America's millennial generation -- those adults between ages 23 to 38 in 2019 -- is one of the country's most powerful financial demographics.
One recent study shows that the millennial generation will see their wealth grow five times over in the coming years, and stand to inherit $68 trillion in the next decade.
With a ton of money on the way, and legions of financial service professionals courting them for their business, how can America's younger set get on the right path from a personal financial point of view?
For starters, they can do so by adhering to a disciplined and historically traditional set of financial rules their moms and dads used, and mix that with a healthy spice of new-age, technology-edged financial tools that millennials can use to turn themselves into millionaires down the road.
If, that is, they play their cards right.
Here's a deeper look at what millennials can do now to set the stage for a comfortable financial future -- possibly a better one than their parents and grandparents experienced.
7 Financial Tips for Millennials
As the adage goes, the longest journey begins with a single step.
Make that first step a good one by getting a handle right now on where you've landed financially, so you can start building for the future. That means doing the following:
1. Check Your Credit Score
You'll need a good credit score to do the things needed to grow your wealth, like buy a home, get a good deal on credit cards and loans, and get a great job (yes, employers do check credit scores.)
Get a free credit report once a year from the major credit agencies like Experian (EXPGY) , Transunion (TRU) - Get Report , and Equifax (EFX) - Get Report via Annualcreditscore.com. You can also usually get your FICO credit score from your bank or credit card company.
2. Know Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
Knowing how much money is coming in and how much is going out is the single biggest building block for personal financial health.
Simply put, your debt is the amount of money you pay for debts and expenses.
Your income is the money you bring into the household via assets like your paycheck, and money you earn in your spare time (like driving for Uber (UBER) - Get Report or selling goods on Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Report or eBay (EBAY) - Get Report , for example.)
It also includes cash received from financial outliers, like tax refunds, birthday and holiday gifts, or income received from stock and bond market investments, usually in the form of market gains, dividends and interest earned on bonds and money market investments.
Once you know where you stand on the debt-versus-income issue, you can properly take the next step in your wealth creation campaign. Use a good mobile app like Debt Tracker and My Debts to more easily and efficiently manage your debt-to-income ratio on a regular basis.
3. Build a Household Budget
Every successful business has a budget and every millennial household needs a budget, too.
A budget is your ledger of financial checks and balances -- how much money is coming into the house and where it should be disbursed, to pay for things like bills, groceries, college, travel and entertainment, and other household issues like surprise medical bills and unanticipated costs of big vehicle repair, among other costs.
To build your budget, estimate your regular income and expenses, ideally monthly, as that's how most bills are paid. Take a special look at your household spending and look for ways you can rein that spending in.
For example, if you're spending $1,000 a month on rent, that's pretty much a fixed expense, and won't change until you move. The same goes for any other fixed costs, like paying your student loan bill or paying for things like smart phones and health care insurance.
Where can cut into monthly expenses is on items that economists call "discretionary expenses." That could mean dining out, traveling, a new set of wheels, or even the amount of money you spend on Amazon or another favored digitally-based retailer.
These are the expenses you can cull from your household budget and free up some money for more critical "big-ticket" issues like saving for retirement, buying a home and paying down debt. Again, a good mobile financial app can help -- try Mint or PocketGuard to better track your expenses.
4. Build an Emergency Fund
Yes, you're young and healthy, but a job loss, an illness or injury, a major household vehicle repair or even a small business venture that goes under can place you in financial peril.
That's where an emergency fund can help. Having the equivalent of three months of salary and income on hand (six months would be better and a year's worth is ideal) should help you survive a short-term financial hardship.
Start building an emergency fund by cutting out (at least) 10% of your monthly income and reroute it into a high-yield savings account, where the money is federally insured up to $250,000.
You may have to cut expenses or even take on a freelance gig to fund the emergency repair account quickly and amply, but you'll be glad when you did if financial disaster strikes and you have an emergency fund backing you up.
5. Invest for the Long Haul
Study after study shows that the sooner you begin saving for retirement the more money you'll accumulate for retirement.
That's due to the miracle of compound interest, which takes regular investment contributions and uses them to fuel retirement account growth (as long as you don't take money out of your retirement fund.)
Basically, compound interest is when you earn interest not only on your original investment, but also on the interest that money has already earned. Through compounding, your investment assets grow, slowly at first, then faster as the years accumulate.
Take, for example, a monthly investment of $300 that has a 9% annual rate of return. After five years that $300 monthly investment turns into $22,627 after five years and $58,054 after 10 years.
After 20 years, you'll have earned $200,366 and after 25 years you'll have garnered $336,337 -- even if you've kept the monthly investment to $300,000.
Plus, there's no reason you can't hike your monthly investment as you grow older and more financially successful in your career. Do that and watch your savings fund grow even more substantially.
6. Invest For The Long Haul - Part 2 (and Get Free Money for Your 401(k))
Do you have a
? Great! Then the odds are good that your company offers a "company match" on contributions made to your 401(k).
If so, you need to take full advantage and here's why.
Employee matching contributions are essentially free money for your retirement. Basically, the more cash you invest in a 401(k) plan, the more money your company could match, and the faster you'll accumulate assets for retirement.
Let's say your firm offers a 401(k) matching contribution of up to 3% of your annual 401(k) plan fund contribution. If you earn, say, $50,000, and contribute 3% of that income, you'll wind up contributing $1,500 to your 401(k) plan for the year.
Here's where the free money rolls in: If your employer matches that contribution dollar for dollar, you'll get an extra $1,500 for your 401(k) fund that year, thanks to your employer's 3% match. Some companies are even more generous and may contribute up to 6% of your annual 401(k) contributions.
When you're young, having your employer toss in an extra several thousand dollars into your 401(k) each year is like jet fuel for your retirement savings plan.
In other words, don't leave that employee match cash on the table.
7. Hire a Financial Adviser
Even though you're young and you may not have earned a ton of money yet, go ahead and hire a
who can help navigate you through your 20s and 30s toward financial security for you and your loved ones.
A good financial adviser can help you with everything listed above, and also walk you through potential financial hot spots like getting married and having a family, saving for college, buying the proper health and life insurance, buying a home, and reducing your tax burden every April 15, among other lifelong financial issues.
Go the traditional route and get a flesh-and-blood financial adviser (the Garrett Planning Network offers a helpful online map for qualified financial advisers in your area.) The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA.org) offers a similar online search tool.
Or, take the robotics path and get an AI financial adviser (and get lower fees in the process) through online financial services platforms like Schwab (SCHW) - Get Report Intelligent Portfolios or Wealthfront, which both offer digitally-based financial consultation services.
The Takeaway on Getting Financial Help as a Millennial
In the personal finance world, getting on the right road early can make a huge difference for any millennial on the move toward financial security.
By using the tips listed above, you'll be setting the stage for a well-managed financial life that promises to pay off for you and your loved ones now -- and 50 years from now.
And you just can't put a price on that.