Between paying all your bills, advancing in your career and maintaining a social life, your 20s can get busy. Now add "save 25 percent of your income" to that list.
It can feel overwhelming. Actually, saving anything in your 20s can feel overwhelming.
Luckily, the most important thing to do money-wise in your 20s isn't to save a certain amount or invest a particular way. It's to develop a willingness to have tough conversations with yourself and make sacrifices in the name of financial health, Kimmie Greene, money expert at Intuit and spokeswoman for Mint.com, tells CNBC Make It.
"The choices don't get easier as your salary increases," she says.
As you get older, the money dilemmas you face will morph for sure, but earning a higher salary won't make it any easier to choose the responsible route over the fun one. In addition to deciding between going out to dinner or splurging on a $30 barre class, you also could push off saving to buy a house, pay for daycare or fund a college savings account.
"It's part of the mindset when you're young," Greene says. "It's 'Oh, when I get that next job and I get a $10,000 bump in my salary, then I'll start doing these things,' but that's really not the reality."
The financial consequences of mismanaging your money only become more pressing, so it's important to develop good habits early. Be proud of taking control of your finances, even when it's not glamorous. Sure, an emergency fund isn't as luxurious as a newly renovated apartment, but when your car breaks down or you need an emergency dental procedure, you'll be glad you have the freedom to take care of it without going into debt.
To stay on top of even bigger goals, such as becoming a homeowner or having kids, Greene recommends using a tool like Mint, where you can visualize and track your long-term savings goals.
When you're young, start saving what you can, even if it's only 5 percent of your salary, not 25 percent. The key is to stick with it and make what could be hard into a habit.
"Even if it's just your rainy day fund your first year or just what your company's matching [in your 401(k)], if that's all you can do in year one, that's huge," Greene says. "That's going to make it that much easier to do 12 percent or 15 percent the next year."
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