Personal Finance

How millennials can ease their financial worries

How much do millennials really know about finance?
How much do millennials really know about finance?

Millennials may still have decades of earnings ahead of them and plenty of time to save for retirement, but many are still worried about their financial futures.

Nearly four in 10 said they worry about their financial future at least once a week, according to recent study from Fidelity. Financial advisors say the anxiety may spring from a lack of financial know-how.

Most schools still don't have financial literacy programs in place and many parents are reluctant to have conversations with kids about money, said Judith Ward, a financial planner at T. Rowe Price. As a result, she said, "millennials don't know where to start."

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"Financial literacy is a huge problem," said Chantel Bonneau, a financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual. "It's really constantly surprising to recognize how people don't know the important aspects of this topic."

One of the first questions Bonneau asks when meeting with a new client is, "On a monthly basis, what does it take to live your life?" Her millennial clients either give her a pretty specific number, meaning that they have a grasp on what they spend, or "they will literally stare at me and then after about 20 seconds of silence say '$3,000?' as if asking a question," she said.

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It isn't that people don't want to have their finances in order, but there is a just a disconnect between good intentions and following through with the actions, Bonneau said. A recent study by Northwestern Mutual highlighted the disconnect reporting that 58 percent of Americans believe their financial planning needs improvement, and 21 percent are "not at all confident" they'll be able to reach their financial goals.

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Both Ward and Bonneau suggest one of the best places for millennials to start is understanding their budget and how cash flow works. They should know their monthly expenses, what they bring in after taxes each month and compare those figures to a regular budget. Mobile apps, such as GoodBudget, Mint and Wally, can help users easily track expenses and build a budget.

Once you have your budget cleaned up, Bonneau recommends setting money aside for emergency fund and retirement accounts, such as a 401(k) plan or IRA, as soon as possible because "we live longer and the responsibility for retirement savings falls on the individual."