You’re not a bad person for borrowing money to get a college degree. You may be smarter than some financial “experts” lead you to believe.

You finished your bachelor’s degree and you’re out in the real world. You’re feeling real pressure to find a good job along your career path. It’s those massive student loan bills. You dread opening them because they remind you of the four or more years you lived without a major concern about your finances.

Now your college education seems like a burden. What did your bachelor’s degree get you, anyway? You’re 22 and you don’t have a job yet. Or you’re 30 and you’re still not sure if you’re on the “right” path.

If you haven’t been ignoring the reality of your debt, with your head in the sand like I was for a few years after earning my bachelor’s degree, you’re fully aware that student loans — like all debt — reduce flexibility in your life. You can’t afford to delay your career. You can’t even afford to go out with your friends (but you probably will anyway).

And if it feels a little unfair that all you did was earn a college degree like your parents, it might be. The cost of a college education has grown much faster than income for most Americans.

While your parents could have afforded their education at a state college on their own by working through college, the economy doesn’t make that as easy today. At the same time, college students and millennials are told en masse: “You have no work ethic.” “You expect everything to be handed to you.” “You want the best of what life has to offer without putting in the effort to achieve it.”

You’ve been set up to fail financially by the world while you were a teenager, and that same world does blame you unfairly. Well, we all have friends who embody the millennial stereotype — but not you, right?

Is college no longer worthwhile?

Financial experts are now making headlines by tearing apart the idea of higher education. Whether it’s due to the evolution of the curriculum over the years, or the lasting effect of the recent recession on the idea that the only worthwhile type of education is one that leads directly to a job that in high demand, loud voices are encouraging alternative paths.

When someone tells you striving to get the best education possible was a stupid mistake, and you should have gone to a trade school to learn a skill instead of getting a degree, don’t take it personally. And don’t feel bad. These are the two most important financial justifications for pursuing a college education:

But return on investment (ROI) isn’t the only benefit of a college degree.

Ignore the financial experts.

Here’s some more good news for those who are being told their degree is worthless.

Student Loan Debt

If you grew up in a middle class environment, some of the opportunities colleges affords the world are privileges you all ready have. And financial experts take advantage of those who don’t recognize their own privilege, especially when it comes to talking about debt. Whenever the unemployment rate is high, we find more encouragement in the media of entrepreneurship as the singular path to a lucrative life, replacing of education.

You have probably heard at least one person tell you that education is overrated and the best path to success is starting a business. You don’t hear that most businesses fail and that a college education still plays a major role in financial aptitude, even for entrepreneurs.

  • A good educational foundation greatly improves someone’s ultimate entrepreneurship goals by enhancing the cognitive, business, and life skills that good entrepreneurs need.
  • Many of your anti-education role models had other types of assistance that you might not have, and the louder they talk about their success, the more they’re hiding about their privileges.

Sure, you should try to keep your cost of education low. Grants and scholarships are better than loans, of course. But now that you’re out of college, the goal is to manage the debt you do have, not allow the world make you feel guilty for prioritizing your future livelihood over buying a house immediately upon graduation.

So here’s what you can do.

Here’s the four-step plan to dealing with student loan debt.

Student Loan Debt

1. Recognize that your debt does not make you a bad person, nor did you (necessarily) make a bad decision to pursue a college education. Yes, you may need to make some sacrifices now to manage your finances responsibly, but in most cases, the degree will be worth it.

That will be true even if you decide to change your career path, away from the focus of your degree! Any bachelor’s degree is better than no degree. If you didn’t screw around too much in the four-plus years it took you to pursue your undergrad education, and if you took a variety of courses and exposed your brain to a diverse array of ideas you wouldn’t have considered elsewhere, your education will never be worthless. It will continue to help you with whatever life you decide to live.

2. Get organized and pay attention. You can’t ignore your bills forever, so don’t even start ignoring. Tackle your responsibilities head on — and your student loan debt may be the first real responsibility you have in life for which there are consequences.

I ignored my bills for too long. Working at a low-paying nonprofit organization after college didn’t help. But I figured my life out and found a path that allowed me to totally eliminate all of my debt. This path wasn’t related to my college degree but I know that I succeeded thanks to my college experience.

3. Look at some of the options for helping you eliminate student loan debt. If you have federal student loans (and these are almost always better than private student loans), you can look into income-based repayment plans. If you’re just starting out in your career, you can lower your monthly payment to help you with cash flow.

You may qualify for loan deferment, so your payments are put on hold, and in some cases, you will not need to pay more interest while you wait for your deferment to end. If you don’t qualify for deferment, you may qualify for forbearance, which also gives you a grace period on your payments. But with a forbearance, you’ll still accrue more interest while you wait.

If you’re a teacher or you have a public service job, you may even qualify for the cancellation of some federal student loans. That’s not the only way the government is willing to help you. It is possible to get a tax credit for the student loan interest you pay.

I’m not going to suggest consolidating your loans, unless it’s with a federal consolidation at an interest rate that’s lower than what you have now. Now there are private companies willing to refinance your student loans, and there are some disadvantages; namely, you lose all the advantages for borrowers mentioned in this section.

And watch out; these private lenders pay financial “experts” bounties for signing up new borrowers through websites, and thus there are many more positive reviews on the internet than there would be otherwise. Still, you could end up saving some money — in exchange for a fee and limited flexibility — when you refinance with a private lender.

4. Pay it off consistently and regularly. Work out a plan to pay the student loans off well in advance of your schedule. Student loans will stick with you even if you need to declare bankruptcy (almost always), so do what you can to get rid of them as soon as possible.

And then celebrate! Because not only did you pay off your student loans, but you received a college education, and will most likely be better off in life than people who say you made a bad choice for getting a college education.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

The last one living wins.

Do you have a dream of getting fit? Exercise comes with the number of benefits. You can improve your mood, boost your energy, look better, and even live longer.

The good news is that exercise doesn’t have to mean beasting it up at the gym all the time.
You can start getting fit by doing things that you like to do, and by engaging in small amounts of exercise at a time.

Don’t sit around all the time feeling low energy and disappointed. I’m getting fit, you can change your outlook on life and be healthier.

Concepts

  • Many of the benefits that come from exercise.
  • How exercise can lead to a longer life.
  • Excuses we used to avoid getting fit.
  • Ideas for helping you overcome your reluctance to exercise.
  • Tips for more effective exercise.

Become a Friend of Adulting

To get Adulting delivered directly to your device, subscribe using iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or your app of choice.

Join the Friends of Adulting! Please leave an honest review on iTunes. We would really appreciate the feedback!

Resources

Mayo clinicBenefits of physical activity
NIHWalking can lengthen your lifespan
BuzzFeedTotal body workouts
WedMDBeginners guide to fitness

Like what you’ve heard?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Harlan, Miranda, and special guest Matt Schulz of CreditCards.com talk about what you need to know before applying for your first credit card.

Every week, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! on Blab. Subscribe and join us for the next event, and share your questions about or suggestions for future discussions!

Adulting.tv LIVE! welcomes special guest Matt Schulz from CreditCards.com to talk about how to choose your first credit card. Miranda, Harlan, and Matt explore why someone might want to apply for a credit card, what is needed before applying for a credit card, what types of credit cards are available, and what to expect once you have a credit card.

Credit cards aren’t for everyone, but if you think you’re ready to handle your spending responsibly or you’re a seasoned credit card user, watch the replay.

Watch the video above, or listen to just the audio by using the player below.

Like what you’ve heard?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

If you’re struggling financially, is there ever a good way to ask your parents for help?

The idea of borrowing money from friends or family has always made me feel… gross. In all honesty, I’d rather be broke than deal with the icky feeling of owing someone money.

There’s something about introducing a financial transaction into a personal relationship that almost always ends up in some sort of discomfort — especially when parents are involved. One day, you’re the independent, successful adult you struggled so hard to become; the next, you’re once again that awkward sixteen-year-old begging for gas money.

But sometimes asking your parents for financial help is unavoidable. In fact, about half of college students expect their parents to support them financially for up to two years after graduation.

Plus, they’ve had years to grow their wealth while you’re still getting used to the idea of paying someone for running water.

So whether you’re struggling to find post-college employment and need to move back in for a while, or you’re a few thousand dollars shy of owning your first home, here’s how to navigate the tricky conversation of asking for financial help from Mom and Dad.

Decide if you need a gift or a loan.

Before you even broach the subject, determine exactly what it is you’re asking for. Depending on your mom or dad’s personality, you might be more likely to receive a loan than a handout. If so, figure out exactly how much you need to borrow, how long it will take to repay the loan, and whether or not you will also pay interest.

On the other hand, you might know very well there’s no way you will be able to pay the money back. Instead of making promises you can’t keep, be prepared to state your case as to what, exactly, you need and why your parents should be willing to make the investment. Which brings us to the next step.

Have a solid case to present.

You might technically be an adult, but in your parents’ eyes, you will always be their child. However, this is not a situation in which you want to be viewed as immature or childish. You need to appear prepared, confident, and accountable.

Have an action plan ready to present — write it down, review it several times, and believe in it. Talk to your parents calmly and explain your situation clearly. Be prepared to negotiate. And above all else, don’t get emotional or attempt to manipulate their emotions. It. Will. Backfire.

Don’t compromise your parents’ finances.

How to Ask Your Parents for Money

Some parents are willing to sacrifice everything to help out their kids, no questions asked. Others prefer to send their children through the School of Hard Knocks, even if they have to repeat a few grades.

If your parents are more like the former, be especially sensitive to how your request for financial assistance will impact their well-being. Will Mom have to dip into her 401(k) to cover your student loan debt? Is Dad planning to work a few more years so you can get back on your feet?

Ask yourself if you’re really okay with being the person who jeopardizes your parents’ golden years after they’ve worked so hard — for decades — to reach them. Yeah, didn’t think so.

Should you even do it?

Turning to the Bank of Mom and Dad can be tempting when you’re seriously short on cash. But there’s a host of potential landmines when you ask for money from the people who used to change your diapers.

Consider whether you’re looking to your parents for financial support because it seems easy or because that’s really your only option.

There’s nothing wrong with getting help from Mom and Dad if they’re willing. But it’s almost always best to suck it up and figure it out on your own if you can. After all, they’ve already made the biggest investment in you anyone ever will. They raised you.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Congratulations on landing your first real job! Before you get caught up in your work, take some time to navigate your surroundings.

Now that you you’re successfully navigated the interview and hiring process, you get to take a big step forward in your career by starting it. Or, if your job isn’t exactly in your career path, at least you’re working.

Before long, all of your job’s roles and responsibilities will be clear, and you’ll start making your mark. You may get a little overwhelmed with your new environment, so take some time now to deal with some of the tasks that are essential at the start of your first real job. Ignore these tasks, and you will miss opportunities to set yourself up for long-term success. Don’t blow it.

1. Get a true sense of your take-home pay.

Surprise! Your paycheck is a lot smaller than you expect it to be. A $40,000 salary after federal, state, and local taxes might leave you with only $500 a week. For reals. Even less will end up in your pocket if you have an automatic enrollment in a retirement plan.

You may get some of the money withheld for taxes back when you file your tax return, but your net pay, what you take home, is what you should focus on right now, not your salary.

2. Figure out your new budget.

Now that you know how much income you really have to work with, write down your new budget. Start with the things you need, like your rent or mortgage payment, your food (groceries), and your transportation to and from your workplace. Set aside as much as possible for savings. You’ll need something set aside for emergencies. Then try to fit in some of the luxuries, like dining out, entertainment, vacations, and nicer clothing. If you can.

If you can’t, just hang on for now. You can’t have everything you want in life the moment you start your first real job.

Read this article to see how to make a budget based on priorities. Once you make the budget, track it, so you stay within its limits or realize that you need to change your assumptions about your spending.

3. Open bank accounts if you don’t have any.

It still surprises me how many newly-minted grown-ups don’t have bank accounts. When you get paychecks for working, not cash, you need to have at least one bank account, a checking (debit card) account. Don’t take your paychecks to check-cashing places or Walmart. They charge fees that add up quickly.

Instead, find a free checking account with free debit cards. You might want to check with whatever bank has a branch closest to you, and ask about free checking and free debit cards, but some communities don’t even have any bank branches.

It might be easier to just go online. Ally Bank and Capital One 360 are two of my favorite free online checking accounts.

Once you open your checking account, you can tell your supervisor or human resources department at work that you want to set up a direct deposit. Your paycheck will be sent directly to your bank, so you just use your debit card when you need to pay for anything or go to an ATM when you need cash.

4. Invest some of your income.

6 Life-Changing Tips When Starting Your First Job

If you don’t start investing right now, you will always be trying to catch up. First, make sure you’re enrolled in your company’s retirement plan, if the company offers one. If the company doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, a 403(b) plan, or anything else, you’ll have to start investing on your own. Put money aside for a few months, and open a retirement account at Vanguard.

Choose a Roth IRA if you already have a plan at work, or a traditional IRA if you don’t. Invest in a broad index mutual fund, like the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX), for now. It’s a low-cost way to save for retirement, and keeping your costs low is the most important factor in building wealth over the long term.

5. Understand your benefits.

Your employer may offer some benefits, including health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, free lunches, a weekly chair massage, or personalized humanoid robot butlers. You’ll only find out what you get by reading all the information you receive your first few days on the job.

If you have a choice, and you might for something like health insurance, review the information carefully and ask around for advice. It’s good to know what your health insurance options are, and what’s covered, in case you need to use them.

6. Learn about your company’s culture.

Getting ahead and succeeding in your job isn’t just about your job performance or doing all that is expected of you. You’ll also need to be able to fit in — without losing your individuality, of course. Spend lots of time with your coworkers. Observe how people behave and present themselves on the job and listen carefully to important discussions. Look for the clues, both subtle and obvious, that will lead you towards making a good impression. Much of this is based on mimicking the behavior of the more successful people at your level.

Use this time exploring the culture to work on your communication skills (ask questions!) and build relationships with people in your workplace.

The most important thing about getting started is not to expect to be treated like a superstar on your first day on the job. You’re a unique snowflake, that’s for sure, but so is everyone else. As the new girl or guy, you have to put in time and effort before you are able to reap the rewards of great benefits, a salary that reflects your worth, and personal freedom.

You’re not entitled to the best of what your employer (or life) has to offer just by showing up, but when you put in the hard work and prove yourself, success will find its way to you much easier. After some time.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Wait a minute. I can afford this now. This is what it’s like when you’re adulting.

A few weeks ago, I finally experienced what it’s like to be the “rich” friend. A group of girlfriends and I, people I’ve just met recently, were talking about going skiing. The trip can cost almost $100, including gas, meals and lift tickets. That’s a hefty amount for me, but something I can afford.

One of the girls in the group said she couldn’t afford to go. The rest of us said we understood, and that’s when it hit me.

“Wait, I’m that friend that can afford things now.”

Things were different a couple years ago. I was trying to pay off my students loans and was putting any extra money toward my debt. I said no to parties, dinners, and cross-country trips. I said no to hobbies, concerts, and movies.

I remember feeling jealous and judgmental of my friends who could travel and not think about how they weren’t putting money in their retirement funds. Or people who gave to charity while deferring their loans. I gave $25 at weddings, lamenting even that amount.

While I was in college, most of my friends and I were on the same level. We spent money with abandon, even though we all claimed to be broke.

I keep thinking back to one of the first episodes of “Friends,” where Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe have to bring up that they can’t afford to go out to eat or buy concert tickets. I’ve never had that difficult conversation with a friend, but I have been the one to suggest hanging out at my place instead of going to the movies.

Starting to Afford Things

Now my husband and I don’t mind picking up the check when friends come in town — we’ve even treated his parents to dinner occasionally. If you want to feel like an adult, try buying dinner for your in-laws. That will make you feel like an adult faster than you can say “health insurance premium.”

I like this feeling. For the first time, my life has options. I just bought tickets to see one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, speak. When purchasing the tickets, I splurged on the VIP package, which includes a cocktail reception with Gilbert. A year ago, I would’ve bought the cheapest ticket and considered myself lucky.

The good news is that there are always alternatives to pricey forms of entertainment. You can watch a movie at someone’s house instead of going out. You can bake together instead of grabbing dinner. The same way that my friends compromised for me when I was unwilling to spend money, I need to do for other people.

It may mean that they won’t be able to come to ski trips or big concerts, but they’ll be available for drinking wine at home and rewatching a “Harry Potter” movie.

I’ve seen my parents manage friendships while earning differently than other people. It’s not about being ditching the friend who can’t afford to go to the restaurant you want to go to, it’s about being a friend and finding ways to bridge that gap.

The best experiences are the ones when you have the right people.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Without the right financial values, you’ll be lost with money and you’ll set a poor example. Fix that right now.

When you’re struggling financially, you might have two different ways of dealing with it. You might freak out because you can’t deal. Or you might just stick your head in the sand and ignore your problems because it hurts too much.

That’s what I did when I was dealing with the worst of my money problems. I had to hit rock bottom before turning my life around. That gave me a chance to figure out what my financial values are.

1. Money is not for the sake of money.

With money, you have to be that annoying kid. The one who asks, “Why?” after every sentence. “I want to be a millionaire.” “Why?” “Because I want to be rich.” “Why?” “So I don’t have to be concerned about having enough money.” “Why?” “So I can do the things I’d like to do.” “Why?” “Because I want to travel the world.”

Finally we get to an answer. There’s no point in having a high balance in the bank or a long-term investing strategy if there isn’t a goal other than gathering that money. If your only goal is to retire with a million dollars, you’re totally missing the point. The purpose of money is to do something with it. What do you want to do?

2. Balance financial independence with helping others.

What would you do if you ended up with one million dollars that you didn’t plan on having? How about one billion? What else is there besides “financial independence” (having enough money to do what you want without worrying about earning more from working)?

Don’t forget to look outside yourself and your family. Help others, especially those who don’t have the same types of opportunities as you. You don’t need to be financially independent to start making a better world. Some of the most charitable people are those who are not wealthy. Find the right balance for you between making yourself rich and contributing to a rich experience for the world.

3. Are your assets on display?

If you feel the world is a competition or that you have something to prove, you probably have less of a problem with showing off your success. Grow up in a community where success is hard to find, and you feel this even more. You celebrate your success publicly, because it not only helps validate you, but it gives hope to others.

But this perpetuates the idea that money and wealth somehow make people superior. And the competition isn’t only about wealth. Look around and you’ll see people trying to prove that they have the skills to save more money than anyone else. Money brings out your competitive nature. Whether it’s about earning money, having a wealthy partner, or saving money, you may feel the need to show off.

Showing off tells people you’re not confident with yourself. People don’t need to know about your success. Keep it quiet and do good with your money without fanfare.

4. Wealth isn’t something to idolize.

Wealth Isn't Something to Idolize: 6 Healthy Financial Values to Fix Your Money Attitude

We see popular people living well and we want to be like them, whether it’s the musical artist who’s an “overnight success,” a Kardashian, or just some couple on House Hunters International.

Have you seen all the books and blogs that supposedly teach people how to be rich by thinking like a rich person? As if changing your “mindset” will give you the same opportunities experienced by people who have lived their entire life surrounded by wealth? Yes, you do have to have a positive life philosophy if you want to be able to handle the wealth you build, but you won’t gain anything by just thinking like a rich person. Financially successful people are not better or smarter than the rest of us.

Strive to be a person of strong character, not a person of a huge bank balance.

5. Money isn’t related to human decency.

On that note, we often confuse wealth with living as a good human being, just as often or if not more than we characterize wealthy people as “evil.” These are both wrong! If you are a bad person before becoming wealthy, you will remain a bad person when you become wealthy.

Just like wealth doesn’t lead to decency or indecency, the lack of wealth doesn’t correlate either. Poor people aren’t necessarily lazy. They aren’t necessarily hard workers, either. Everyone has a life full of their own circumstances that often don’t correspond with any stereotype or generalization. Separate someone’s character from their wealth, and don’t make assumptions.

6. Financial success isn’t a reward for hard work.

You do your chores, you collect your allowance. This is supposed to be a life lesson for kids about how the real world works. Except it’s not!

Yes, you do get paid when you show up for your job, but how hard you work often is not related to how much you get paid. I worked for an arts organization after college, and I worked hard. There were times of the year I worked 80 hours a week and the job consumed my life. Didn’t make much money, though.

There are wealthy people who never worked a hard day in their life. Many have, though, so having a great work ethic is still the best approach to build wealth. The problem is that it’s far from a guarantee. Sometimes working hard just doesn’t pay off. A vast amount — the majority — of people throughout the world work hard their entire lives but will never be wealthy.

Financial success requires grit, but also much more.

What are your financial values?

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Always coming up short when you’re out. Never paying their fair share. What do you do when you’re always covering?

We’ve all had that friend. You know the one.

When the dinner bill comes, they severely underestimate their share (let alone account for tax and tip). You spot them $10 here and $20 there, yet they always “forget” to pay you back.

But you let it slide every time. After all, what’s a few bucks among good friends?

That used to be your attitude, anyway. Lately, your desire for a person’s company has a perfect negative correlation to how much of their crap you are required to put up with. You are, in fact, too old for this shit.

So here’s how to deal with that friend who makes you feel more like a bank than their buddy — without killing the relationship.

Be honest.

The great thing about friends (real friends — not the people you pretend to like out of various social obligations) is that you can tell them the truth and they’ll still be your friend. You’re not doing anyone any favors by pretending your pal’s poor money etiquette doesn’t bother you.

So the next time they leave you hanging with the bill, be up front and tell them how much they owe right then and there. Add that you’re pretty strapped for cash as well and can’t afford to cover them. Consistently push back rather than ignore the behavior and eventually, they’ll get it.

And if this honesty does cause a rift in your relationship, it’s probably time to reevaluate whether you two shared a real friendship at all.

Find cheap/free things to do.

A novel idea, right? As much as you’re annoyed by your pal’s perpetual brokeness, they likely feel pressured to keep up with the group financially, too. That’s a tough spot to be in, and as a friend, you should find ways to spend quality time together that don’t force your buddy into yet another awkward situation.

Fortunately, another great thing about friends is that all you really need is each other’s company to have an awesome time.

Check your local weekly for low-cost and free events such as concerts, art exhibits, and movie screenings. Have a picnic at the beach. Go for a hike. Get dressed up, pretend you’re rich, and hop from one open house to the next while eating all their snacks along the way.

Consider it a gift.

That Annoying Broke Friend

When your friend does ask for money, and you feel comfortable parting with the cash, treat it as a gift. Loaning money turns a personal relationship into one of business, which opens the door for guilt and resentment on both sides, especially if the borrower isn’t able to pay up.

It’s your choice whether or not you want to support your friend financially — and it’s perfectly fine if you do. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t expect things to change if you continue to enable the situation.

Friendship is something that only becomes more precious as you grow older; it can be tempting to over-compromise in order to avoid conflict. But true friendship is also built on honesty and desire to make each other happy, so don’t be afraid to share your feelings in a caring but straightforward manner.

And if your own financial goals are jeopardized in order to keep the peace between you and a broke friend, that friendship probably isn’t worth it in the first place.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

Screw the huge salary and 80-hour workweeks. Do your benefits help you actually LIVE your life?

When you start a new job — including your first job — salary seems like the most important issue.

Making money is important. We all enjoy eating and most of us like to have a little fun, too. But it’s not just about the salary or the hourly wage. When my now-ex-husband got his first real job after, I was shocked, shocked, at how much easier life became with addition of benefits.

Health insurance is your BFF.

The biggest bonus was health insurance. We’d been paying for private health insurance for a decade, using my earnings as a freelancer to pay for everything. With his employer subsidizing our coverage, our premium was cut in half, and we had a better plan. I swear, one of the biggest disappointments of the divorce was the prospect of going back to being entirely responsible for my own health insurance.

Your employer might be paying as much as 68% of your premium if you have health benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are paying $250 per month for your health benefits, there’s a good chance they cost as much as $368. That’s a savings of $118 a month. It’s like making an extra $1,416 a year.

Paid vacation days are totes amazing.

Get paid even while you aren’t at work? Yes, please! If you can negotiate a package that allows you to take vacation days and still get paid for them, you are doing something right. It might be worth it to accept a little less in terms of salary if you don’t have to worry how you’ll make up the days you missed to attend SXSW.

Even if you don’t get paid vacation days, some companies are willing to offer extra personal days (although you won’t get paid). If you could take extra time off to live life, would you take it even if you aren’t getting paid? I would.

Nothing beats flexibility.

Money Isn't Everything: Are Your Benefits On Fleek?

There is nothing — nothing — I value more than freedom and flexibility. Increasingly, companies are offering benefits that include flexible work schedules. Thanks to technology, a number of jobs now come with location independence, and there are some companies that allow completely remote workers.

Even if you don’t get to work in your jammies or from the coffee shop every day, you might be able to negotiate telecommuting privileges for two or three days a week, or customize your schedule to come in earlier or later in the day.

I have a friend who is willing to accept a little less in terms of salary because his employer allows him to work three 12-hour days a week. That means that he has four days off each week, and is still considered full-time and enjoys health benefits. That level of flexibility is worth $5,000 a year to him.

How fierce is your retirement plan?

No matter how much money you make, investing can help you prepare for the future. The easiest way to invest is through your company’s retirement plan. Your money is automatically withheld from your paycheck and invested for the future. And if your company’s plan is truly fierce, you’ll get an employer match. That’s free money that goes toward your future, building your retirement portfolio. It’s hard to beat that.

Other epic benefits.

Companies are interested in attracting the best and the brightest, and if that’s you, there are plenty of other epic benefits that you might be able to enjoy at the right company — and that might be worth more than mere money:

  • On-site fitness center or a paid membership to a local gym
  • Meals in a cafeteria that serves actual food
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Career development and training resources
  • Equipment, such as a smartphone or a laptop
  • Attractive and diverse workspaces (including open offices, standing desks, and other innovative perks)

There are a number of companies willing to offer high-end perks, ranging from concerts to concierge services.

Before you get hung up salary, think of your preferred lifestyle. Your life is going to such if you work 80 hours a week with no time for true enjoyment. You might have a lot of money, but are you enjoying life now?

The right benefits can be worth more than a couple thousand extra dollars per year.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!

You don’t need big bucks to get a jump on everyone else.

Investing is one of those things that most of us stick in the “stuff I’ll have enough money to do later” file. We see investing as something you do when you aren’t broke af.

The best time to start investing is now, while you’re still young enough to recover from mistakes — and while you have time on your side. It seems like a hopeless situation. You should put your money to work, but you don’t have enough money to buy a couple hundred shares of Apple stock.

If you think you don’t have enough money to start investing, the good news is that you’re probably wrong. Even when you’re broke, chances are you can invest.

Use a company retirement plan.

Now that you’ve got a real job, there’s a good chance that you have the option to contribute to a retirement plan offered by your employer. Many of us don’t think of putting money in a 401(k) as investing, but it is.

Talk to HR, and have some of your money diverted to a 401(k). If your company offers a match, that’s free money that you can use to invest. You won’t miss what you never see, which is why an automatic contribution from your paycheck is one of the best strategies when you want invest when you’re broke.

Make dollar-cost averaging your bae.

The idea behind dollar-cost averaging is that you take a set amount of money each month (and you can start investing with as little as $25) and invest it. Buy as many shares as you can with that money. Dollar-cost averaging is especially effective when you use your money to purchase low-cost index mutual funds or ETFs.

Index funds and ETFs take all the work out of picking stocks. You get access to a section of the market, so the diversification is taken care of and you don’t have to worry about what happens when you choose wrong. I’m boring as hell when it comes to investing because I’m still into indexing. It’s how I roll.

If you’re putting money aside in a 401(k) from your paycheck, you’re already dollar-cost averaging. If your company doesn’t have a retirement plan, you can still open your own. Many companies will let you open an IRA and put in as little as $50 per month (or even less). Make it automatic and you won’t have to think about it.

Over time, you’ll grow your portfolio through consistency.

DRIP it up.

How to Invest When You're Broke AF

I like to invest in index funds and ETFs that pay dividends and automatically invest them. Many brokers and companies offer DRIPs, or plans that take dividends paid out to you and automatically use the money to buy additional shares.

Investing in dividends makes sense because dividends are payouts companies make based on the number of shares you own. Use DRIPs to automatically buy more shares, and your next payout is larger. You can buy more shares and then get a bigger payout. It’s a beautiful cycle. My decision to use dollar-cost averaging with DRIP funds is the reason that my portfolio kept growing, even during the Great Recession.

TBH, DRIPs seem pointless at first, especially if you invest when you’re broke. Who cares if you got a 20-cent payout? With automatic reinvesting, though, the cycle continues and eventually, as you stick with the dollar-cost averaging to buy more shares, and as your payouts get bigger, everything builds on itself.

Use your pocket change.

If you are absolutely certain that you can’t spare $50 a month for investing, consider using Acorns. This app connects to your bank account and automatically rounds up your recent purchases and puts the difference in an investment account. The fees aren’t my favorite, but if you aren’t investing at all, and this will get you started, it’s better than nothing. This is a good way to at least get started.

You can also use the myRA if your workplace doesn’t offer a retirement account, or if you work part-time and aren’t eligible for your employer’s plan. You can contribute as little as $5 per paycheck to the account.

Commit to your money.

Once you start investing, look for ways to invest more. Don’t forget to increase the amount you invest as you earn more and climb the career ladder. The spare change you invest now won’t fund your future. But it will give you a good start and help you start a habit that can benefit you for the rest of your life.

Like what you’ve read?

Join other #adults who receive free weekly updates.


For a limited time you’ll receive our new book, The Best Bank Accounts for Adults, when you sign up!