Top 10 Financial Goals for Gen Y and Considerations for Each


Being in your 20s and 30s means experiencing many life milestones — and watching your peers go through the same. With all the exciting, new, and different things happening to you and your friends, it’s easy to get swept up and not consider the financial impacts of setting and achieving major goals.

To prepare yourself and your budget, think about these top 10 financial goals for Gen Y, and what you’ll need to consider when working to accomplish each one.

Paying for a Wedding

Whether you want a small wedding or a big one, weddings are deeply personal events that often go beyond just what the bride and groom want. For many people, weddings bring together family members across the country (or world) who haven’t seen each other for years.

That said, weddings can be expensive. According to The Knot’s 2014 Real Weddings Survey, newlyweds shell out $31,000 on average for a ceremony and reception. While many parents still share the cost of weddings, younger generations increasingly choose to pay for the entire event themselves.

Setting a budget and not allowing anything to push you over it will go a long way to keeping costs down and retaining your sanity. Along with a budget, make a list of your priorities. Keep that list in mind so you can say “no” to many of the extra other people say you “should” have.

Expanding Your Family

Kids are costly, but you can save now to financially prepare for the arrival of a new baby. Here are a few actions to take now:

  • Build a bigger emergency fund.
  • Make sure you have the right insurance with proper coverage.
  • Carefully consider what you really need for a new baby, and pick up what you require secondhand or from family members.

And one last thing to consider: kids don’t have to cost you a certain amount. How you choose to raise your family will have a big impact on your expenses.

Buying a New Home

A good rule of thumb before purchasing a new house is to save up at least 20% for your down payment. (That means if your ideal first home is in the $150,000 range, you’ll want to try to save $30,000.)

Yes, 20% is a big sum. But there’s a reason why it’s helpful to try and hit this number. For one, you’ll avoid PMI, or private mortgage insurance. This is an additional monthly fee on top of your mortgage payment. If you put down 20%, those mortgage payments will also be lower, and you’ll likely secure a better interest rate from a lender.

If a new house is on your financial goals list, make sure that purchasing a property really makes sense for you. Do you plan to stay in one place for at least 5 years? Do you earn enough to not only pay for the mortgage, but also to account for property taxes, homeowner’s insurance. and regular maintenance and repairs? Make sure you consider these issues before house hunting.

Making a Career Change

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person hold about 10 different jobs before the age of 40. Gen Y may have even more job changes, given how we value flexibility and mobility.

If you’re planning a career change, it’s best to get your financial house in order first. Depending on if you want to make a total career change, or just get something new in your field, you’ll still have similar financial concerns:

  • Cost of re-training: If you need to go back to school, factor in admissions costs, books, and tuition
  • An increase or decrease in salary: If it’s an increase, make sure to save at least 10% of your new salary for retirement. If it’s a decrease, be sure you can live on the reduced salary so that there are no surprises when you receive your new, smaller paycheck
  • Moving for your job: If you need to move for your job, consider everything you need to do before you leave. Will you need to sell your house? Can you sell most of your things? How will you transport your car or pets?

Paying Down Debt

Many Millennials have debt, but not all debt is created equal. If you have high-interest credit card debt, this should be one of the first things you try to pay off. Even if your credit card debt is smaller in relation to other debt, paying off high-interest debt is imperative — it’s costing you the most.

If you don’t have any very high interest credit card debt or already achieved paying that down, look at your other debts and decide the most effective way to repay them. You can try the debt avalanche or debt snowball methods, depending on how you feel about the money you owe.

As you pay off your debts incrementally, put your “extra” payments to new debt. For example, if you paid $150 a month to a $2,000 debt, but recently paid it off, put that $150 toward another debt in addition to the amount you’re paying now. You won’t miss the money (because you’re used to utilizing it for debt repayment), and you’ll increase the speed at which you pay off your outstanding debts.

Building an Emergency Fund

Your emergency fund can protect you from the unexpected, and it’s critical to have one in place. Ideally, you can aim to save three to six months’ worth of net expenses. If you have dependents, or work as a freelancer with irregular income, you’ll want to save a little more.

You can keep this cash in a liquid account so it’s easily accessible when you need it. Remember that you don’t have to achieve your goal in a short period of time — it’s more important to simply start saving for emergencies, even if it’s just $10, $50, or $100 at a time.

Making Room in Your Budget for Travel

The most important consideration for saving up enough money to travel is that this is something you prioritize. You can afford to do what it most important to you, but you may not be able to afford everything you want to do.

Consider establishing a travel fund, and deposit extra savings, bonuses, and gifts in this account. You can even consider starting a side gig with the goal of funding a trip with those extra earnings.

Saving for Retirement

Although retirement is years away for most of Gen Y, it’s an important milestone to consider today. If your employer offers a savings vehicle, like a 401(k), with a match, be sure to contribute as much as you can to get the match. If you’re not getting your employer match, you’re letting free money get away! You can also open your own traditional IRA or Roth IRA.

When it comes to determining how much you should save, it’s important to think about the kind of future you want. What would you love to do in retirement? Do you want to retire early? Would you rather achieve financial independence?

Answering these questions will help you determine how much to put into your accounts each month. A good rule of thumb to start with is at least 10% of your gross income. Then work up from there.

Starting Your Own Business

Many Millennials want to take control of their work and run their own businesses — and it’s possible to achieve! Before you take the leap into entrepreneurship, however, make sure you’ve considered some of the following:

  • Do you have a business plan? It doesn’t need to be complex but you should understand what your business goals are and how you’ll achieve them.
  • What services or products will you offer? How will you get your first clients?
  • How much will you charge?
  • Do you have separate bank accounts set up for business finances?
  • Do you know how much you need to pay in taxes?
  • What does your emergency fund look like? Are you prepared for slow months?
  • How will you budget with a variable income?
  • Do you know how you’ll save for retirement?

You also need to put together a team of professionals, like a financial planner, CPA, and attorney, who can help you manage the financial side of your business.

Buying a New Car

There are many considerations to take into account when you get a new car (and only some of them have to do with how cool your car is on the inside). You need to determine whether you’ll buy new or used, or if it makes more sense in your situation to lease.

You’ll also want to decide how much cash you’ll put down, or if you’ll finance your car at all. Get quotes for auto insurance, as well — even if you find a great deal on your dream car, the monthly insurance costs could make owning the vehicle more expensive than you bargained for.

While you may not plan on having every milestone on this list, it’s always important to be prepared for what’s to come financially. However you decide to approach the big decisions in your life, make sure you carefully consider what you’ll need to achieve your goals and the plan of action you want to take.

Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP® is an author, speaker, and financial coach who takes a fun, no-nonsense approach in working with individuals and couples across the country, helping them make smart choices with their money.

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