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10 Things Millennials Need To Do With Their Money ASAP

Guys, I’m old af, so I want to share some of my Wisdom About Money with you. Specifically, the ten things every millennial should do with their money, ASAP — before they’re too old for people to consider them a “real” millennial anymore.

(Which can I just say, millennials as an age group range from 22 to 35, so every generalization about my generation can go die? I know millennials who make bank and have three kids in the suburbs. We’re all real millennials.)

In all seriousness, and all ranting about my generation aside, these ten things are the only ten I feel comfortable recommending to literally everyone, based on my personal experience.

When I’m actually an old lady, I will pull up this list in the VR chip embedded in my brain, complain about newfangled technology, and nod approvingly that I gave those young folk some good advice while I was still one of them.

Cause seriously, I’m not that old yet. How old did you think I was?!

Sorry. Birthdays. Here’s the list!

1. Start an online bank account.

I don’t care if you move everything over to an online bank to avoid bank fees (although I did that and I’m never going back you can’t make me) but you need at least one online bank account.

Why? Interest rates.

Your day to day bank is going to try to pitch you that 0.1% counts as a high interest savings account, and that is 100% bananas. You can get rates anywhere from 0.8% to 2.0% using online banks (that is, here in Canada — though in the U.S. there are several online options with around 1%). Your savings deserves better than 0.1%.

2. DIY your taxes

(Caveat: as long as you’re not self-employed, that shit is complex and you can use an accountant if you’re into that.)

OK, don’t panic, because this is so not as hard as people think it is. I’ve been DIY-ing my taxes for 5 years now, and it’s hands-down the best way to get a handle on what really happened last year with your money. On top of that, there are a ton of software options that can help make filing your taxes a breeze, and will make sure you get all the deductions that are coming your way.

I personally use SimpleTax, so if you’re a tax nerd like me and you want to get started, you can kick-start your taxes now (in Canada, anyways).

3. Start investing.

If you’re like Desirae, we JUST opened an online bank account and did our taxes, can you freaking cool it with jumping feet-first into all these entirely new things?

No, no I can’t, because not investing your money when you’re young is a house-on-fire personal finance emergency.

You’ll almost never have the opportunity to invest money and then leave it in the market for 40 years again, and those 40 years are going to make you rich. For real. There are options that range from super-duper-beginner-friendly all the way to advanced-investors-only-plz, but there’s definitely one that’s right for you, and you need to find it, stat. (Start with this free five-day email primer on wtf is investing, even.)

4. Start, or keep growing, your emergency fund.

I know there are people who are all “a line of credit is a great emergency fund!” but hi, I am not one of them.

If I lose my job, or have a major appliance break down, I don’t want to make it even worse by taking on debt. That’s where my emergency fund comes in, and starting one is as easy as opening one additional savings account and set up an automatic contribution — which you can do with as little as $5, by the way.

When you end up needing it, you’ll be so glad it’s there.

5. Figure out the whole “insurance thing.”

Do you know how much insurance you have? And what kinds? And how much it covers? Have you compared your insurance rates recently?

You’re probably either closing this browser tab as we speak, or weeping. Sorry, that was a lot.

The thing is, insurance is basically your first and only line of defense between your current life and total economic disaster, so while it’s not especially fun to think about, you so need to. Think of it like grown-up homework: you don’t have to love it, but you do have to do it.

Here’s a fun look at all of the things I learned when I sat down to actually read my insurance policies. “That Desirae always has such fun ideas of things to do!” said literally no one ever, but it’s still important and you should do it too.

6. Get a handle on your credit.

If you’re in debt, you should know how much debt you have, what the interest rates are, and have a rough plan for how you’re handling it. (Ahem, please note I didn’t say getting rid of it. Make the right choice for your situation, friend.)

If you’re debt-free, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for this one, either. If you don’t know your credit score, you need to, and there’s no excuse because you can get it for free in Canada (finally). Grab it from Borrowell or RateHub now, or Credit Karma in the U.S.

7. Spend money on things that matter — but not too much money.

If you’ve made it this far, TREAT YO’SELF.

No, actually.

There is definitely such a thing as saving too much money, since money is just a tool we use to make our lives great. Which purchases, big or small, make your life better? You need a plan to make sure you can afford those things, within reason, because life is too damn short.

8. Save money for the things you want to do — but not too much money.

If your list of things that make your life great includes some big ticket items, you’ll probably need to save up for them alongside the things that will make Future You’s life great too (ahem, being able to stop working one day, aka retirement).

Figuring out how to use your limited savings money to achieve all those different things is tricky, but no trickier than balancing your spending money to cover your wants and needs. You got this. (Here’s a step-by-step plan to balancing your big money-and-life goals that I use and love.)

9. Make a plan for your money (aka, a budget.)

Ok, after all the hard work of figuring out how you want to spend your money, and how you want to save your money, this step should be easy.

Put those two things together, and presto manifesto, you’ve got a budget (surprise!) If something’s not quite adding up, try tracking your spending for a month to see where your money is really going, or just take 60 seconds to build a One Minute Budget.

10. Figure out all of those acronyms you’ve been avoiding.

Alphabet Soup was so much more fun and delicious than Alphabet Money, which is what the financial media feels like some days. ETF, IRA, 401k…omg. The thing is, those acronyms are all super important to understand at a basic level if you want to rock your money.

I have to do all that? Halp.

These are all things that I’ve actually done over the past few years, and the things I want to help you do this year. That’s why I opened up the Half Banked resources library, because I plan on building a whole heck of a lot more guides this year, to help you do exactly these things – and more.

To make sure it’s helpful for literally you, I put together another round of the survey I did last summer, which lead to posts like how to make sure you don’t raid your savings account, and how to plan for irregular expenses, to help you guys with the actual, real-life stuff you’re trying to do with your money.

I want to do more of that! (The helping, not the doing the money stuff. Please don’t send me the login to your bank with a “help me” gif. I’ll laugh, but like, you can’t just throw that login stuff around like confetti. It’s not safe.)

So take the survey and keep that bank account login info safe and sound.

Desirae blogs about money at Half Banked, and spends altogether too much time onTwitter. She takes “money nerd,” “no chill” and “crazy dog lady” as compliments. 

Image via Unsplash

  • JC

    Which online banks offer 2.00% interest? The best I have found have offered 1.05%.

    • Holly Trantham

      Hi JC! Desirae writes from Canada, where they have banks with higher rates like EQ (https://www.eqbank.ca/personal-banking/features-rates ). Thanks for asking, I’ll make a note in the copy!

    • Hkoo

      Check out your local credit union! Mine (Bellco credit union) has a high interest checking account at 2.25%!

      • Holly Trantham

        What a great tip!

  • Jack

    I just started investing in October and so the ball is rolling now and I am loving it so far! I used to be ~$25,000 in debt so the fact that I am here now is amazing. I just applied for a leverage loan which sounded terrifying at first but actually makes so much sense!!

    • Holly Trantham

      That is awesome, Jack, congrats!