Most Gen Zers are still in high school or college, but that doesn’t mean it is too early for them to understand and plan for their financial future.
Establishing a strong financial foundation earlier will make it easier to save, invest, and spend wisely well into adulthood and even retirement.
At college-age or younger, Gen Zers likely have few financial assets and a low or unstable income, so huge financial goals like saving for a down payment on a house don’t make sense at this phase. Instead, Gen Z should focus on understanding basic financial concepts and putting these into practice as best they can.
Below are some of our best financial tips for Gen Z:
1. Understand basic financial concepts
Before embarking on any financial venture, it is crucial for Gen Zers to have a solid grasp of basic financial concepts.
There are plenty of online resources devoted to explaining concepts like annual income, lines of credit, and the difference between a checking and savings account. Reading through these articles, which are often geared toward younger audiences, can help finances be fun and easy to understand.
Of course, reading about financial concepts isn’t nearly enough to make them stick. It needs to be paired with practical activities that demonstrate the concepts in action—like the ones listed below.
2. Get a part-time job
It will be much easier to understand financial concepts when they can be applied to real money. Getting a part-time job gives Gen Zers their own cash that they can take ownership of and feel a real responsibility for using wisely.
This job can be as simple as a few weekly babysitting gigs or a couple of shifts at the local ice cream shop—just enough to provide a basis for other financial tasks.
3. Create a basic budget
Budgeting is the cornerstone of any financial plan, so establishing a budget is the first thing to do once there is money to spend.
Despite the fact that most Americans don’t save enough for retirement and later years, Gen Zs are more conservative with their spending which may help them benefit from long-term investment and build trust funds for loved ones.
As with education on financial topics, there are plenty of budgeting resources, templates, and apps available for every level of budgeting experience.
Gen Zers don’t need a complex budget. Starting with simple categories of saving and spending, and then thinking of a couple of important things that spending should go to is a good start.
It can be as simple as spending categories for hobbies, food, and fun activities with friends.
4. Start saving
Regardless of income, every Gen Zer should start practicing saving as soon as possible. Automatically saving a portion of every paycheck will establish strong saving habits early, which will pay off hugely later in life.
It might help Gen Zers to think of a relatively short-term savings goal to work toward. Establishing an emergency fund might work for older Gen Zers, but in high school or early college, this concept might seem too fruitless to be effective.
Saving for college, a car, or a long-desired trip can cement the principle of saving by having a reward that seems within reach.
5. Practice paying bills
An essential financial habit is paying bills on time, in full, every month. Most Gen Zers don’t have extensive bills, but finding one relevant bill to practice paying each month can establish this habit well.
This could be their phone bill, car insurance, or even the family Netflix subscription. Paying a bill, even a small one, helps develop the mindset that essentials aren’t free, and these necessities must be prioritized before fun and frivolity.
6. Apply for a credit card
Gen Zers can start establishing credit early on by applying for a low credit limit card designed specifically for students.
Plenty of banks offer these introductory cards, and it is a great way to start understanding the concept of credit, which can be a tricky one to master. Applying for a credit card builds on the foundational concepts of budgeting and paying bills and starts to introduce the concepts of debt and interest in a more practical and concrete way.
Additionally, older lines of credit that have continually been in good standing have a positive impact on credit scores, which will have a ripple effect on future life events such as car loans, rental applications, and even some jobs.
7. Make a plan to minimize debt
The best way to manage debt is to never go into it in the first place.
Avoiding debt entirely is an increasingly difficult feat for younger generations, but by understanding debt and thinking about it early, Gen Zers can strategically decide whether or not to go into debt. They can make decisions about student loans, car loans, and the like.
Workers who are able to minimize debt are often more productive in their roles and healthier in general. By keeping debt low, members of this younger generation might benefit from an increased focus on the job rather than feeling worried about bills.
An important financial principle for all Gen Zers to understand early is to consistently avoid credit card debt. Once you get into it, it is difficult to escape, so spend wisely and pay off credit cards early.
One way to minimize debt might be deciding to only have one credit card account to make it as simple as possible to stay on top of credit card spending.
8. Dabble in low-risk investments
For the extra savvy Gen Zer, starting some low-risk investments can be a huge head start on retirement savings and lifelong financial security.
Keep in mind that there may be some limitations to investing as a minor, but with a parent or guardian’s help, any Gen Zer can start to invest their money. Gen Zers may consider buying a few low-risk stocks, a low-cost index fund, or a Roth IRA. Even small investments at this point are a smart move, as they have more and more time to grow.
Even Gen Zs aren’t too young to start making smart moves to secure their financial future. There are hundreds of resources to learn about basic financial concepts and put those into action before their financial assets become bigger and more complex.
Gen Zers who start saving, investing, and making a plan to minimize debt in 2020 will set themselves up for a financially fruitful life.
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Samuel Kaye is a contributing editor for 365 Business Tips and writes about a variety of topics ranging from content marketing strategy to business development to help entrepreneurs and business owners grow their ventures.