5 things every 20-something should know about managing their money

Money and millennials are known to have quite the contentious relationship. Being a part of the “I just want to do what makes me happy” generation comes with its advantages and disadvantages, which sometimes includes the non-existence of a savings account. According to a 2014 Moody’s Analytics study, the savings rate of this age group is far less than those of the generation before.

While there’s a number of factors that influenced this reality, there are still a number of things this goal chasing generation can do to make sure their financial future looks bright. Recently we spoke with Benjamin Carter, co-creator of “Manage Your Damn Money,” an educational money resource tool for millennials, and author of Fictitious Financial Fairytale: A Completely Untrue Story About Money, Friends and Moscow Mules. He talked us off the “money is too complicated to understand” ledge and gave us solid tips on what we all can do to be more financially savvy.

1 It’s not as hard or intimidating as you may think.

Take the first steps in learning more about an area that interests you and let that be your gateway. Carter notes, “If you watch CNBC and different quote unquote educational programs, it can be hard to understand and equally boring. But if people can push past those initial barriers they’ll find it’s a lot easier than they thought to engage in the different facets of finance.”

2 Have conversations.

Essentially, if you have concerns in a certain area, ASK!  “At Manage Your Damn Money, our belief is that the only way to arrive at greater confidence is by sharing with family and friends your financial challenges and goals,” says Carter. He adds that talking through our issues provides a greater likelihood of success and confidence. “People don’t feel comfortable asking questions and opening the floor to have discussions. They don’t think to ask their friends, ‘do you know anything about negotiating’ to figure out what will work and what won’t work. Discussions open people up to good information, so utilize your network’s knowledge.”

3 Read, read, read.

Reading books, articles and blogs gives insight into how others manage their finances and it can help create a specific path to greater financial security. While Carter doesn’t think that any one book or financial expert holds the power to living a more financially literate life, Carter does recommend Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Michelle Singletary’s columns for the Washington Post. “Building a financial library helps millennials benefit from someone else’s experiences with navigating finances. In reading, you also pick up little nuggets that you wouldn’t have thought of. The hope is that it will inspire you to stop fooling around with your finances, buckle down and save more, and learn about what it means to invest.” In addition to books, Carter thinks it’s a good idea to follow media outlets like Money and Fortune.

“Peak in every now and then to see what’s going on. As you learn more, your appetite grows and you become more comfortable with the subject.” Another of Carter’s suggestions:  Follow Instagrammers and bloggers like “Money Maven” Patrice C. Washington (@seekwisdompcw) or Tiffany “The Budgenista” Aliche (@thebudgetnista) to stay inspired on a regular basis. Whether you’re interested in being better at saving money or being more aggressive with your student loans, look that up and read more about it. Pursuing your interests makes you more receptive to the knowledge that’s being offered.

4Don’t take yourself too seriously.

 Just commit to the journey. A lot of money experts have the approach of ‘don’t do this and don’t do that.’ Don’t by the latte or the heels you really like,” Carter says. And while that’s helpful for some people, he believes there are better ways to approach saving money. “Yes, you have to do the basic savings, but we’re all human and have materialistic desires. If you are cognizant, and you have a consistent approach, even if you buy the expensive jacket, you’ll have an awareness that you spent this money so you have to forgo certain things.” Carter asserts that over the long term it moves people into an improved space where they feel empowered to make better decisions for the betterment of their financial future. It also prevents people from agonizing over every, single purchase. “Just keep giving your best effort and over time you’ll find yourself in a habit of making better choices financially.”

5Listen to podcasts like Manage Your Damn Money.

“Shameless plug, but we demonstrate conversations about money and we do it in a way that’s not intimidating. It’s funny and it’s inviting.” Carter, who created the podcast with Wildersee Harris and Malcolm Ethridge, a certified financial advisor in the DC area, wants millennials to think of the brand as their financially savvy best friend.  “We’re not the Suzy Orman’s of the world who spank you on the hand when you go astray. Our approach is simply to facilitate and direct the conversation. We know that if people aren’t inspired by what they are consuming, they won’t change anything. We believe that’s a greater motivation than the disciplinary approach.”

For the podcast, Carter interviews artists and entrepreneurs and talks about most things under the financial umbrella, including what it’s like to follow a passion that doesn’t always make you money. “Our goal is to bring people into the conversation first so they feel inspired to pay attention and take away whatever information they need to help them.”

This article originally appeared in Essence.

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