How To Manage Your Money As A Millennial
They say it’s never too early to talk to your kids about money. But little did Erin Lowry’s dad know that teaching his daughter what net profit means at the age of 7 would define her entrepreneurial ventures.
“I had a little glazed Krispy Kreme donut stand during my mom’s yard sale, which my dad had given me seed money for by buying the donuts,” she says. “After I counted up my haul, he had me pay him back for the initial stake and pay my little sister for being my employee.” This happened in the summer of 1996, but this tough-love attitude about money shaped her career decisions.
Erin Lowry is now a millennial money expert, founder of BrokeMillennial.com and author of Broke Millennial: Stop scraping by and get your financial life together. A go-to guidebook on personal finance with everything from investing to splitting the check, packed with a lot of sarcasm, hilarious stories and actionable advice.
1. Why do you love personal finance so much?
I guess it’s because I truly believe that there are one of two options for people when it comes to money:
And far too many people let their money control them.
Some people take themselves out of it: they think it’s either because they don’t like math, or they’re not good at math, or that it’s too complicated so they give up before even trying. I didn’t study a degree in finance, I studied journalism. So my point is: if I could do it you can do it too.
2. What would you say to someone who grew up with money being a taboo topic?
The first step is to analyze your psychological relationship with money, and when you start to recognize where you have your issues, you can set up systems to prevent yourself from being your own worst enemy. Sometimes you will fail, and that’s okay, and then you’ll just have to restart and keep going.
On the other side, there are so many ways to learn about money and to get better with it. What works for your best friend, your sister, your brother or your parents, might not be what works for you. So take the time to unearth what it is that works for you. Maybe that’s a podcast, a tv show, a blog, a book… We’re fortunate we have unlimited ways to consume content. Find the one that sticks to you personally and move on from there.
3. What do you think are the biggest financial challenges facing Millennials today?
The biggest one is not taking ownership. There are a lot of people who are deeply in debt and instead of facing the numbers they just think “Bah, what’s a little more…” or they just say “I’ll be paying this ‘til I die so what’s the point of trying to get in control now?”, and I totally empathise with seeing that way.
If you graduate at 22 with 60.000 in student loan debt and you’re not earning a big salary it can feel impossible. But not trying is a critical issue.
4. What’s the number one thing you say to people to inspire them to invest?
A lot of people think that it’s either 1) too expensive or 2) too confusing and complicated. I emphasize and understand why people feel that way, but if you’ve gotten the basics of your financial life under control (no credit card debt, you’re contributing to an employer-match retirement account), if you’ve reached that level and you’re trying to figure out what’s next, investing is the following step. And it shouldn’t feel like gambling.
I would never recommend somebody do stock picking – I will always recommend investing in index funds or ETFs. The problem when I say terms like ETFs to Millennials is that they won’t necessarily know what I mean. They say “Ok. But what is an index fund? Where do I do the investing into the index funds? How do I pick which one I invest in?”.
At this point what I suggest is a slow process of educating yourself: reading material, picking up books, listening to podcasts… There are a lot of researches out there that don’t dumb it down, but rather make it simple to understand the importance of investing.
5. Is there any must-read book about investing that you recommend?
A Random Walk Down Wall Street is a good one if you’re very interested in investing. It’s great to learn the fundamentals. I’d also recommend Investopedia as a very easy-to-understand website, and also anything related to Jack Bogle or Vanguard.
My advice, however, is to try not to overthink things. Don’t try to beat the market by yourself. You can look at Robo-advisors if you’re interested. But I would just try to use passively managed index funds.
6. If money isn’t complicated and doesn’t require complex formulas, what qualities should we have to manage their finances like a badass?
First, you need to be interested. You need to take control of your own financial life and eventually, you can have help in that regard. I see a lot of value in hiring a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) when you reach a certain level of wealth or you’re running a company. It makes sense to have expert people advising you.
But if you’re just at the base level, it’s about you committing to take control and being the driving force. Consider having an accountability buddy: a friend, a sibling, a parent who is going through this kind of process with you. Sharing stresses and successes with someone can be more encouraging than you think.
Also, you’re going to have to be persistent in finding what’s better for you in terms of budgeting, investing, getting repayment plans… There are so many ways to do things when it comes to money that you must find which one works for you and stick with it. It is also a process of forgiving yourself when you fail, and then standing up and moving on.
7. You’re 28 and you’ve already published a book. Any other exciting projects coming soon?
I have actually a couple of other book ideas in mind, so keep an eye out for those! and I’m working on the proposal process right now.
Moreover, I’m looking into speaking a lot more right now: going to colleges, companies and other organizations to talk to their students, co-workers and employees about how to handle their money and get their financial life together.