Six ways to avoid being young and in debt.

How to save if you're already under water.

The 75.4 million1 Americans who make up the millennials—people born in the ’80s and ’90s—have faced the daunting task of entering the workforce during, or shortly following, the largest downturn since the Great Depression. Those lucky enough to find or keep jobs in a contracted market may have faced other hurdles—like paying down historically high levels of debt.

According to the New York Federal Reserve, the total number of student loan debtors was 44.2 million, as of the fourth quarter of 2016, and total student loan debt was $1.31 trillion.2

But, while millennials have bills to pay, most acknowledge that they also need to save, and many are anxious to get started. After all, some saw their parents struggle financially and lose ground with savings goals during the recession.

Here are some tips for keeping your head above water, and building a savings plan:

  • Know what you owe
    Make a list of all your loans and their interest rates. Plan to pay off those with the highest interest rates, or those with variable rates that may increase, first. If you’re unemployed, you may be eligible to defer your loans for a period of time. And It’s better to ask the loan company about your options than to make assumptions or to default. Want more tips?
  • Build your credit by paying on time
    Pay on time. This is a critically important factor in maintaining a good credit score. It is especially important if you’re planning to purchase a home, finance a car, or apply for a small-business loan in the future.
  • Create an emergency fund
    After organizing your loan repayments, try to put aside a small amount every month for emergencies. It’s important to have cash at hand just in case.
  • Enroll in your 401(k) plan
    If your company offers a 401(k) savings plan, enroll. You don’t have to contribute the maximum, but if you don’t contribute at least enough to get the company’s match (if it offers one) you’re leaving money on the table.
  • Make the most of your age
    Save early, save often. Take advantage of the long-time horizon for your money to grow. You have decades ahead of you. Starting today means that you have time to weather ups and downs in the market, and you can take advantage of compounded interest. And, if you’re considering life insurance, it is considerably less expensive for younger buyers.
  • Protect your loved ones
    If you pass away, your loved ones may be responsible for paying off your debt. You can protect them by purchasing life insurance. In addition, depending on the type of policy you purchase, you may be able to take a loan against your policy’s cash value to help with future expenses, such as buying a house. Speak to an expert about how life insurance can provide options.

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Further Reading
  • 1 Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers as America’s Largest Generation,” Pew Research Center, April 25, 2016.
  • 2 Zack Friedman, “Student Loan Debt in 2017: A $1.3 Trillion Crisis,” Forbes, February 21, 2017.