The decade between your teens and dirty 30s is supposed to be a complete mess. During those formative years, also known as your 20s, you get your first taste of adulthood. Living on a twenty-something's budget isn't exactly the easiest thing you'll experience, as you learn how to survive on very little, while you're trying to accomplish a whole lot. For the most part, that survival lesson sucks. It's mainly because you have nothing figured out, but it's also because you are flat broke. And how are you supposed to get through it? Well, the only way to get through anything is to just... get through it.
Eventually, things fall into place, and there will come a time when you look at your life and realize, Huh. I guess this is being a grownup.You'll be able to look back and see it all so clearly. But until then, it's nice knowing that everyone your age is in the same boat. Everyone in their 20s is a mess. Everyone is struggling to make ends meet. They're all trying to figure out how to score a job they enjoy, that also pays well enough to help them graduate from SpaghettiOs for dinner to actual spaghetti. Here are all the financial struggles twenty-somethings face, because really, you're all in this together.
1. Resisting credit cards
You get lured in with the need to "build a credit history," and then all of a sudden your house is filled with shopping bags of stuff you don't need, and you're pitifully pleading for a credit line increase. Good credit will help you in the long run, and it's comforting knowing that if sh** hits the fan, you have a way to pay for it. So the key here is signing up for one or two cards, and not using them for stupid purchases. Resist the urge to take those cards to Forever21. RESIST.
2. Making health insurance a budget priority
Health insurance is expensive, and many jobs are cutting back on full-time positions in order to save on benefits costs. But not having health insurance, even when you're young and relatively healthy, is like frolicking around a war zone without a weapon or bullet-proof vest. Find a plan that works for your budget, even if it means cutting back on nights out with friends on the weekend. Because let's face it, your liver could use less well vodka anyway.
3. Understanding deductibles
Honestly, you might never fully understand the ins and outs of deductibles. I know I still don't, and I'm hitting the big 3-0 this year. But don't worry. That's what the customer service line is for. Your mom can probably help too.
4. WTF is a 401(k)?
You JUST entered the work force, and you can barely afford to keep the lights on in your studio apartment, so why would you set money aside for a life that's 40 or 50 years away? Because money, when kept in the right place, has the ability to turn into more money on its own. And the earlier you start planning for retirement, the more money you'll have in the end.
5. Keeping an emergency fund
Does anyone actually have one of these? You're supposed to keep two months' salary set aside in case of emergency, job layoffs, etc. This seems impossible to accomplish, considering you just saved half of last night's ramen for lunch today, but little by little, it can be done. And having that cushion can protect you against some SERIOUS stress dreams.
6. Using vacation days sparingly
You just need a break. You just want to get away. It's insanely tempting to use up all of your hard-earned PTO whenever you can't stand another second of work, but don't. You might need them later. OR you might have the option of getting these paid out at the end of the year. FREE MONEY, guys!
7. Paying taxes
At some point, you're going to make enough money that a tax refund is no longer in the cards. You will owe money. This will be a major bummer. But that means you are probably making enough to eat real meals, pay rent on time, and maybe even have some spending money. This is progress. This is adulthood. Welcome, children.
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