Unless you were lucky enough to get financial education classes in school (or had an adult in your life who could teach you), dealing with money as a young adult can be confusing and stressful.
So when a Reddit user asked the money-savvy folks in r/financialplanning for financial tips for Gen Z'ers, they got some really great advice. Here are some of the top-rated responses:
1. "Pay yourself first. Designate 10%–15% of your bring-home pay for saving/investing. Build your spending budget with what's left. Increase the percentage as you get pay increases."
2. "Get a budget together and track your expenses/income to understand your cash flow — a lot of folks love YNAB [You Need A Budget], but it can be done a lot of other ways. That will set you up really well to get a handle on your financial situation and avoid overspending."
"Once you have an idea of where your money’s going, check out the Prime Directive on r/personalfinance. It will give you an idea of where to allocate any extra money in your budget based on your financial goals.
With those two in place, you should be able to get 90-plus% of the way toward some solid personal finance habits/lifestyle. From there, it’s usually just tweaking and planning around your life situation/goals.
Also, an oversimplified but helpful reminder that retirement is a number, not an age. If you start planning now, you’ll have way more time and flexibility to build something for retirement than if you start even 10 years later."
3. "Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it buys opportunities. I know so many people that had to turn down opportunities to do things or pursue things they wanted to do because of financial constraints."
"Millions of people are stuck in jobs they hate because they can’t quit or take a pay cut because they filled their lifestyle to the top of their income. I know the FIRE [Financial Independence, Retire Early] stuff is discussed all the time, but it doesn’t always mean retiring. It could mean quitting your corporate job at 35 to open the bakery you’ve always wanted. Or leaving a high-paying job to enter a lower-paying field. If your mortgage and car payment and lifestyle use up all your income at the higher number, you’d never be able to take that leap."
4. "Pay your dang student loans, and learn how repayment works. I was in default for years because I had too much anxiety."
5. "Buy and read the book I Will Teach You to Be Rich. It sounds scummy, but it maps out and explains how to budget, save, and invest. It's written by and for millennials and younger. Most importantly, it doesn't preach or talk down to the reader."
Psst, if you're more into podcasts, I Will Teach You to Be Rich is also a podcast now, and let me tell you, I am HOOKED. In each episode, author Ramit Sethi talks to a real couple about money in their relationships, and the conversations are incredibly open, honest, and insightful. It's half finance, half psychology, and 100% a great listen.
6. "Open a credit card to start building credit, and pay it in full every month to avoid interest."
7. "Don't use credit (borrow money) that you can't pay off when billed. Have an emergency fund. Save for the future, (invest) — getting old happens faster than you think. Don't try to impress your friends or buy their approval; you all end up losers. Don't co-sign anything. Live within your means by doing a budget. Be happy with your situation, and don't compete with a perceived goal; set realistic goals."
8. "When looking for a life partner or spouse, find someone who shares similar financials goals and is frugal. The power of two incomes and saving together is really powerful."
10. "Understand compound interest and its power. (Quick scan of other responses and I don’t think I saw this, which shocked me). It truly is the eighth wonder of the world, as Einstein put it. At 38, I wish I had understood THIS at 18. I would have made vastly different financial decisions."
12. "Save dollars, spend pennies. It means save your windfalls (tax returns, stimulus money, any other big payments). And don't stress about couponing or shopping at five different grocery stores every week to save a few cents on your box of shells and cheese."
13. "If you’re fortunate enough to have a 401(k) and your employer matches it, contribute at least enough to get the match."
14. And finally, "Don't lose hope. I know that's not practical in the sense of dollars and cents. It is, however, essential to taking those first few steps to get the ball rolling toward a brighter financial future. Younger generations are in dire financial straights, and I fear they will adopt a sort of financial fatalism that will delay or even kill any sort of financial planning."
"If you can, try to start saving literally $2 a week. It isn't much, but building the habit is the same as exercising when you're just getting started. Make saving a routine, and build up to bigger savings later."
What's the best money advice you've ever heard? Share it with us in the comments!
And for more money tips and tricks, check out the rest of our personal finance posts.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.