You’re never too young to make smart financial decisions. Whether you entered your 20s with a solid savings portfolio funded by your parents, saved up some of your own money, or spent it all on education, here are four tips on how to get ahead financially.
01 Start now
A lot of 20-somethings feel they’ve missed the savings boat. You haven’t. You may have missed out on high interest rates, but the principles of savings apply, even when rates are low.
The magic savings amount is usually 10% of gross income, and you should pick, and stick with, a small amount (at least $25) to put away every month—preferably into a TFSA.
You might think, “I have to wait until I have money to invest.” Instead, you should start small now, and increase the amount every time your income rises or a liability (student loan; lingering credit card debt) gets paid off.
Learning to survive off a meager income will equip you for future financial emergencies, such as divorce or job loss. Even if you don’t make a lot, budgeting can help you with the flip side: reducing spending.
Budgeting helps you make sense of your cash flow and better understand where your money is going. Take a look at your spending patterns over a number of months, and compare it to your take-home pay. Many automated websites do it for you, such as Mint.com.
03 Force savings
The best way to save is automatically—the bank will transfer a set sum from chequing to savings. You can start with a low savings rate and increase it by a few percentage points annually.
Many people save in their RRSPs and then use the resulting tax refunds for a new trip or toy. Instead, they should put that money back into investments or a mortgage. Anything else, and they’re missing the point of the RRSP. Signing up to have CRA refunds deposited directly into a savings account makes the process easier.
04 Set and review financial goals at least annually
Set realistic financial goals, such as maximizing a TFSA account each year. You can divide the $5,500 annual contribution amount by 12 ($458) and have it automatically withdrawn each month.
Review these goals annually and update your progress.