Advertising
Advertising

4 Crucial Financial Lessons College Isn’t Teaching Millennials

4 Crucial Financial Lessons College Isn’t Teaching Millennials

Out of all the reasons that people go to college it seems that two tend to top the list: the love and pursuit of knowledge and a means of upward financial mobility. For institutions so concerned with knowledge and money, you’d think that most graduating students would know all there is to know about their own personal finances, venturing into the world well-equipped to become productive members of society, and get a solid grasp on this “adulting” business. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t seem to reflect as much.

As it sits only 17 states currently require students to take a course in personal finance sometime in K-12 and according to one study, 43 percent of students couldn’t name one difference between a credit and a debit card. With how important tax returns, credit scores, and all other sorts of financial data are to the average adult’s fiscal life, it seems absurd that so many come out of college knowing so little about them. Whether you’re intent on amassing a small fortune or content with living simply and frugally, there are certain financial lessons you shouldn’t leave college without knowing.

Advertising

1. No Matter What, You Have to Pay Your Taxes

tax-consultant-1249530_960_720
    For some people, the fact that you have to pay taxes is a no-brainer–personally, I’ve had to fill out tax returns since I was about 16 years old. However, many of the people I went to college with–particularly athletes and high-performing academics who’d never had the time to hold a job throughout either high school or university–hadn’t the slightest clue about 1040s or 1099s or any of the other tax forms that income-generating Americans should.

    The good news is this: taxes usually aren’t as complicated as people make them out to be. They can be, but at the end of the year, the average citizen will be filling out a 1040EZ which has line-by-line instructions (in fact most tax forms come with a set of instructions). Difficult or not, taxes are time consuming. The Motley Fool estimates that it takes 5 hours for the average 1040EZ filer, so make sure you set that time aside and get it done. Owing the government money is never a good thing. Another reason that tax awareness is as important today as it ever was is that more graduates are going into business for themselves, either as business owners or as part of the gig economy. Without knowledge of the tax code, how do you avoid running afoul of it and owing the government money? Unfortunately, not knowing the rules doesn’t make you exempt from them, so brush up on your tax knowledge. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.

    2. Your Credit Score is Probably More Important than You Realize

    3446025121_072700607f_b
      From car loans to home loans, finances are a huge part of everybody’s lives

      Credit scores were invented shortly after the Civil War to indicate how trustworthy a person is in terms of paying back debt, and everybody–unless they’ve never opened a bank account, applied for a loan, or owned a credit card–has one. Your credit score is going to range anywhere from 300 to 850, and the lower the number is, the less likely that somebody will trust you with their money. The higher your credit score, the better chance you’ll get a good deal on your mortgage, car loan, and basically any other major life purchase you might be thinking about. On the other hand, if your credit score is too low, you may be flat-out denied a loan.

      Advertising

      A better credit score means you have more buying power, but more importantly that you’ll have to pay less interest on those big life-purchases (more on that in a moment). The weird thing here is that you have to use credit to build credit–a slippery slope if I ever saw one myself–and it’s easy to get carried away with all of that unchecked power. It’s good to keep in mind that you’ll build credit quicker by managing your debt more strictly; keeping your credit balance below 30 percent of your credit limit is recommended for building credit. It’s all about balance!

      3. Debt Compounds Quickly–So Pay It Off Just as Quickly

      7658205070_cb49629afd_b
        You wouldn’t just hand over money would? Only paying the your minimum amount on your installments can cost you big in the long run.

        This is one of those things that I wish I would have realized sooner. Due to rising costs of tuition ($19,548 per year on average for in-state tuition including room and board), many students are taking on massive amounts of debt with the hope that they’ll land a good enough job to pay it all off later. Unfortunately, many of these students take on that debt without fully realizing how debt and interest actually work. Whether it’s credit cards, student loans, or your car payments, it’s almost always worth it to pay off your principle sooner rather than later. Here’s a quick example to illustrate what I mean:

        Advertising

        Let’s say your loan balance is $40,000 at last year’s current average interest rate of 4.29%. You’d have to pay at least $410.52 a month consistently to pay your loan off in 10 years, and you’d still be paying $9,261 extra in interest–meaning your $40,000 worth of debt is closer to $50,000 when it’s all said and done. If you commit to paying off an extra $100 a month, you’ll save approximately $2,200 overall and pay off the loan in 7.8 years. Bump that up to an extra $200 a month and you’re looking at being debt-free in 6.3 years and saving approximately $3,600 on interest charges. It’s worth noting that certain loans, specifically mortgages, may have penalties associated with paying them off early–however, the overarching lesson is this: if you can pay it off early, do it! You’ll thank yourself later on. Seriously.

        4. It’s Never Too Early to Save for Later

        credit-squeeze-522549_960_720
          Sometimes money is too easy to spend–keep that wallet shut and save!

          Of course, the reason that we take so long to pay off our student loans and other debts is that we’re a culture focused on living in the now. We’re not great at recognizing our future needs over our current needs, and add to that economic strains and pressures and you see why young folks like Millennials put off saving for retirement, let alone drawing up a will or living trust. Beyond taxes and debt, this is probably going to be the least of most students’ concerns–but if there’s anything I’ve learned personally from paying off debt, it’s that it’s easy to underestimate how appreciative your future self will be for the actions of your past self. Any amount put away is better than nothing and will make your later years that much more comfortable.

          Advertising

          Of course, there are more obscure things that college students might want to know about finances, and this list is by no means definitive–but the lack of rhetoric in high school and university concerning the financial aspects of everyday life is somewhat concerning. At least here you’ve learned the basics, and can take fiscal agency over your own life.

          Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

          More by this author

          Andrew Heikkila

          Owner-Operator of Earthlings Entertainmnet

          5 Crazy Future Tech Trends to Start Preparing for Now Understanding Luck: What It Is and How to Control It 12 Strange Remedies for Whatever Ails You 7 Ways the Internet of Things Will Change Driving Forever 7 Ways We’re Slowly Becoming Our Phones

          Trending in Money

          1 How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them 2 25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education 3 10 Recession-Proof Debt Consolidation Tips 4 The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever) 5 25 Easy Tips on How to Save Money Fast

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on September 2, 2020

          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

          Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

          In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

          4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

          Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

          1. Be Clear About the Objectives

          Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

          It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

          Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

          2. Keep Goals Realistic

          It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

          It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

          3. Account for Inflation

          Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

          Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

          For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

          Advertising

          4. Short Term Vs Long Term

          Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

          As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

          By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

          How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

          Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

          • Ensuring healthy savings
          • Making smart investments

          You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

          Ensuring Healthy Savings

          Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

          This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

          1. Track Expenses

          The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

          Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

          If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

          2. Pay Yourself First

          Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

          Advertising

          Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

          The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

          Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

          3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

          Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

          Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

          At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

          Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

          You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

          4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

          In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

          Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

          • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
          • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
          • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

          The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

          Advertising

          5. Talk About It

          Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

          Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

          6. Maintain a Journal

          For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

          If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

          When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

          Making Smart Investments

          Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

          1. Consult a Financial Advisor

          Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

          Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

          2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

          Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

          Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

          As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

          Advertising

          3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

          Einstein once remarked about compounding:

          “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

          Use compound interest when setting financial goals

            Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

            Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

            4. Measure, Measure, Measure

            All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

            If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

            Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

            The Bottom Line

            Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

            and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

            More Tips on Financial Goals

            Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

            Reference

            Read Next