Younger people continue to find financial freedom elusive. What to do about it?

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If you’re a Millennial struggling to secure your financial future, here is some encouraging news.

SUM180 recently conducted two Twitter polls, responded to predominantly by people in their late 20’s through early 40’s, that revealed:

  • 51% of respondents identified “not having enough” as their biggest barrier to financial freedom
  • 55% identified “building up savings” as their primary financial goal for 2017

Now, younger peoples’ financial anxiety has been in the news for some time – they’re delaying marriage and big ticket purchases like cars and homes for years. But is this age group, in fact, worse off than previous generations? We did a comparison using the Guardian’s income calculator and here’s what we learned:

  • People age 20-24 in the U.S. are making $3,389 less than they did in 1979.
  • However, people age 25-29 in the U.S. make about $1,274 more than people their age did in 1979. According to the data, Gen X and Boomers have an even larger income advantage over past generations.

What this tells us us is that directly out of school, the financial barriers young people experience are real. But – here’s the good news – those barriers recede after a few years. Continued barriers, then, are more about attitude than reality.

If you’re a young person struggling to secure your financial future, this is encouraging news. You know that you need to build your savings, and as you enter the 25-29 age range, you are finally in a position to make real progress toward achieving your financial goals. The key to success is to break through the barrier of thinking ‘I can’t, it’s hopeless’ and then creating a clear, manageable plan for moving forward.

Looking to seriously pump up your savings this year? Some suggestions:

1.     Take stock of where you are. Work with a financial adviser to build a game plan that shows you where you stand financially and clarifies your immediate next steps. A good plan will also point out your accomplishments to date. It will help correct those misconceptions—like “I just don’t have enough”—that keep you from tackling your savings goals.

2.     Use a spreadsheet or money tracking app (like Mint or Quicken) to understand where your money is going. Simply gathering the data and seeing it in one place will empower you to better align your spending to your priorities and zero in on ways to save. The point is to learn to be mindful of where your money is going. This allows you to prioritize and make targeted changes to your spending.

3.     Jump start your savings campaign with a no-spend month. This exercise can make a big difference in your personal balance sheet. It’s simple: commit to a 30-day period of spending ONLY on necessities. Walk or bike to everywhere instead of driving; take lunch to work every day; embrace free entertainment options, like exploring local parks. Not only will you save a lot of money during this one month period, you may find yourself re-evaluating old spending habits altogether and deciding you prefer your own creative, low-cost alternatives.

4.     Identify two or three regular monthly expenses that you can do without—then delete them. For one person, the eliminated expense may be premium cable and a too-generous data plan. For another, it may be online shopping and extra spending on eating out. Be creative so you don’t feel deprived. If you love to eat out, challenge yourself to make delicious meals at home six nights a week. Your one restaurant meal per week will feel more special and you’ll save a ton of money.

5.     Set up automatic transfers for the beginning of the month. By doing this, money you have earmarked to save is transferred from a checking account to a savings account before you have a chance to spend it on something else.

6.     If you haven’t yet, join the ‘sharing economy.’ Why spend money buying stuff when many websites let you find what you need for free, trade for what you want or rent it for less? You can also quickly fatten your savings account with extra income by participating in popular services such as Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and DogVacay.

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