Each generation has its own set of attitudes and beliefs, but all of them, including millennials, share a common goal: financial security. Seven out of 10 millennials consider themselves savers, not spenders, according to the TD Ameritrade 2018 “Millennials and Money” survey. On average, they expect to be completely financially independent by age 25, and retire at age 56. In addition, more than half of those surveyed believe they’ll be millionaires at some point.
“Millennials are a financially optimistic group that feels positive about the economy, the job market, and their own plans,” says JJ Kinahan, chief strategist for TD Ameritrade. “However, they’ll need to develop saving and investing habits to help them reach some pretty big goals.”
So how can you become a good saver and investor? Start by embracing these six strategies.
1. Start Early
Make sure your budget includes stashing some cash each month to help build your emergency fund and pursue your long-term goals. Even small amounts can add up over time. To help make saving automatic, consider setting up direct deposits to your savings account. “One of the greatest investments young people can make in themselves is to start putting money away in their 20s,” says Kinahan. “Because of the power of compounding, even with ups and downs along the way, those who start early can potentially end up with more in the end.” For example, if you invested a total of $24,000 from ages 21 to 41, your retirement savings could potentially be almost eight times higher at age 67 than if you waited until age 47 to start investing. (See chart.)
Source: TD Ameritrade. All investing involves risks, including loss of principal. For illustrative purposes only.
2. Focus On the Total Package
Whether you’re looking for your first job or a new one, it’s important not to be swayed by salary alone. A company’s benefits program is arguably equally as important for your financial well-being. Many employers offer a wide assortment of benefits that can help you pursue your goals and potentially save money. Some are traditional, like retirement plans and health insurance. Others may allow you to pick and choose based on your personal situation, such as flexible spending accounts, tuition reimbursement, commuter benefits, student loan repayment programs, and pet insurance. And in many cases, it’s cheaper to get these benefits through your employer than on your own. Any cost savings could be used to help build your investment portfolio or pay down debt.
3. Know Your Numbers
Your employer’s 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan is a convenient way to save because contributions are automatically deducted from your paycheck. For 2018, you can generally contribute up to $18,500 of your annual salary ($24,500 if you’re age 50 and over). If you can’t do the maximum, consider contributing enough to receive any employer matching contributions. For example, if your employer matches every dollar up to 6% of your pay, you may want to contribute 6% of your salary so you don’t leave “free money” on the table. You might also think about gradually increasing your contribution rate each year to help maximize your savings. Self-employed? Consider opening a solo 401(k) or another type of retirement plan.
4. Tack On an IRA
Don’t have a retirement plan at work? Maxed out your 401(k) or 403(b) contributions? A traditional or Roth IRA can be an effective way to build or supplement your retirement savings. Which one you choose depends on many factors including when you want to pay taxes on the money: now (Roth) or later (traditional). You might even consider opening both to help create a tax-diversified portfolio. Between all the IRAs you have, the most you can contribute for 2018 is $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older).
5. Put “Extra” Money to Work
It’s tempting to use your bonus check or tax refund for a shopping spree. And although you deserve to treat yourself, it’s also important not to miss out on the opportunity to make progress on your financial goals. With a little planning, it may be possible to do both. To start, consider splitting your “extra” cash into three buckets: expenses, saving, and spending. You could use the expense portion to make an extra credit card or student loan payment to help pay off your debt faster, the saving portion to help boost your emergency fund, and the spending portion to splurge on that special item you’ve had your eye on.
6. Get Smart
Skittish about investing? Not sure how to get started? You’re not alone. According to the Bank of the West 2018 millennial study, 66% of respondents said they felt safest keeping most of their savings out of the market. However, staying on the sidelines comes with its own potential risks, such as a decline in purchasing power due to inflation. Plus, it may take longer to reach your goals. Stocks have historically provided the most opportunity for growth. Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results. One of the best ways to help overcome your concerns is to build your investment know-how. You can access a host of free education resources on the TD Ameritrade website to learn more about basic and advanced investment topics. Or tune in to the