As a millennial financial advisor, Sophia Bera is apparently on a mission to help people just like herself: those getting started with their professional lives and looking to build some wealth.
Bera is a certified financial planner who works with clients in their 20s and 30s. She helps them navigate through big life decisions, such as buying a home, paying off student loans, maximizing their company benefits and investing in their future. Millennials make up 75 percent of her clientele, and she says she has witnessed many mistakes by young people that can and should be avoided.
Bera, who quit her job at a start-up to launch her own firm, Gen Y Planning, urges her younger, millennial clients to avoid the same mistakes she did when she was their age. She believes a major part of leaving college life behind and moving into adulthood is taking control of your cash and setting up financial goals for the decades ahead.
It's for that reason Bera urges young investors to maximize benefits of their employer's 401(k) plans, researching to see if they offer a company match.
A big mistake Bera sees from younger investors is not fully understanding the benefits of a 401(k) plan. "Many firms will match your 401(k) contribution [up to a specific percentage]," she said. "It's free money that you are leaving on the table if you don't take advantage of the match."
Other mistakes she sees millennials making include not paying off high-interest-rate credit card debt and not having any emergency savings.
She urges young investors to take control of credit card debt and pay it off as quickly as possible. If you do max out your credit card, you're going to trigger an annual percentage rate penalty that can be very costly, Bera explained.
She also urges her young clients to set money aside for emergencies. She believes you should have at least three months' income stashed away to cover those financial surprises that life throws at us. These unexpected events, such as a job loss, medical bills or other major expenses, can be stressful and costly.
Bera believes avoiding money mistakes when you're young will set you up for a successful financial future.