"


    "Student loans!!! They haunt you for life. Even as I’m paying them, they affect so much. Just go to community college. I wanted to go to university just to be like my friends. I only make about three dollars above the new minimum wage after going to school."


    8. "I 'borrowed' pretty much all of the money in my 401(k)/IRA when I wasn’t working and had to have surgery. Big mistake. Big penalty."

    "My retirement savings are pretty much depleted. I only recently started making enough money to rebuild it. Now I’m worried about growing older."


    Wanna know more about saving for retirement? Check out these helpful facts about 401(k) accounts.

    9. "I thought my first credit card had a $900 limit. Turns out, it was a $3,000 limit. I ran it up in just three months (I had just moved into my first apartment and needed furniture)."

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    "Then, I realized that my monthly payments weren't even covering the monthly interest. So, I just didn't pay anything toward it for six years. I completely ruined my credit score."


    FYI, a bad credit score doesn't last forever. If yours isn't where you want it to be, there are things you can do to improve your score. And while some of these strategies take time, if you're after some *instant gratification* you could try using Experian's Boost feature to see if it helps increase your score. This service adds your regular bill payments (like utilities and streaming services) to your Experian credit report, which bulks up your payment history and could help bump up your score a bit. Oh, and it's totally free!

    10. "Don't marry or settle down with someone who is hugely irresponsible with money."

    "Or, at least keep your money and bills separate! Four years after getting a divorce, I am finally financially stable, have minimal debt, and have decent savings."


    11. "Don't treat credit cards like free money! I used my cards for everything and just didn't understand how the interest would start to pile up."

    Model holding a credit card
    Tirachard Kumtanom / Getty Images

    "Soon, my cards were maxed out, I was paying a huge amount of interest, and I was juggling payments to make ends meet. Some months I would make a payment toward my card debt but end up using my card to pay for insurance because I couldn't afford both. I was just stuck in a cycle I couldn't get out of. Having massive amounts of credit card debt really ruled my life and limited the choices I could make for myself. I have since dug my way out, but it took years and so much stress and worry and embarrassment to get to this place."


    FYI, for anyone who's trying to wipe out a credit card balance, we rounded up some tried-and-true tips for paying down credit card debt.

    12. "Don’t ever cosign for someone because you think you're being nice or because you trust them!"

    "Ninety-nine percent of the time, they will default on payments and your credit will suffer because your name is on their loan."


    13. "Learn about the overdraft options on your debit card! My bank told me that if I was short money, my account would overdraft and I would be charged a fee — NBD, I thought. Except the bank doesn’t tell you when you overdraft."

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    "I moved across the country thinking, Gee, I sure have more money than I thought I did. I came to find out that I now owed the bank several hundred dollars and cannot reopen an account at any bank until it’s all paid off."


    14. "Don't get store cards. The interest rate is always higher than that of traditional credit cards."


    15. Don't underestimate the importance of an emergency fund. Having savings on hand can help prevent you from going into debt.

    16. And, "don't write off trade schools as an inferior career/higher education path."

    "You can go for a fraction of the tuition of a four-year college and come out pretty much employed with a trade that likely makes you good money. Plus, there's job security. The world will always need electricians and mechanics!"


    "Not considering technical or trade school is a mistake. I think university is emphasized so much these days, but trade school jobs are equally important and fulfilling."


    Has debt personally affected you? Share your story in the comments below.

    And while you're here, you might as well check out more of our personal finance posts.

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