Millennials — those folks ages 23 to 35 — seem to be experiencing financial woes greater than their parents suffered at the same age. Some statistics:

  • Millennials are using credit cards more, often becoming subject to late payment fees and finance charges.
  • More than 70 percent of millennials have at least one long-term debt such as student loans, a car loan, or a mortgage.
  • 34 percent of millennials have two or more long-term loans.
  • 23 percent of the millennials who have a retirement account have taken a loan or a hardship withdrawal against their retirement account in the last 12 months.
  • 25 percent of millennials with checking accounts have overdrawn their account in the last 12 months, racking up hefty overdraft fees.

Here are some suggestions to help.

Federal student loans

  • See if you are eligible for one of the federal income-driven repayment plans.
    • Interest will still accrue.
    • Payments may be reduced.
    • You can always make payments greater than the minimum required. Making extra payments or payments greater than the required payment will reduce the interest you will pay over the life of the loan.
    • After making the regular payments for 20 or 25 years (depending on the plan), the remaining balance may be forgiven.
    • Any debt forgiven is subject to income tax under current law
  • See if your employer offers help for paying off student loans. Any amounts paid by the employer will be subject to income tax under current law.
  • Consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
    • Work full time in a government or non-profit job.
    • Make your regular student loan payments for 10 years.
    • Remaining debt is forgiven.
    • Forgiven debt is tax-free under current law.

Emergency fund

  • Save money for those emergencies so you don’t have to use credit cards or other debt.
  • What is an emergency?
    • Major home repairs.
    • Car breaks down.
    • Appliance needs to be replaced.
  • What is not an emergency?
    • Pizza delivery.
    • Big screen TV.
  • Even if you can just save $10 per week, it will add up over time.
  • Keep saving until you have three to six months of your living expenses saved.

Be careful with plastic.

  • If you use a credit card, pay the entire balance every month.
  • To avoid costly fees, don’t take cash advances with your credit card.
  • If you have a balance on a credit card, don’t use the card until the balance is paid off. Use cash instead.

For more information on getting out of debt and avoiding financial pitfalls, see

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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