With burdensome student loans, a high cost of living, and low wages, millennials are struggling to get by without help from their parents.
Only 37% of millennials (classified as those born between 1981 and 1997) say they're totally financially independent from their parents, according to a survey from The Ascent, and the majority (63%) still depend on their parents in at least some capacity to help pay the bills.
However, while reasons vary for why millennials are still tapping into the bank of mom and dad, the majority feel burdened by their reliance on their parents -- 66% said relying on their parents for money makes them feel dependent. Nearly 60% said they feel embarrassed about it, and close to half admit to feeling guilty about it.
When you're struggling to pay the bills, it can be even more challenging to achieve other financial goals like buying a home or saving for retirement. But there are a few steps you can take to become more financially secure, no matter your age.
Establishing financial priorities
The first step to gaining control of your finances is to figure out where all your money is going, establish your financial priorities, and then align your budget with your goals.
Approximately 59% of Americans say they're living paycheck to paycheck, according to a survey from Charles Schwab. And yet according to that same survey, the average person spends nearly $500 per month on non-essential expenses. It can be difficult to gauge the health of your finances if you're not tracking your spending, because you may feel as if you're struggling to get by when in reality your money is just going toward the wrong priorities.
Creating a thorough budget can help solve this problem. Start by tracking all your expenses each month, either by using an app on your phone or doing it the old-fashioned way by combing through your bank and credit card statements. Divide your expenses into different categories (like "essential" and "non-essential"), and identify any areas where you can make cuts.
This is where establishing your financial priorities can make a big difference. You don't necessarily have to chop your budget down to the bare bones, but if you're struggling to make ends meet, you'll need to make some sacrifices. Nearly half of millennials admit to overspending to enjoy time with friends, according to Charles Schwab. So if you find yourself spending more than you can afford on non-essential costs, you'll need to reorganize your budget and shift your priorities.
When budgeting alone won't solve your financial problems
Sometimes, cutting costs isn't enough. If you're still struggling to pay the bills even after trimming all the fat from your budget, you may need to work harder to reach financial security.
First, identify your biggest financial problem area. Is most of your income going toward debt repayments? Are you spending too much on rent? Maybe you're only earning minimum wage and simply don't have enough cash to cover all your essential expenses?
Once you determine what's causing the bulk of your financial struggles, create an action plan to solve that problem. If you're grappling with student loan repayments, consider whether consolidating or refinancing your loans could lower your monthly payment. Or you may choose to pick up a side hustle to earn some extra cash; even an extra few hundred dollars per month goes a long way in helping pay all your bills.
When you have a goal in mind, write it down. Only 28% of Americans have a written financial plan, the Charles Schwab survey found, yet of those who do have a plan in writing, 63% feel financially secure. Write down your goal and the action steps you've come up with to help you achieve it, and do your best to stick to your plan.
Also, be sure to celebrate every milestone -- big or small. If your overarching goal is to become completely financially independent, celebrate every bill you start paying on your own. Or if you're aiming to save $5,000 in an emergency fund, reward yourself for every $1,000 you save. You may not be able to reach your goals overnight, but if you're consistent, you'll get there eventually.
Achieving financial independence can be tough, particularly if you're not earning much money and the cash you do have is stretched between multiple financial responsibilities. By taking steps to establish your priorities, make sacrifices, and set goals for the future, though, you'll be well on your way to becoming more financially secure.