Hi, it's me, Megan. I'm the personal finance editor here at BuzzFeed, and welcome back to Money With Megan, where we talk through the sticky work and money situations that keep us up at night.
This week, I have a letter from a college student who's freaking out because they don't know how to manage their money — and honestly, I've been there. Here's what they had to say:
"I'm in my first year in college, and I feel like my financial journey is really beginning. I'm lucky not to have loans and to have a little nest egg saved away, but I'm TERRIFIED about learning how to manage my money. I have no idea how to prepare myself for the 'real world,' and talking about future finances with anyone feels daunting and scary — especially since I don't know how much I'm going to be making, I don't have an income, and it feels like the next big challenge to overcome in my life."
They continued, "How do I get started with planning my financial future — or, more specifically, how do I stop FREAKING OUT about my financial future?"
I totally understand what you're going through! Taking your first financial steps on your own is a big deal, and money can be super overwhelming at any age. But the good news is, you don't have to figure out everything all at once.
In fact, if you try to master all the money things right away, you might freak yourself out even more. So go slow and add studying up on all things financial to your routine. A little bit of learning every week or month will add up to a whole lot of knowledge by the time graduation rolls around.
I also have to say that graduating without student loans and already having a nest egg stashed away puts you in a far more financially secure position than many of your peers. It's totally okay and understandable that you're feeling anxious about the transition to adulthood, but I hope you can also take a moment to be grateful for the privileges that you're starting your journey with.
So how can you start learning more about money? You might start by just looking into some of the basics. Wondering how to set up a budget? See what happened when a BuzzFeeder got help from a finance pro to make her first budget. Or perhaps you're curious about all things credit. I've written guides with what you need to know about building your credit score from scratch and using credit cards that can help you get your head around the weird world of credit.
Or maybe you're not sure what to even research. That's totally okay too. I've found that listening to podcasts, reading books, and following finance educators on social media can be a great way to fill in the gaps and learn about things I otherwise never would have thought to ask about.
If you're into podcasts, I have a few finance-related faves to recommend. First up, Tori Dunlap's Financial Feminist podcast covers all kinds of topics, from negotiating salaries to credit scores, and she has an excellent 16-minute episode called "Where Do I Start?" that you could use as an outline while you plan your first money moves.
Popcorn Finance, hosted by Chris Browning, is another fave for keeping up with what the heck is going on in the economy and answering common money questions. Episodes are short and informative and snackable like, well, popcorn. I also love Ramit Sethi's podcast I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Every week, Sethi talks to a couple about their money issues. It's half relationship counseling and half money psychology, and it really shows how much our emotions affect the way we spend and save.
Looking to crack open a good book? The Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s Book is a great resource for anyone who's just starting out. From creating your first budget to how to start investing, this book breaks down the financial building blocks in a really clear and accessible way. I'm also a fan of Erin Lowry's Broke Millennial. Lowry's writing is super approachable, relatable, and even funny, so learning about money from her never feels like a chore.
If you're looking to add some FinTok (that's financial TikTok, in case you didn't know) to your FYP, that can also be a great way to expand your financial horizons. However, I would caution you to also do your own research to back up anything you learn on TikTok. Financial issues can be complex, and TikTok videos are typically way too short to get into aaaall the nuances. Searching on personal finance sites like NerdWallet and the Balance can be a great way to dig deeper when you see something on TikTok that interests you.
With that said, one of my favorite FinTokers, Vivian Tu (@yourrichbff), has a background in finance, so she really knows her stuff. Tu is a former Wall Street trader who's built up a big following with her quick and informative TikToks about everything from getting the most out of your employee benefits to ways to save money on flights. You might also like popular money creators like @pricelesstay, @humphreytalks, and @breakyourbudget. There's a lot to explore on TikTok, but again, make sure you also do your own research too.
I hope that giving yourself time to learn and taking steps to increase your knowledge will help alleviate the anxiety you're feeling. It might also help to remind yourself that most people make money mistakes from time to time, no matter how much financial education they get. It's part of being human, and you don't have to be perfect. You'll get to know your money style in time, and even though it feels overwhelming now, you will figure it out.
However, if this anxiety persists, intensifies, or starts messing with your quality of life, I hope you'll also consider talking with a mental health professional. If that's something you're interested in exploring, you could even look for a financial therapist who specializes in helping people work through their feelings about money.
From where I'm sitting, it looks as if you're on your way to a solid financial outlook. The fact that you're even asking this question shows that you care about getting your money right and, again, you're starting from a really secure place. Good luck, and keep me posted on your journey!
And that's all the advice I have for today! If you have a sticky work or money situation that you'd like some advice on, write to me via this anonymous form. And you can also follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
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