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Making It in Your 20s: Practical Tips for Breaking Out on Your Own

Early to mid 20-somethings have earned the name “Generation Resilient” due to setbacks they’ve faced in attempting to finish an education or enter the workforce during this pandemic. But while these last two years have been hard on young adults, the future looks bright. In fact, 62 percent of Gen Zers feel their generation will create positive change, with 59 percent wanting to save more money, 46 percent agreeing their values and beliefs are expanding, and 40 percent planning to rethink their career goals, reports the State of Gen Z survey.

Of course, no matter what your ambitions are for the future, the first step to achieve them is breaking out on your own and becoming part of the “real world.” This can cause both fear and excitement, but it doesn’t have to be too daunting if you plan ahead for success. Below are some practical, actionable tips for building a secure foundation in this next chapter of life. From handling your finances and expenses to embarking on your first job search, these strategies will help you thrive just like the resilient 20-something you are.

Get Creative to Afford Your Living Expenses.

Whether you’re still in college or about to enter the post-grad life, you need a place to live with affordable rent that won’t drain your savings account each month. If this is your first time hunting for apartments, there are many financial considerations to think about. Before you sign a lease, you’ll be responsible for a security deposit, application and background check fees, rental insurance, the first month’s rent payment, utilities and, in some cases, parking and pet fees. It can be stressful when you crunch the numbers, but here are some resourceful ways to budget for those living expenses, so you don’t feel overwhelmed:

Use a rent affordability calculator to work out how much you can spend on an apartment, then create a budget to stay on-track with expenses.
Find a roommate to share the monthly rent, utilities and other living expenses with.
Choose a location in walking distance to grocery stores, public transit stations or even where you work to curb spending in other areas.
Be on the lookout for move-in discount specials that some apartment complexes offer.
Re-examine your subscription services and cancel those you don’t use or can’t afford.
Conserve water, electricity, internet and HVAC usage to lower the cost of utilities.
Furnish the apartment by shopping at thrift stores and Facebook Marketplace.
Consolidate your debt or find an extra income stream to pay it off quicker. Many side-hustles can be managed from home in your free time.

Take Advantage of the Current Job Market.

After more than a year of mass furloughs and layoffs, career outlooks are on the rebound. In August 2021, the unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent, and the average monthly job growth reached 586,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As a young adult on the cusp of starting your career, this is the time to infiltrate the job market. More companies are now able to rehire after having lost much of their workforce to COVID budget cuts, so take this opportunity to pound the pavement. Here are some tips on how to package yourself as a valuable job candidate who will stand out above the competition:

Be proactive in updating your resumé, optimizing your LinkedIn profile, and reaching out to establish connections with employers.
Register to attend as many virtual networking events as possible to make yourself visible among job recruiters and business leaders.
Think about practical, effective ways to market yourself as a brand. Enroll in an online course to upskill your qualifications. Become certified in a particular area of specialty. Cultivate your interpersonal, team-player strengths.
Showcase the relevant experience you’ve gained from classrooms, extra-curricular activities, internships, work-study programs or summer jobs.
Don’t limit your search to a specific location—with the remote work trend, you can now look for positions all around the country.

Be Intentional About Saving and Investing.

In 2020, young adults between 19 and 24 years old scored an average of 71 percent on a national financial literacy test, according to the FinancialEducatorsCouncil.org. This data shows that many Gen Zers need to improve in both knowledge and confidence of money management, but there’s no time like the present to grow in this area. Once you learn how to maintain a consistent budget, keep unnecessary spending to a minimum and build a savings account and work towards your investment goals.

If you’re not quite sure how to do this, here are a few strategies to start you off on the path to long-term financial freedom:

Identify the major goals and milestones you want to save for—a paid off vehicle or student loans, a dream vacation, or a house down payment, for example.
Focus on eliminating debt as soon as you’re able to, so the rest of your income after expenses can be set aside to help save for these financial goals.
Put $1,000 in an emergency fund when possible, then contribute 10 percent of each paycheck to this account until you have 3–6 months of expenses saved.
Open a retirement account (a 401K through your workplace or an independent IRA), then contribute 10–15 percent of your income to this account each year.
Talk to a financial advisor about creating an investment portfolio, or if that’s not affordable currently, use an investing app such as M1 Finance, Robinhood or Webull. These tools will help you determine where to invest for maximum yield (i.e. stocks, bonds, mutual funds, high-yield accounts, exchange trade funds, etc.).

Break Out on Your Own Confidently and Successfully.

This stage of life is chock-full of lessons, adventures, experiences and possibilities. So plan for success and navigate your twenties with these practical tips to guide you. The world has changed so much in these last couple years, but you have the resilience, tenacity and skillsets to face whatever comes and embrace this new chapter of young adulthood.

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