Millennials. The fittest generation ever when it comes to kale and yoga, but the least financially healthy when it comes to debt and home-buying. The good news is that despite their well-documented financial struggles, a recent study indicated that most Millennials living in metropolitan areas can actually afford to buy homes-- but lingering memories of the housing crisis are keeping them in rentals instead. Your generation's woes indicate that getting out of debt and accumulating wealth is as much a mental game as it is a money game. But it's a game you can win--with a little bit of training. When it comes to getting financially fit, here's a basic workout you should follow.
If the thought of loans gives you leg cramps, you're not alone. However, before taking on any type of loan, it's essential to educate yourself on the different types available to you before making a commitment. You should also have a clear understanding of your credit score before starting a fiscal fitness plan. Think of your credit score as your "starting weight". There are 5 key factors that influence your credit score: payment history, current debt level, the length of your credit history, how many different types of credit you are using, and new credit. To qualify you for a loan, lenders will assess your credit score and your Debt-to-Income ratio. If you're thinking about buying a home, try to pay down as much student debt as you can first to improve your Debt-to-Income ratio and your credit score.
Go For A Healthy Debt Diet
All debt is not bad, when it's borrowed in a healthy way. And healthy borrowing starts by investing in yourself first. Furthering your education is the best way to invest in yourself and increase your value in the job market. If you're thinking of buying a home, evaluate the risks and make a plan. Are you financially prepared to take on the debt of a mortgage? Have you evaluated all of the options available to you? Can you put down at least 20% of the home price to secure a favorable rate? These are some essential questions you should be asking yourself throughout your assessment. It isn't easy to take on debt, but in the long run, healthy debt can pay off.
Don't Feel Sore About Repayment
Many Millennials incur debt through student loans, but there's no reason to feel sore. The first step to financial health is to make peace with the fact that your debt is a part of your life. Focus on your personal situation and come to terms with what your debt means for you. Research your options and consider what each repayment plan means, taking into account the length of repayment and how you might accelerate your plan as your income increases. If you have a lot of student loan debt, see if there are ways to save money or make your payments more manageable by looking into consolidation, refinancing, or income-based repayment for government-issued federal student loans. Ultimately, you want to make sure that you're paying off your higher interest rates first and making sure that your payments are actually applied to the principal balance. Be diligent with your payments or the entire process will drag on-- and the sooner your big debts are gone, the sooner you'll be more financially healthy, stable and secure.
Work On Your Tech-nique
There's tons of technology available to help you pump up your financial muscles. Budgeting apps like Mint, Spendee, BUDGT, Level and Check can help you keep daily tabs on how much you're saving and spending. To learn how to be financially fit, online learning portals like Khan Academy and LearnVest offer full financial bootcamps. When it comes to sources of financing, technology is giving rise to a wider and more transparent spectrum of lenders, from not-for-profit credit union networks like cuStudentLoans.org to crowdsourced lending startups like Lending Club. One of the best money management tools available is automatic payment. Schedule your student loan payments, and if possible, make saving automatic by having part of your paycheck diverted into a savings account.
Post-Workout: Stretch and Save
You should start saving as soon as your first paycheck. Don't be discouraged if you can only save a small amount each month. The secret to maintaining a healthy weight is willpower; it's about monitoring calories in versus calories out. Being fiscally fit requires careful monitoring of money in versus money out by preparing and living according to a budget. Get balanced by creating your own balance sheet, and spend in moderation. It's the small things you do now--your daily stretching and saving--that will pay off financially in the long run.