Life Stages: YOUNG ADULTS | 5 Must Dos To Take Control of Your Finances

Figuring out one's finances as a young adult can be a bit daunting and overwhelming to say the least. At this point in your life, you'll probably get your first paycheck, purchase your first car, take out student loans, consider getting a credit card, learn the reality of bills, and maybe even save for a ring or wedding! That's a lot to take in, especially when you're just starting to get acquainted with money management, so we've compiled the top 5 things you can do as a young adult to pave a smooth financial road and minimize stress.


1

Become an i[x]er. i[x]ga is a financial literacy program created specifically for young adults, ages 14-25, and is jam-packed with tools to help you get your financial footing. We know what you're thinking- "a club to talk about moneyawesome." But, we promise once you check out the site, doyouix.com, you'll see that it's anything but boring. It's a forum for you to talk with your peers about issues that matter to you right now, as well as a heads up on things that might not seem like a big deal now, but that can majorly affect your life down the road (think: credit cards, student loans, your spending/saving ratio). Oh, and there's also tons of other cool stuff, like a free quarterly magazine, giveaways to concerts and sporting events, an annual scholarship, and volunteer opportunities. You can also learn more about i[x] by liking them on Facebook or following them on Twitter.

2

Be smart about college financing. Most college students will have to take out some type of financial aid to complete their degree, and it is hard to emphasize enough the lasting impact that student loan debt can have. Doing your research and making wise choices early on can end up saving you years (literally) of financial heartache. So where to begin? For starters, make sure to fully exhaust scholarship and grant opportunities. This is free money and obviously, the less to pay back, the better! Then, apply for government student loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and obtain as much subsidized aid as possible, followed by unsubsidized loans. If you find that you still need financing, look for a private lender (such as Georgia's Own Credit Union) that will offer a low rate. A great resource to help you sort through all of this is CU Student Choice.

3

Use credit wisely! Credit cards are a simple way to establish credit, which you will need when making big purchases, such as a car and eventually a home. They are also good to have in case of emergencies, and reward programs make them extremely attractive to use for routine purchases. However, it is vital to recognize that unpaid credit card balances are constantly accruing interest in addition to the original amount charged, and that you are responsible for every penny. Many young adults are lured by the ease of 'the swipe'- an outfit here, a meal there, a trip (just this once!)- and before you know it, the balance becomes unmanageable. Don't fall into this trap! As a general rule, don't use your credit card for more than what you can immediately repay, and make sure your card provides maximum value. Click here to check out Georgia's Own Student Visa, which has an extremely low rate and earns ScoreCard Bonus Points on every purchase, and here to read a great blog post on responsible credit card use!

4

Learn the basics of a budget. Simply knowing what is coming and going out of your account can be immensely helpful in creating financial success, and the best way to get started is tobuild a budget. We know that doesn't sound fun. But, with a little work up front, you'll see that you're able to better predict your discretionary money (the kind you get to spend on fun stuff like going out to eat, shopping, vacations, etc.), avoid overdraft fees, and even identify areas of wasteful spending or where you could easily cut back and save. In addition to the resources on i[x], check out BALANCE™ Financial Fitness for lots of useful tips on how to get started or even improve the budget you already have.

5

Practice saving and giving. Whether your source of income is an allowance or a real, live paycheck, it's important to establish saving and giving habits as soon as possible. As you get older and the temptations to spend money seem to multiply by the day, it is harder to stick to a savings plan, but ironically, more critical than ever. Unexpected emergencies and events come up all the time, and if you've established a good savings base, you won't be forced to use credit, which will always cost you more with interest. The same is true of giving. The sooner you can incorporate regular giving into your budget, the more likely you'll be to continue the habit throughout your life, and we think you'll find more contentment in that line item than in any other. Set up an i[save] savings account today by clicking here!
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