While you were trying to catch that rare Pokémon, did you actually miss the real life target?
The last few days have been weird. I've seen 20-somethings in San Francisco's Financial District circling the same block, holding their phones in awkward directions. I've witnessed hordes of people stopped at random landmarks, not taking photos, but staring at their phones. I blame Pokémon Go.
I've adapted. I have mastered the useless art of swerving around these delightful people who decide it's in their best interest to pick up Zubat in the middle of an active intersection. And I have gone from confusion to frustration to happiness. This is a game, after all, and they're all having fun!
But I think these millennials, trying to strengthen their team's position at one of the game's "gyms", should take a few minutes to strengthen their actual financial position. Just a few minutes. And then they can go back to the game.
So, if you're one of the millions of millennials swept up in the Poké craze, here's a starter set of personal finance tips, in the Pokémon Go language I know you will understand.
1. Level up in Pokémon. Level up in income.
The single most important thing you can do for your financial health is to make more money. With more income, you can save more. So, level up your negotiation skills, or find a new job if you're not being paid your market value. Sites like Glassdoor can give you insight into how much you should be paid at your level. Also, seek out opportunities with longer-term financial benefits like 401k matching and bonus potential.
2. Unlike in Pokémon Go, join multiple teams.
In Pokémon Go, you pick your team, and you pick it once. Maybe you're a better fit for Team Mystic (calm and smart), Team Valor (strong and hardworking), or Team Instinct (trusting your gut). But in the real world, you can combine more than one skill and join more than one team to bring in extra income. Are you a good writer? You can write for popular company blogs as a freelancer. Do you have a car and a few extra hours each weekend? Consider signing up for Uber or Lyft as a driver. Did you crush your SATs and get into a really good college? Think about being an admissions tutor.
3. Have too many Pokémon? Have too many subscriptions? Get rid of them!
Rumors are that Niantic, the maker of Pokémon Go, will add a new feature that lets users trade their Pokémon with friends. If you don't need them or use them, let them go. The same can be said for any monthly subscriptions that you don't need. Take a hard look at that Birchbox membership, Netflix account, or gym membership if it goes untouched. This is often an easy way to save money every month. Just make sure you save it and don't spend it.
4. The best things in the game, as in life, are free!
It's hard to succeed at Pokémon Go sitting on your couch. You have to go out into the world, walk or run from place to place, and experience your city. And you can earn points just for playing successfully. It's a good reminder that there are amazing, rewarding things in this world that don't cost money. Does your city or town do free movies in the park during the summer? When did you and your significant other last cook dinner together? Are you near an ocean, lake, or pond that you can swim in this summer or skate on this winter? You might even catch a rare Pokémon there.
5. That egg doesn't hatch by itself!
In Pokémon Go, you might have to walk 5 kilometers to hatch your 5k egg. In the real world, that nest egg requires work, as well. Take the extra mile to make sure you're actually contributing to your retirement savings. If your company offers a 401k, make sure you are siphoning off a chunk every paycheck that is directly deposited into your retirement account. If you don't work at a company with a 401k, you can still save into an IRA.
Ok, you can go back to playing Pokémon Go now. Just please don't stop in the middle of an intersection when I'm walking behind you.