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Millennial Parents & Mastering Finances: We Can Do Better!

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I'm a part of the 'adulting' generation, which means I'm smack-dab in the middle of a student loan crisis, underemployment phenomenon, and a select group of seemingly sophisticated, entitled brats brought up on participation trophies and avocado toast.

But, I digress. I'm proud to be a Millennial.

By day, I work as a marriage and family therapist, and I realize the power of the almighty dollar. It impacts everything we do- from the relationships we have with others to whether or not we decide to make that doctor's appointment to how and where we live. It's a common subject that comes up in nearly all of my therapeutic sessions.

In fact, the Wheel of Assessment exercise is one of my favorite psychotherapy group ideas, as it provides a birds-eye perspective on how well we are actually taking care of each sector in our lives. One I see all too often in clients around my age? Complete and utter disarray when it comes to financial well-being. So, let's break down how we youngins can do better!

1. Stop Overspending (Because Cliches Exist for a Reason)

Yes, it's obvious, but yes, it needs to be discussed. We are a generation built on loans, plastic (though credit cards can always be part of a smart financial plan), and direct deposit. In other words, our money (both the ebb and flow of it) are essentially invisible. We don't interact with it much- except on our screens.

And, that's fine with me (I never have cash on hand, anyway). But just like we're all encouraged to know the nutrition of the foods we eat (because it's so easy to overdo it), it's also important to have a system in tracking the money we spend.

$5 here. $20 there. It all adds up quickly. If you're in any form of debt, overspending isn't "cute." It's an emergency, and you should treat it as such. You don't have the literal financial worth to act frivolously.

Furthermore, nowadays, with so many awesome and FREE apps (I'm a fan of Personal Capital), there is no excuse to avoid tracking your spending. If it hurts, that's a telling sign!

2. Tackle the Debt (But Seriously)

In working with my peer Millennials, I've noticed an interesting trend among debt: we like to compare whose is higher. This is a stark contrast from the previous generation who often criticized talking money outside of the home.

Debt is an emergency. An actual emergency that can seriously compromise the mental and physical value of your life. It's not something that should be on the back-burner. After subsidizing a place to live and food to eat (both which need to be in reason), consolidating debt should be the next step.

Stop ignoring those collection calls or throwing away those letters from the bank. Face your fears. We are the generation of #fearless. Preach it!

3. Invest (And Don't Just Gloss Over This Part)

I know we read this in literally every single financial article on the planet, but it's one that I'm passionate about. Investing is INCREDIBLY cool when you're young because of the amazing power of compound interest. Don't understand what that means? In a nutshell, the younger you are when you start socking money away, the more it will grow.

And, no, you don't have to be a millionaire to start. You don't even have to be close.

Start with your company's 401(k) and invest at least the company's match if there's one. That's free money, my friends! FREE MONEY. I don't know about you all, but money, where I don't have to do anything to earn it, is definitely my favorite kind of money.

Then, you'll want to move into a Roth IRA and Health Savings Account (HSA) if eligible. If your eyes are glazing over, I get it. I've been there myself. But do yourself a favor and pick up a few financial books (or just go online) and learn how to invest. Your future self deserves it.

4. Side Hustle (If You Want & Can)

CNN recently reported that 44 million Americans have a side hustle. That's a pretty big number, my friends! Side hustles vary from picking up a few hours driving Uber each week to crafting cute blankets for Etsy to renting out your space on AirBNB.

I believe that a side hustle can make life simply more fun (and more interesting), and it can be an awesome financial cushion if you're looking to tackle down debt or increase your savings.

With that said, a side hustle isn't for everyone. There are so many instances where we need to value time > money. If that's the case, your "side hustle" should be in the form of bettering yourself and learning skills relevant to your particular job. In today's society, you want to make yourself as indispensable as possible. That's how management and leadership are formed.

5. Actually Create That Emergency Fund

We all know we're supposed to save for a rainy day, but very few Americans do just that. Instead, we hope and pray for the best and then run up our credit cards when something bad happens.

Allow me to be a cynic for one moment: something bad can and will happen to you financially at some point. Whether it's your car breaking down, your company engaging in massive lay-offs, your arm breaking, or your roof needing a replacement, it's a matter of when not if.

I'll also put it this way: you're not an exception to the misfortunate rule. Financial crises happen, and they happen every day. Don't put more stress on an emotionally charged event by not being financially prepared for it. You'll only perpetuate the misery.

Final Thoughts

To all my Millennials, the world is our proverbial oyster, but living in this world does cost money and does require common sense. Let's step up and make this our own!

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