In high school economics, we wrapped up the year with the “Life Project,” the closest thing to financial literacy for young adults. We drew slips of paper from a hat which determined our job, salary, and how many kids we would have. From those 3 pieces of information, we constructed a “life,” built a budget, and managed our expenses for ourselves and our kids.
At the time, the project felt silly, but I realize now that it was preparing me for the “adulting struggle” and giving me budgeting basics I would later use as a young adult. Since then I’ve added more financial life hacks to my toolbelt. So if you’re new to adulting (or just looking for a refresher) these 11 financial tips for young professionals will support you as you launch your professional (and adulting) career.
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Importance of Money Management Skills for Young Adults
It’s never too early or too late to establish good money management skills. For young adults, it’s especially important because how you manage your finances now has downstream effects for your future.
But the amount of financial advice for young professionals out there is overwhelming. Not to mention the amount of scams and “get rich” quick schemes that trick you into misusing your money. The purpose of this post is to give you a place to start and narrow down all of the resources on the internet to my top picks. These are resources that I used when I got my first job, while I attended college, and when I started my professional career.
(Kara J Lovett Co, however, not responsible if the tips work or don’t work for you. See my Disclaimer.)
How do you manage finances in your 20s?
Managing money for young adults in their 20s is about building smart money habits for the future. How you use your money know will affect how you use it in the future, and it’s better to build from good habits than tear down old ones and start anew.
For example, if you rack up a lot of credit card debt in your 20s then you will spend most of your 30s and 40s working to pay it off, along with the interest. Credit card debt and unpaid bills lead to a poor credit history, which could mean paying more interest on all loans and being denied for credit or as a renter.
Bottom line: how you manage your finances in your 20s will lay the foundation for how you handle money and receive credit and loans in the future.
Biblical Financial Stewardship
Finances are not a secular topic. In fact, God says a lot about money and stewardship in the Bible, including the 2,350 verses about money and possessions. (Navigating Your Finances God’s Way, Howard Dayton, 2011).
Safe to Say: Including God in our Finances is a must if we want to manage our money in a way that pleases him.
What does the Bible say about spending money wisely?
When we think about our money and possessions, we must recognize the true owner. All of our blessings and possessions are from our creator and our provider—God (Luke 16:10).
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (ESV)
With all that is said about money in the Bible, you’ll find biblical financial advice for young professionals, too.
- God commands us to honor him with our wealth (Proverbs 3:9) and work diligently to earn a living (Proverbs 10:4).
- We are commanded to be cheerful givers and are rewarded for generosity (2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Acts 20:35).
- We are commanded to tithe to the church just as the Israelites in the Old Testament gave to the temple (Leviticus 27:30-34; Romans 12:13).
- God commends those who save, even saving little by little (Proverbs 6:6-8; Proverbs 21:20, 21:5).
- God also warns us to diversify when we invest. (Ecclesiastes 11:2)
11 Pieces of Financial Advice for Young Professionals
Now for the financial tips for young professionals. While based on biblical financial principles, you’ll find that these financial tips also match what quality secular resources say about money.
That’s because God’s design for money and our finances make good sense.
Personal Finance Management Tips
The goal of these first 3 financial tips for young adults is to help you establish money habits that will support your future.
#1 Start by Saving for an Emergency Fund
Even though we’re young professionals, we are not immune to the unpredictability of life. Cars break down. Appliances stop working. A high medical bill can come. While God commands us not to worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34), we can still save in case an emergency arises.
The initial recommendation is to save $1,000 and to not touch the money except in a real emergency. After paying off debt (depending on the amount), then the recommendation is to save 3-4 months’ worth of your income or 6 months of living expenses.
With life, it’s not a matter of if an emergency will come, but when.
#2 Avoid Debt
Debt can have several negative effects on your quality of life as it hinders your financial freedom. Financial Freedom is being able to spend money on the things you want instead of repaying debt or having your money tied up in other financial obligations. Debt also:
- Puts you in the hands of the lender
- Means you pay more for the items you purchased because you pay interest (credit card debt, car, etc.)
- Decreases your disposable income – as you pay back the loans, you have less money to spend on other things
- Hurts your credit score – a poor credit score impacts your ability to get loans, good interest rates, or approval to rent in certain areas.
In some areas, debt is necessary. But it should only be reserved for those items that are going to increase in value over time. For example, a college education, in general, will increase your ability to make money in the future and improve quality of life. In that case, it may be worth going into debt for a degree that gives you higher earning potential.
#3 Use Compounded Interest to Your Advantage
On the note of debt, let’s flip the equation around. What if you’re the one earning interest on your money? Overtime, the interest gained generates more interest, and eventually you double or triple your investment.
For example, if you were to invest $500 and the interest rate was 5% then at the end of the year, you would have $525 dollars. That’s $500 of the original investment and $25 of interest. The next year though, you would earn 5% interest on the original investment and the interest.
(500 * .05) + (25 * .05) = 551.25
In the second year, you earned $1.25 more than you did the year before. This might seem negligible. However, if you continued to have compounded interest for 40 years, you would end up with $3,679. That’s a 736% increase in your $500 investment.
By saving early on, your money will have more time to earn interest and grow.
Budgeting Tips for Young Adults
Basic business teaches that you shouldn’t spend more than you earn. The same applies to young professionals and young adults getting their first paychecks, which is why creating a budget is a must.
#4 Create a Budget where Expenses < Income
Credit cards and loans allow us to spend money that we don’t have and while it may offer us instant gratification, in the long run it only leads to more debt. Go ahead and make the habit now that you’ll pay off your credit card every month and you’ll only spend what you can afford based on your income.
#5 Track and Tweak your Budget
Next, put your budget to the test. Over the next full month or 30 days, track your spending and see how it compares to your budget. Make tweaks the next few months until you have a customized budget that fits your lifestyle. The more personalized the budget, the better it will guide you as you try to make wise choices with your money.
#6 Add a miscellaneous category to your budget
Just like the emergency fund, a miscellaneous category is there to catch any other random expenses that are unexpected. This is like your monthly cushion and gives your budget room to breathe in case spending in another category goes overbudget. Even if you’re following a “zero-budget” where all your money down to the cents is accounted for, it’s good practice to add a miscellaneous category.
#7 Create Financial Goals
There’s a misconception that financial goals are only for those with spouses and kids, but young professionals can benefit from financial goals, too. Just as you make personal and professional goals, you should also craft financial goals. With your financial goals, be realistic, specific, and timely. Some examples are:
- Get out of debt / Pay Back all debt by 2021
- Finish paying back student loans in 3 years
- Save for a down payment for a house
- Invest 6% of income in a 401(K) for retirement
- Cut spending on takeout by 20% next month
Other Tips about Managing Money for Young Adults
These last 3 are the insider financial tips that you likely won’t find in secular resources. With these financial tips for young professionals, you will be encouraged to set your heart on God instead of on possessions and things. Money by itself isn’t inherently bad, but how we use it matters to God, thus it should matter to us.
#8 Seek Wise Counsel
Where do I need to be financially by the time I’m 40? What do I need to consider when buying a house? How can I pay back all the debt I’ve accumulated?
Sometimes managing our finances can lead to more questions than answers. Not only is this normal, but it’s smart. When it comes to money, it’s easy to value instant gratification and not think about the long-term consequences.
Having an objective and godly opinion can help us make wise decisions.
When making financial decisions, seek wise, godly counsel from someone who can give you insights based on their knowledge, experience, and godly perspective. Parents are usually a good place to start, but people at your church may also be willing to help. Consider asking people who were in your shoes 3-5 years ago to see if they have any advice or lessons learned to share, too.
#9 Don’t Sit on Money
In the parable of the servant and the talents, Jesus reminds us that we are to steward what has been given to us by God. The master in the story is furious with the last servant for burying the one talent given to him. If the servant had put the talent in the bank, at least the master would have gained interest. But since the servant did nothing, all was taken from him (Matthew 25:14-30).
Are you sitting on your money?
After draining my savings in college, I wanted a big cushion for my finances. But besides the immediate emergency fund, I realized there was no reason to keep money in a low-interest savings account. It was better to make my money work for me (compounded interest).
Mutual funds, bonds, stocks, and 401(K) accounts and other investments allow your money to earn you money. Instead of burying your coins, investigate ways that you could earn money from your capital.
#10 Trust in God not Money
Being broke in college, I was tempted as a young professional to hoard money out of fear. However, our security should not be in our money, but in God our provider.
If we trust in ourselves or our money, then we’ll be disappointed (Ecclesiasties 5:10). Not only will we never feel like we have “enough” money, but we will become paranoid about losing money and obsessed with gaining more. It’s an endless cycle of discontentment that will never end.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”Hebrews 13:5
#11 Enjoy Money
When I was in college, I loved shopping with my mom because she would pay for my groceries and school supplies from time to time. Now as a young professional, when I go shopping with my mom, she loves to spend my money, as in telling me what to buy and getting me to loosen the purse strings.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying spending money, especially if we are honoring God in our choices and with our possessions. When we die, we won’t be bringing any of our money with us anyway (Job 1:21; 1 Timothy 6:6-9).
Financial Resources For Young Adults & “New Adults”
These 11 financial tips for young professionals are just the beginning, and how you steward what God has given you will impact your future. To continue your financial literacy journey, here’s other reputable financial resources about managing money as young adults and budgeting planners to help you manage your finances.
Best Planners for Budgeting and Tracking Finances
- A5 Budget Planner from ErinCondren: A monthly planner with specific pages and features for budgeting, tracking spending and saving, and planning to reach your financial goals. A beautiful, sleek design and colorful tabs for organization.
- Budget Planner from Ivory Paper Co.: Perfect for all of your budgeting and personal finance needs. This planner helps your manage your finances by having dedicated pages for tracking income, expenses, debt, savings, bills, and subscriptions. You can set your budget easily before the month starts and then review your progress throughout and at the end of the month. On top of that, you’ll have space for practicing gratitude and making a checklist for the week.
General Financial Literacy for Young Professionals
- Navigating Your Finances God’s Way – This is a bible study provided by Compass that dives deep into scripture about all aspects of personal finances. Topics covered include investing, saving, budgeting, and handling crises.
- Your Money Counts by Howard Dayton – This book is written by the founder of Compass and a great supplement to the resources above. It teaches you what God says about money and gives valuable financial advice for young professionals and all Christians wanting to learn more about biblical financial principles.
- Ramsey Solutions – This website has tons of resources dedicated to money and biblical financial stewardship. They have tips, advice, and courses related to money, retirement, insurance, taxes, business, real estate and more. For example, check out this article on 10 money traps to avoid and make sure you are.
- Clark Howard at Clark.com – Clark Howard’s website is my go-to resource for anything involving money. He has financial advice that is clear and concise, perfect for busy young professionals. Topics on his site range from insurance, investment, retirement, mortgages, renting, and even streaming TV, Cell Phones, and general consumer deals.
Budgeting Basics for Young Adults
- Ramsey Solutions Budgeting – Free tools and resources to help you get started budgeting.
- EveryDollar Budget App – A free mobile app that allows you to set a monthly budget and easily track your spending by putting in your purchases. From Ramsey Solutions.
Budgeting Worksheets & Sample Budget for Young Adults
- Crown Spending Guides – Based on your income, these spending guides provide recommended percentages for you to spend on each budgeting category. For example, if you’re apartment huntingor planning to buy a house, it will give you a good idea of what you should budget for rent and utilities. From Crown.org.
- Navigating Your Finances God’s Way – Budgeting Worksheet inside the study.
Financial Planning for Young Adults
- Crown.org – The focus of this website and business is stewardship, including stewardship over money and resources. There are tons of online tools, resources, quizzes, and courses to help you with budgeting, managing debt, spending, and more.
- Free Financial Calculators – Ramsey Solutions offers calculators to help predict or imagine how debt or investments could turn out in the long run. (Debt Snowball Calculator, Mortgage Calculator, Cost of Living Calculator.)
- Coverage Check Up – For all of your questions about insurance and what insurance you need as a young professional. From Ramsey Solutions.
Secular Resources: Managing Money for Young Adults
From the secular space, here are some other great resources with financial tips for young professionals and lessons on managing money in your 20s.
- GenTwenty – Organized by topic, GenTwenty’s finance section is easy to navigate. It includes financial advice for young adults via guides, tools, resources, and “lessons learned” blog posts.
- Retire Guide – A complete guide to investing in your 20s with advice for before you invest, tips for investing, and how to avoid common investing mistakes. You may be thinking it’s too early to think about retirement or investing, but this guide has numeric examples to help you see the big picture.
- Money Under 30 – Focused on managing money in your 20s, this site has free resources and posts to help you make smart decisions with your hard-earned money.
- Young Adult Money – I found Young Adult Money looking for budgeting tips for young adults, but you can browse the site for a variety of financial life hacks and tips for people in their 20s.
Adulting & Managing Money: Financial Tips for Young Professionals
To wrap up, growing up and adulting means more responsibility. Now that we’re earning more money as young professionals, we must learn how to manage our money wisely so we’re set up for a bright future to come.
What should a young person do with their money?
Getting out of debt and building good credit are important to allow you to make big purchases and smarter investments in the future. With compounded interest on your side, you can make your money work for you or end up paying triple what you owe in debt. It all depends on the money habits you establish now as a young professional.
As you read up on the resources provided, rest in the truth that God will provide no matter what season of life you are in. The guidance he gives us about managing our money is for our benefit.
At the end of the day, it’s the treasures in heaven that matter, not the ones we accumulate here on earth.
So with these financial tips for young professionals, may you be content with what you have and make wise financial choices for the future.
What other financial tips do you have for young professionals?
Leave me a comment below!
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