A little hindsight is always useful, but for college students, getting money advice now can go a long way toward their financial future.
A “Young Money Survey” by TD Ameritrade looked at millennials’ attitudes toward money, education, and working life. It asked college graduates: “What one piece of advice would you give to your 18-year-old self regarding college?”
The number one answer was to earn some money while you are in college. That goes along with the top two changes millennials would make if they had to do it all over again, which were to study harder and spend less money/get into less debt.
FIGURE 1: COLLEGE ADVICE
Working to earn money while you’re in college was the top suggestion from post-college young millennials according to the “Young Money Survey” by TD Ameritrade . Source: TD Ameritrade. For Illustrative Purposes Only.
One Millennial’s Financial Outlook
Thirty-year-old Anjulie, who works for a nonprofit organization in Chicago, agreed that she would spend less money in college.
“I worked three jobs in undergrad. It sucked my energy dry, and I could have lived on a smaller budget, but I was determined to do everything,” she says.
Her biggest advice to her younger self—besides listening to her dad—was to set up an emergency fund as soon as possible that makes it easy to deposit, but hard to withdraw. It took three years, but she’s proud to say she’s met that mark now.
Like many people in her situation, she has student loans. Living on a nonprofit salary means she has a smaller income, but she is diligent about both paying down debt and investing. She has a personal retirement account and some small investments, and now she is looking at socially responsible investing.
Millennial Money Tips
Grant Sabatier, founder of the blog Millennial Money, says on his website that saving even $5 a day adds up to $1,825 per year. Investing that in a simple total stock market index fund with an expected 7% annual compound rate of return could add up to $10,840 in five years.
Many millennials face the tough choice of paying down student loans or saving, and while individual cases vary, Sabatier suggested investing surplus money rather than paying extra on student loans—especially if the loans can be refinanced to a lower rate.
For students who decide to work in college—or even after college—those side hustles are great opportunities to save, Sabatier said. Automating savings makes it painless, and if the side job is in addition to a full-time job, you can earmark that extra cash for investing. That’s what he does.
“I do this because the future value of this money will very likely be exponentially greater than spending it today,” he said.