NEW YORK (MainStreet) — While Christina Piskula works at a tips-based wage job in Chicago at a casino near the lake, she really wants to be a teacher.

“I have a college degree in English literature from Indiana University, but it's hard to find work even with an education and you start to feel the degree is worthless,” Piskula told MainStreet.

Piskula is among the 74.1% of Millennials who say it is hard to keep up with bills and save for retirement at the same time, according to BlackRock's Global Investor Pulse Survey. But Millennials, as a result, are more likely to take an active approach to stay atop their finances: while older generations would review their investments when quarterly statements arrived in the mail, Millennials spend the most time reviewing or adjusting their investments, which is some seven hours per month compared with Baby Boomers who average who hours a month.

Piskula fits squarely into active approach, as the 24-year-old tries to stay afloat financially while living with four roommates in Camden, Ind..

“I try to save $50 or less a month in a savings account, but then I dip into it so I don’t end up saving anything at all,” she said.

The avid fitness buff takes comfort in the fact that she has a 401(k) plan through her employer that is matched, but overall Piskula feels overwhelmed by her fiscal life.

“It’s difficult for young people to establish themselves, because everything costs so much,” she said. “Education costs money. Even to be a hair stylist and work in a salon requires going to school. It’s very deflating.”

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The scramble to get ahead and active surveillance of money is symptomatic of the economic climate. 

“Millennials graduated into a recession, meaning campus recruiting didn't amount to much,” said Adam Johnson, co-founder of MLH Capital, a value-focused hedge fund company. “Those who found work had to get creative and investing is the same. If you're creative, you find opportunity.”

Because of the scarcity of money, Millennials are not just meticulous about their finances; the BlackRock survey further found 58.5% are not prepared to take any risks with their money.

“Millennials grew up watching over-indebted parents and family friends lose jobs, savings, homes and retirement money,” said Neil Grossman, chief investment officer with TKNG Capital. “They may have learned a lesson.”

Their digital native upbringings also makes them more inclined to manage their finances actively online or through apps.

“Millennials are accustomed to interacting in every aspect of their life with technology,” said Tom White, CEO and co-founder of iQuantifi, a virtual financial platform. “This includes their finances and investments. With the abundance of technology tools available to them, it is not surprising that checking their portfolio is a part of their daily routine.”

The number of investment choices, strategies and ways to invest now available in the marketplace can overwhelm Millennials during their decision making process on how to allocate earnings.

That may be why 66% hold a larger percentage of their portfolios in cash, 65% plan on allocating more money to cash and 31% the highest ideal portfolio percentage to cash.

“The youth are faced with many choices and decisions from choosing the right investments to defining which financial issues to tackle first,” White told MainStreet. “Thus, cash becomes a default position until they figure out how to tackle their finances.”

Although many Millennials may not have a full on grasp of life and how to get ahead, they appear to understand that old age is looming.
Some 60% report having begun saving for retirement.

“Even though they may currently be investing at a market high, Millennials have plenty of time to weather any decline in the stock market over the next ten plus years and even have the opportunity to buy more when the market is down before they will need that money,” said White.

—Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley