In an impromptu Facebook and Twitter survey, I asked 20-somethings to fill in the blank: "When I think about my finances, I feel... " The top three answers were 1) Guilty, 2) Anxious and 3) Scared.
To further highlight the negativity among 20-somethings when it comes to finances, survey write-in responses included "Depressed," "Like I'm going to make a mess in my pants," and the ever-eloquent "Being growed up sucks."
This social media litmus test dovetails well with PNC Bank's study of 20-somethings' financial mindset. The study revealed that only 23% of 20-somethings consider themselves financially independent and nearly half said they aren't where they want to be or thought they would be financially.
Guilty, anxious and scared. Sounds about right.
If these emotions bubble up when you think about your finances, it's time to stop complaining about how broke you are, how confusing finances are, or putting off financial responsibilities for a rainy day. For those of you who have taken a back seat in your financial management, cutting back on happy hour isn't a sufficient budgeting strategy and your credit card debt from college isn't going away anytime soon.
Now is the time to finally stop making excuses and start being "growed up" with your finances with these five steps.
- Your budget: Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Friends say it everyday: "I'm so broke." The next weekend, I join the same friends in spending $100 on dinner and drinks. Instead of ignoring the limitations of your financial situation, create a budget so simple you'll actually do it. It's all about figuring out where your money is going and where you want it to go. It's poor advice to tell you to ditch your beloved $4 lattes, brown-bag lunch everyday, and skip that snowboarding trip with friends. You should be able to choose what valuable things you spend your money on. But the financial freedom to choose where your money goes starts with figuring out how you're spending your money now, and adjusting to put your money where it matters most. One quick tip to get the ball rolling on budgeting: have "no spend days" every month, when you pledge not to spend a cent all day (a necessary action after big weekends out).
Awesome tool: With several popular money management services available, including Mint, Adaptu, and HelloWallet, there's an important step most people miss. It's not enough to just set up a budget; if it's not part of your day-to-day habits, you'll never keep up with it. A great way to do that is by using a smartphone app from one of the aforementioned services, and instead of playing Angry Birds on your downtime, make it a point to check on your spending once a day anywhere you go.
Awesome tool: Track your progress by checking your credit score for free at CreditKarma.com, and update your score every few weeks to monitor your ups and downs. CreditKarma.com also offers free credit monitoring that automatically notifies you by email if any significant change to your credit report is detected.
Awesome tool: Stop doing the guesswork on how to pay off your debts. Check out free online tools like ReadyForZero and SavvyMoney that create a personalized, feasible plan for you to ditch your debts as quickly as possible.
Awesome tool: Opt for an online savings account that offers higher interest rates than traditional banks. Popular picks include Ally Bank, American Express Bank and Discover Bank, all of which offer interest rates about 5x higher than the national average. Be sure to read details on what you need to open an account, and start moving your money.
"Getting started is more important than being the smartest person in the room," wrote Ramit Sethi, creator of the popular personal finance blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich. These steps are just a mouse-click away, so get serious about your finances and get started.
Justine Rivero is the Credit Advisor for CreditKarma.com, a free credit management website that helps over 4 million consumers access their truly free credit score and free credit monitoring.