Millennials have an entrepreneurial spirit and tend to have a lot on their plates. Being able to juggle several balls in the air and multi-task is par for the course for this generation. So why do Millennials often struggle with how to prioritize between saving for the future and paying down debt?
Many Millennials still have college loans to pay off or have acquired credit card debt while taking home minimal starting salaries. And advice about how to get started is confusing: some financial professionals recommend having at least one month of income saved prior to starting to pay down your debt, while others recommend up to 8 months of savings. That’s a daunting prospect when you’re young and living from paycheck to paycheck!
Because of the power of compounding interest, the 20s and 30s are your prime savings years. Not taking advantage of the opportunity to save now may end up costing you later. So how can you start to build your savings and pay down debt, while still maintaining a reasonable quality of life?
The good news is that – because they’re used to a struggling economy – Millennials have become very resourceful when it comes to finances. Here are several factors to consider when you’re deciding how much you can – or even if you can – allocate for both.
Three Questions to consider about saving vs. debt:
What is my monthly incoming & outgoing cash flow? Hopefully it’s not negative! If it is, though, try to find daily and household expenses that can be trimmed or eliminated (that venti caramel latte? An expensive cable package?) If it’s positive, determine if there’s enough left over to pay credit card minimums while allocating a portion, however small, toward a saving plan.
What is the interest rate on my debt? Debt with an interest rate of higher than 5% is a priority to pay down, otherwise you’re spending your hard-earned cash on borrowing costs. Can you roll over your debt to a lower-interest or zero-interest credit card? If not, create an action plan to pay off high-interest debt first. If you have debt with interest rates that are lower than 5%, consider contributing to a 401K or a Roth IRA. The same way interest compounds with your debts, it also grows with your savings, so the sooner you take action, the more you will gain over time.
What is my stress level regarding debt? If the stress of having debt is overwhelming, then make paying the debt before contributing to your savings a priority. If your debt seems manageable, start getting in the habit of making monthly contributions to a savings plan.
Remember, no two people, and no two financial plans, are alike. Whether you can contribute to a savings plan and pay down debt simultaneously depends on you and your unique situation. Talking to a financial advisor can help put you on a path that is right for you. The important thing is to create a goal and a plan!
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