With the oldest millennials just turning 35, there's more pressure on the generation to get a firm grasp on adulthood, and to start focusing on making both short- and long-term financial plans. But new data tells us that for the most part, they aren't bothering to do either.
Case in point: Only 18% of millennials create and follow a budget, even though it's one of the easiest ways to track finances, curb spending, and increase savings. That statistic comes from a recent report by Navy Federal Credit Union, which also reveals that the number of millennials who actively think about their financial goals has decreased by almost a third over the past two years.
Here's another disturbing statistic: A mere 17% of millennials have enough savings on hand to cover three months of living expenses. It's no wonder, then, that only 22% describe themselves as satisfied with their financial situations.
While millennials might face certain challenges that don't impact older workers to the same degree, like lower wages and nagging student debt, there's also no reason for them to give up hope. In many cases, a few small changes might spell the difference between financial security and worrying about money to an unhealthy degree.
1. Outline some goals
Not only are most millennials unhappy with their financial picture, but many are delaying life events, like buying a home, having children, and saving for retirement, because they're not financially stable enough to do so. But rather than postpone those milestones, or give up on them entirely, you're better off putting your goals in writing so that you have something concrete to work toward. Keep in mind, however, that your first priority should be to establish an emergency savings cushion. Only once you have that in place should you focus on other goals, like purchasing property or building a nest egg.
2. Work out a budget
Without a budget, you won't have a clear sense of how much you're spending and where you might have room to cut back. On the other hand, once you review your bills from the previous year and map out a clear, accurate budget, you'll have a better idea where your money is going and where it's being wasted. Don't forget to include one-time expenses in that budget, whether it's a yearly professional license renewal or your annual homeowner's insurance premium. Forgetting those bills can throw the rest of your numbers off, so review your bank and credit card statements thoroughly.
3. Slash your expenses to make room for savings
An estimated 31% of millennials live paycheck to paycheck, and that's just not a smart or responsible way to function. Once you have that budget in place and can see where you're overspending, your next move is to begin cutting corners so that you're not blowing through your earnings each month.
If your living space is costing you a bundle, you might consider downsizing to a smaller one, or moving to a less trendy neighborhood where housing tends to be more affordable. If you're hanging onto a car you enjoy having but don't technically need, think about how much you'll save by unloading it and taking public transportation. Finally, examine your leisure and dining costs, and see how much of your income they're eating up. If you have no savings but are currently spending $500 a month on entertainment and restaurants, it's time to start being more judicious.
4. Consider some work on the side
If, despite your best efforts, cutting back on expenses isn't enough to make a respectable dent in your savings goals, then it's time to consider a side hustle. A good 44 million Americans work a second gig on top of their primary job, and of those who do, more than one-third manage to earn an additional $500 a month. Even if your side hustle is only temporary, it'll still give you a good opportunity to bank some cash and improve your financial picture.
Regardless of what moves you make to get your finances on track, the key is to think about your goals regularly. It's easy enough to throw your hands up in defeat and resign yourself to being dissatisfied with your financial situation, but if you take an active role in improving your outlook, you're more likely to turn things around. And once you do, you'll be much happier for it.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.