credit & debt

7 Financial Tips From Money-Smart Young Women

Janet Bodnar asks twentysomethings to share what financial advice has been most helpful to them.

Personal-finance magazines aren’t thought to be high on the list of required reading for women in their twenties. So when one of my colleagues told me that her friend Rachel Voss, 25, is a big fan of Kiplinger’s, I gave Rachel a call.

Rachel freely admits that she began reading Kiplinger’s and because her friend works here. But then she got hooked. Not only is she a subscriber, but she’s also a fan on our Facebook page, posts our stories on her own Facebook page, and e-mails Web articles to her family and friends.

So what is it about Kiplinger’s that appeals to this money-smart young woman?

“The material you cover is aimed at everyone,” says Rachel. For example, she likes our money calendar because "it tells you what you should be doing each month, so you can pick and choose." That’s how she learned the best time to buy a car.

In addition, she says, our practical advice on making simple adjustments in your spending (see Save Money on Practically Everything) and your taxes (see How to Adjust Your Tax Withholding) can save money and lead to a big long-term payoff.

That’s music to my ears as an editor, a columnist who writes about young people and money, and the author of a book called Money Smart Women. Rachel inspired me to ask other young women who work at Kiplinger what’s the most helpful (or surprising) thing they’ve learned since coming here, and what’s the best financial guidance they’d give their friends. In addition to Rachel’s tip to start with small steps, here’s what they said:

Pay yourself first. "Be your own number-one fan and take care of yourself so no one else has to."

Keep tabs on your credit. “The most helpful thing I’ve learned is how to monitor my credit report and credit score (see Boost Your Credit Score in 2 Easy Steps). Knowing that has really motivated me to manage my credit-card debt a lot better."

Build a solid emergency fund. "That way you don’t have to rely on your credit card (or your parents) if you get in a jam."

It’s okay to talk about money with your significant other. Stacy Rapacon, who writes our Starting Out column, says that learning that money isn’t taboo is "especially important to understand right before heading into marriage." (See 4 Critical Money Questions to Ask Before You Get Married.)

You have financial options for everything. That means saving, investing, debt-repayment and, yes, even what to do with your 401(k) plan.

Personal finance is empowering. "Discovering where to get the best deals on interest rates, travel destinations, financial services and everything else you buy really helps you do more with your money."

In the view of my informal focus group, one of their generation’s biggest money-management problems is wanting "the best of the best" right away ("It blows my mind that some of my friends can spend $40 at a bar in one night," says one of my sources. )

Another money pitfall: College grads often head immediately to an expensive city, such as New York or Washington, D.C., without "being aware of how many more expenses you have and how much more complicated your finances can get as you get older." (See 6 Questions to Find the Best City for Generation Y.)

One overall observation was that most of their friends "don’t see the big picture quite yet" and are "living for the moment." Says Rachel, "You need to get the word out to college grads that Kiplinger’s is their road map to financial success." Happy to oblige, Rachel.

And here’s a bonus: "Your knowledge of investing acronyms will make you popular with the crossword-playing crowd," says one staffer.

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