How to Invest in Your 20s: A Guide for Millennials

Most people in their 20s might think investing can seem like an impossible task. You’re often just starting off in your career and might be struggling to get by with an entry-level salary. Or, you’re still in college working a part-time job. Others who are later in their 20s might feel overwhelmed with where to start investing and how to make it worthwhile.

Whatever your financial situation is, there’s one thing to remember about investing — the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. If you’re struggling to get started, read on. We’ll lay the groundwork for you (in terms you can understand without a finance degree!)

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Before getting started

1. Understand your goals and options

It might seem obvious, but before you start, you should sit down and understand your current financial situation. Until you know what kind of money you’re working with, it can be hard to make a goal or understand how much money you can afford to invest. Before you dive head first into ETFs and ticker symbols, you should set yourself up for any unexpected expenses. Experts recommend first saving an emergency fund that can help you through unforeseen life circumstances like a medical bill or temporary unemployment. The amount you set aside will depend on where you’re at in your life and how much you need to pay in monthly expenses. Anywhere from $1,000 to 3-6 months of living expenses is recommended.

2. Make plans based on short, mid, and long-term goals

Once you have a better picture of your finances in the present day, think about what you’d like your finances to look like in the future. Do you want to buy a house one day? How much do houses in your city cost? How about taking a vacation? How much will it cost to visit that city on your bucket list?

As you plan out your goals, you should categorize them into short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Short-term goals are ones you hope to accomplish in the next year or two. You’ll aim to achieve mid-term goals 5 to 10 years from now, and long-term goals are ones you’d like to accomplish in 10 years or more. While things like retirement are down the road, more immediate goals like saving for a new car or house will also help set you up for financial success. Planning for these should start now – not when your car finally dies and you realize you need a new one.

Four (4) Easy ways to invest in your 20s

As you start investing, it’s important not to overthink or overcomplicate your decisions. There are a lot of resources and tools at your disposal if you’re new to investing that will allow you to “set it and forget it” when it comes to investing. Starting simple is always better.

Here are some easy ways to get started. Trust us – your future self will thank you.

1. Make it automatic

One of the easiest ways to start saving money is to make it automatic. Whether it’s a savings account or a 401K, putting these contributions on auto-pilot will allow the money to transfer over without ever hitting your spending accounts. If you’re not already doing this, you can easily designate within your employer’s payroll department where you’d like your paycheck to go. Once you set this up, a portion of your pay can automatically get sent to the savings accounts you’ve designated. This is a great way to sit back and watch the deposits add up without having to lift a finger.

2. Contribute to your employer’s 401k (up to match, if offered)

While retirement is likely decades away, the sooner you start saving for it, the more compounding interest you’ll earn — aka, the more your money will grow without lifting a finger! This is the easiest way to start building your assets in your 20s. Using this handy calculator from the U.S. Securities and Exchange website, you can see how much your investment will earn in compounding interest. With time on your side, the possibility of growth should encourage you to start now in your 20s. Not only will your money earn interest, but you’ll also get tax advantages when it comes time to withdraw it, depending on your account type.

If your employer offers to match part of your 401K contribution, and you’re not taking advantage of it, you’re leaving free money on the table! Who wants to do that? While it differs by company, you should contribute at least the same amount your employer will match. It’s one of the fastest ways to grow your retirement accounts. If you cannot immediately contribute to the entire match percent, work your way up to that contribution. And if you get a raise, it’s recommended to increase your contribution to your 401K proportionally.

3. Use a robo advisor

Thanks to technology, investing has never been easier. If you want to start investing but don’t want to pick and choose your investments manually, a robo advisor is a great place to start. These institutions will charge a low monthly fee and allocate your money based on your goals. You’ve probably heard of some like Acorns or Ellevest, which target a lot of their marketing to 20-somethings just starting out in their financial journey. They also offer automatic deposit options, allowing one more way to streamline your savings.

4. Don’t be afraid to take risks (or ask for help)

When you’re just starting out investing, you have a long runway to take risks and adjust your contribution as you get closer to your target dates. Because of that, you’re more able to weather downturns or instability in the market. Don’t be afraid to take risks in your investments, and talk to an advisor about what’s recommended based on your goals. There are resources out there to guide you through any questions you have and can advise you on the best way to invest for your specific situation.

Investing doesn’t have to be complicated. And even starting small will pay off years down the road. Remember to stay patient, keep yourself educated, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Trust us – the most challenging part is getting started. From there, you’ll develop systems and processes to save for the future tomorrow, and years from now.

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