Don’t go broke child: 6 essential finance tips for the young and melanated
I’ve been fortunate enough to have some pretty financially savvy adults in my life. My grandparents and great grandparents have been spitting money knowledge my way since I was still crawling in a diaper and kente cloth baby booties. As any other young adult, I was often reluctant to such business talk. After all, what 16-year-old wants to hear about the benefits of a Roth IRA or the definition of compound interest? I loved to drown out their financial lectures with the clicking of the buttons on my flip phone and blasting Nelly in my headphones, because let’s face it, money talk can be awfully boring
Then, I graduated college. With a fresh diploma clutched in my hand, I was wide-eyed and ready to face the adult world. I immediately locked down a job with a company Forbes magazine referred to as the “most innovative company in the world.” I went to the car lot with my mom and picked out a shiny sports car for me to cruise around the city in. I browsed apartments, taking preference for anything with high ceilings, wood floors, and beautiful downtown views of the city so I could appropriately plot my black girl magic dominance. I felt like "
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My trip on cloud nine ended the same time student loan bills appeared in my mailbox. There were taxes, insurance, and heaps of other expenses that I never would have anticipated all needed my attention and money. All my grandparents could do was shake their heads and sip their tea while looking at me wallow in my own ignorance. Surprisingly, the “I told you so’s" never came. Instead, they sat me down and slid a pen and paper across the table. My grandmother raised an eyebrow at me and the look on her face said it all; it was time that I finally soak in the financial information that I’d been ignoring for 23 years.
Or, in her words, “Don’t go broke child.”
From numerous conversations with my family, interviews with local influencers, and a few financial advisors, here's a list of six valuable pieces of financial advice for any young adult who wants to move toward financial freedom (or just not go broke, child).
1. Don’t ignore your student loans.
Whatever option you go with, just be sure that you are proactive. Too many months of ignoring your student loan payments as they rack up could throw you into default. So as daunting as it might seem to rip open that envelope when it lands in your mailbox six months after graduation, do it.
2. Live at home.
Renting your own place is overrated at best, and ridiculously, cripplingly expensive at worst. The monthly out-of-pocket expense is never what it seems, especially when you’re spending money on things you never expected. Parking fees, laundry, renters insurance and maintenance fees are just a few overlooked costs of living on your own. And don’t think you’ll get your deposit back after your landlord realizes that coconut oil and shea butter is forever engraved on the bathroom walls from your wash days.
When you land your first job out of college, resist the urge to search for high rise penthouses or condos by the marina. Grasp an understanding of what your true budget will be before committing to a lease.
3. Invest in your retirement.
Retirement seems so far away. Frankly, it is. At least for a 20-something with endless possibilities and the world at our disposal. To put it simply though, you have two options. You can ignore the fact that time will pass and that at some point, you won’t be 20-something, and end up working well into old age to make up for the lack of funds in your 401k and Roth IRA.
Another option would be to start putting money aside early, retire when you want (possibly early), and spend your golden years traveling the world and having your daily expenses covered. I was tempted to neglect the retirement plans that my company offered and worry about my retirement later. Then I watched as my grandparents took off on planes and cruises across the world, bringing back trinkets from Cuba and beyond. If your company offers retirement options, take them and don’t look back. You’ll thank me when we’re both retired, happy, toasting our piña
4. Walk away from the new car.
It’s understandable that you don’t want to pull up to your new job on your sister’s old Razor scooter. That said, it’s not a good idea to go straight to the car lot and pick out a brand new car, especially if you just got a new job. For one, it could make you look impulsive and irresponsible to your senior managers and co-workers who park their 10-year-old Toyota Camrys next to your shiny new expensive car. My personal experience showed me that my seniors who made triple my salary tended to drive the modest vehicles on the lot. This made me rethink my ambitions of pulling up to the office in a brand new Camaro, and forced me to consider a more humble transportation option.
Take a page out of Alfred Morris’ book. Morris is a millionaire running back for the Dallas Cowboys, who can be seen whipping around Texas in his ‘91 Mazda.
Use that money that you were going to use as a down payment on a new car and find a cheap reliable vehicle to take you from point A to point B. Some Febreze and an AUX cord (or one of those cassette player AUX plugs) is all you need to make it yours.
5. Watch your credit.
For the love of Beyoncé, please check your credit. There are too many free websites out there for a person to not know what their credit score is. It’s not an arbitrary number that’s only relevant when you feel like buying a house in ten years. It’s what will determine whether or not you can even have the house or car that you want in the future. Luckily, keeping track of your credit is relatively simple.
Don’t go crazy with credit cards. This is not to say that credit cards are forbidden; in fact, having some line of credit is beneficial because it increases your credit history. But a credit card isn’t free money, and it’s not a golden ticket to filling your closet with the latest digs and taking a Eurotrip every three months. If you do decide to get a credit card, pay off the balance in full every month. If you want to build your credit up, I suggest getting a credit card for small recurring purchases such as a Netflix account or gas costs. This will make it easy to pay off the amount in full every single month.
6. Enjoy your life.
Right now, you’re the youngest you’ll ever be. Following the tips above will save you plenty of money in your first few years out of college. Sit down with a financial advisor to determine where you’d like to place your money and how much you should save out of every check. He or she should point you in the direction of high yield savings accounts, stocks, and other decent investment options.
Saving money and making smart financial decisions doesn’t need to be painstakingly boring. Having exciting, reasonable rewards for your hard work and dedication will serve as a reminder to what financial freedom will offer you in the future.
I learned a lot from my family and from my community. I can detangle my curly ‘fro in a matter of minutes, whip up some decent gumbo, and make the quick distinction between Nu jazz and neo-swing jazz. In addition to the other rich parts of our culture that we pass down through generations, we millennials are responsible for pouring useful financial information into our communities as well.