Anxiety about student loans keeps many young adults awake at night even as they start looking for mortgages and planning a college education for their own children. If you are drowning in debt, you’ll feel you don’t have the money to start saving for retirement or other goals. You are not alone if you’re struggling with finances. Four out of 10 young adults in a 2014 Wells Fargo study of 1,639 millennials said debt was their top concern, and it’s no wonder. Some 56 percent said they are living paycheck to paycheck.
About half said 50 percent or more of their paycheck goes to paying off their debt. Credit card debt claimed 16 percent of their paychecks, then mortgage debt with 15 percent and student loan debt with 12 percent. Auto loans claimed 9 percent and medical debt took 5 percent.
The fear of financial instability shouldn’t keep you up at night. Here are money tips to help you get on track with your finances.
Develop a strategy for tackling your debts right away. The snowball method is a popular strategy that Harvard Business Review researchers say works because people who see debts disappearing are likely to stay motivated.
Snowballing, which was introduced by author Dave Ramsey, means you start by prioritizing your debts. List them from smallest to largest, but don’t go after the loan with the highest interest rate first. Begin by tackling the smallest amount and pay as much cash as possible each month until it is repaid. Pay the minimum balance on each larger debt until you have wiped out the smallest amount. Then move on to the second smallest amount.
The Wells Fargo Millennial Study found that 55 percent of those surveyed said they have already started saving for retirement. Women fell particularly short in savings, with men reporting they had accumulated almost twice as much as their female peers. Those who haven’t yet started saving said they thought they would begin at age 35.
Financial advisors recommend you start saving as soon as possible in order to benefit from compounding interest. The goal should be saving between 10 and 20 percent of your income during your working years. You’ll want retirement savings that will replace 80 percent of your income during retirement.
Learn to love investing.
Young adults grew up during the years of the subprime mortgage crisis, so it’s no surprise that many studies suggest they don’t trust the market and resist investing in it. Financial advisors say that resistance could hurt them in the long run. The experts recommend investing money aggressively enough to grow over time and meet retirement goals.
Talk about money before marriage.
Talk about money with potential marriage partners. Ask possible long-term mates about their credit history and how much debt they have. Also get an overview of their assets before exchanging vows. You don’t want to be surprised after the wedding to find out that your partner’s bad credit score can prevent you from buying a house or purchasing a new car.
Get a job, not a degree.
Think about why you want an advanced degree if you’re using school as a back-up plan if you can’t find a job upon graduation. Going back to school often means building up more debt and may not make financial sense if it doesn’t work to win you a job in your future career.