1. Start with saving
More than half of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, a GOBankingRates survey found. Although it’s tempting to spend rather than save when you get a paycheck, it’s important to prioritize contributing to your savings accounts, the experts said. One way to make it easier is to automate payments.
“If you don’t see it, you won’t spend it,” said Sharon Epperson, CNBC senior personal finance correspondent and host of CNBC’s “Retire Well.” “Have money automatically directed from your paycheck to a savings account that isn’t tied to your checking account.”
2. Avoid lifestyle inflation
Ted Jenkin, a certified financial planner, said it’s also important to increase your savings rate whenever you start earning more to keep growing your net worth.
“Save one-third of every pay raise you get so you don’t succumb to lifestyle inflation,” he said. By starting this practice early in your career, you’ll develop good habits like saving, investing and paying down debts instead of spending it on more stuff you won’t care about in a few years’ time.
3. Don’t waste your money on things you don’t need
Whether you’ve just received your first paycheck or your first raise, it can be tempting to spend your money on things you want rather than on things you need — but this can be a huge mistake.
“Don’t spend so much money on clothing,” said Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, founder of the personal finance blog “Making Sense of Cents.” “I’ve worked full-time since I was around the age of 14, yet I didn’t really start saving money until nearly a decade later.”
4. Don’t buy things to impress other people
Spending on immediate wants can hurt your future needs, said John Rampton, founder and CEO of Calendar.
“Don’t waste your time on expensive cars or gadgets,” he said. “It’s better to save money for the long term and for things that can keep generating money, rather than taking [your] money.”
Related: 12 Times You Should and Shouldn’t Invest in Your Favorite Brands
5. Start investing in your retirement ASAP
Over one-third of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, GOBankingRates’ 2018 Retirement Savings survey found. It’s easy to put off saving for retirement when you’re in your 20s, but that’s the best time to start. The sooner you save, the sooner you can take advantage of compound interest. No matter your age, it’s important to prioritize investing in your retirement accounts, the experts said.
“Start contributing to a Roth IRA with that taxable income you’re earning,” said Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together. “I wish I’d started investing earlier with something as simple as Roth IRA in college.”
6. Don’t fear the stock market
Doing something that scares you can be a good thing for your finances. Novice investors are often scared of the stock market, but just by getting started, even on a small scale, you’re furthering your financial life. That’s why Tom Hegna — financial author, speaker and economist — thinks you should invest in the stock market. Certified financial planner Jeff Rose concurs.
“Invest sooner,” said Rose. “I started investing at 24, but I started working when I was 16 and could have invested a little bit of money sooner.”
7. Now, invest even more
“Invest in the market, and lock in gains by purchasing income,” Hegna said. “Once you have your basic expenses covered with income, buy more.”
By making wise investments now, you can create income for yourself in retirement to supplement Social Security, allowing you to live a more comfortable life in retirement.
8. Invest in yourself
In addition to making financial investments, it’s important to invest in yourself by learning everything you can about personal finance so you can create a financial plan that works for you.
“No one will care about your financial success as much as you will,” said Marsha Barnes, certified financial social worker and founder of The Finance Bar. “Learn as much as you can today.”
It’s easy to write-off personal finance as confusing, but you’re only hurting yourself. The sooner you take the time to learn some money basics, the sooner you can use this knowledge to plan out short- and long-term goals.
9. Listen to yourself and take action
“Figure out what you want in life, then make decisions based around this goal,” said J.D. Roth, founder of the financial website Get Rich Slowly. “Once I got clear on what my larger aims were, I was able to make financial decisions that supported these goals.”
When you know exactly what you’re saving for, it motivates you to stick to your goals and work even harder.
10. Don’t waste time worrying
And don’t let fear get in the way of going after what you want, said Jen Sincero, New York Times bestselling author and success coach.
“Worrying is praying for what you don’t want, so stop worrying about money and focus on what you do want,” she said.
Related: 15 Money Habits That Are Making Millennials Rich
11. Remember that money isn’t everything
Although you need money to cover expenses and other life necessities, it isn’t the be-all and end-all. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for what you deserve.
“Ask for more money and learn to negotiate as soon as possible,” said money expert Brittney Castro. “[But] don’t chase money, because it’s not the holy grail. Enjoy it. Make lots of it. But always remember it’s a resource, not an indication of who or what you are in the world.”
12. Don’t let money define you
Dominique Broadway, a millennial personal finance expert and founder of Finances Demystified, agreed that money doesn’t define you or your success.
“Do not link money with success,” she said. “Money can come and go. Focus on saving and growing your money, and don’t focus on ‘shiny things’ to keep up with other people.”