A Millennial’s Guide to Figuring Life Out

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Life. It can be pretty confusing, right? We didn’t ask to be here, yet we are and it’s up to us to figure everything out as millennials.

To clarify, the millennial generation is anyone born between the years 1981 – 1996. As a millennial myself (born in 1992), I get very defensive when people say negative things about my generation because most people fail to realize that we are struggling.

The millennial generation is not anything like the generation of the baby boomers or gen x. Currently, most millennials believe that social security won’t even be around by the time we retire and media outlets have labeled us as “hopeless” and “unlucky” because of our economic situation. Clearly, us millennials have a long way to go.

In fact, here are some startling facts about the millennial generation. First, the negatives:

1. Millennials earn 20% less income than our parents did.
2. Student loan debt for millennials has doubled compared to recent generations. There is now more student loan debt than credit card debt.
3. 1/3 of millennials between 18 – 34 live at home still (most-likely due to efforts to save money).   4. The millennial generation has the highest rate of unemployment in 30 years.
5. Millennials get married later in life and have children later due to financial and career struggles.

But of course, with the negatives comes the positives:

1. Millennials are the most generous generation of all time when it comes to charity.
2. We are more likely to purchase a product that donates proceeds to a good cause.
3. Millennials care more about the environment.
4. We are an extremely educated generation with over 60% carrying bachelors degrees.
5. Many millennials have started side businesses to grow into their own full-time business.
6. We are innovative. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, just to name a few.

I don’t know about you, but at times I dislike the term “millennial”. It seems that the only people who are actually using that term are the older generations berating us for our lifestyle choices, selfies, and our “me, me, me” attitude.

But, the fact is, we are millennials and regardless of how much the older generation seems to disapprove of our ways, we still have to navigate life.

In my own attempts to navigate life as a millennial, I have done extensive research and put together what I believe are the most important categories of life. This ‘guide’ I’ve created is aimed at the millennial generation in hopes to provide some sort of direction or starting point for navigating life in the best way possible.

Here are the many categories covered in this article:

– Student Debt
– Relationships
– Careers
– Education
– Politics
– Saving Money
– Side Hustles
– Rent vs. Buying
– Building Credit
– Charity Work
– Health
– Social Life
– Travel
– Retirement
– Family
– Bucket List
– Social Media

Let’s dive right into it. Here is my take on the millennial’s guide to figuring life out.

Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt is an epidemic. The idea of the ‘American Dream’ has been overrun and threatened by the amount of student loan debt our generation has.

You’re most likely aware that your education wasn’t free and that you owe thousands of dollars to the government or other private loan companies. In fact, the average millennial owes approximately $42,000 in student loan debt.

Student loan debt is a huge culprit for some of the stress a millennial feels. With the giant loan looming over their heads, the idea of purchasing a home or starting a family gets pushed back farther and farther because of debt.

As soon as I graduated college, I went into a fury trying to figure out the best and most efficient way to pay off my $30,000 in debt. After tons of research and consulting with a financial advisor, I came up with a plan to pay off my debt in 2 years. I’m pleased to say I succeeded in doing so.

Here are some of the tips I have to pay down your student loan debt.

Consolidation (Don’t do it!)

Many financial advisors and school counselors will urge you to consolidate your loans. You’ll see lots of advertisements for companies who specialize in loan consolidation. Here’s my personal opinion on consolidation. Don’t. Do. It.

The only reason I was able to pay off my student loan debt in 2 years was because I focused on my individual loans and paid them off.

I started with the loans that had the highest interest rate and finished with loans that had the lowest. By consolidating your loan debt, your interest becomes one.

That means your monthly payments go to your interest first and if there is money left over, then it goes to the principle.

This is why it takes people 10 years to pay off loans.

By leaving your loans as individuals, like I did for my 7 loans, I was able to pay down one loan at a time while still making my monthly minimum payment.

Subsidized vs. Unsubsidized Loans

Did you know that if you have a subsidized loan, you don’t start paying interest until you get your bill? That makes subsidized loans great to have because of that aspect.

On the other hand, unsubsidized loans charge you interest from the moment you take it out. That means if you took your unsubsidized loan out freshman year, you have been charged interest every single day and will continue to be charged interest until you pay that loan off in full.

Interest Rates

I’m sure you know what interest rates are so I won’t get into details on that here. What you may not know is that you have a different interest rate per loan you take out. My loan interest rates varied from 3.4% to over 10%.

Since I decided to not consolidate my loans and instead just pay off my individual loans (while still paying my monthly dues), I saved up to pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first.

Once I had enough money to pay off that loan, I began my saving process all over again by paying off the loan with the next highest interest rate.

Each time I paid off a loan, my monthly payment decreased and so did the interest. This was better on my savings and helped me not have to spend so much on my monthly payment, which began at almost $500 a month.

Deferment

If you cannot find a job within the 6 months or you choose to continue on with your education, you qualify for loan deferment. This means that you will not have to start paying on your loans until you either get a job or you’re done with school.

If you do qualify for a deferment, don’t put your student loans out of sight, out of mind. Save for them so that you can pay them off as soon as possible and live a debt free life.

I am very passionate about student loan debt and I have been asked by numerous people on my process and success of paying off my $30,000 in two years. Keep an eye out for more blog posts dedicated to loan repayment.

Saving Money

I have an entire blog post dedicated to this very topic called How to Successfully Save Money as a Millennial. However, let me sum it up for you.

Essentially, I’ve found that the best way to save money is to follow these 10 steps:

1. Save for a Goal
2. Set Financial Goals
3. Control and Limit Spending
4. Don’t Touch Your Savings
5. Have Multiple Banks
6. No More Avocado Toast (or unnecessarily expensive purchases)
7. Pay Off Your Debts
8. Enjoy Company Without Spending
9. Save Aggressively from Each Paycheck
10. Establish a Roth IRA

When I graduated college, my main goal was to save enough money to pay off my student loan debt. Once I accomplished that goal, I became obsessed with saving money.

Because I aggressively saved, I have been able to start a business, save money towards a down payment on my future house, and have money set aside for a wedding.

There are extreme value and security in a successful savings account. Just because the millennial generation is dealing with the student loan epidemic and the not so great economy doesn’t leave room for excuses for not saving money.

Save now and thank yourself later.

Relationships

The word relationship is often thought to describe a couple. The truth is, you have a relationship with every person you interact with.

Life is all about our relationships with one another whether that be your significant other, friend, family member, neighbor, or acquaintance, life is built around hundreds of relationships.

Personally, I find this fascinating to think about. We tend to focus our energy on our relationships with our significant other and many times we fail to nurture our relationships with friends and loved ones.

There has to be a balance.

While your significant other is important, that is not an excuse to neglect the other people in your life.

On the other hand, I get it. The main meaning of a relationship is with a significant other. So, what if you’re single?

Approximately 59% of millennials are single. There could be many reasons for this. Millennials are said to be picky, we don’t necessarily want to settle down, we want to focus on our career first, we feel the selection of single people who meet our standards are too slim, etc.

Whatever the reason may be, there are options out there if you are wanting to enter into a romantic relationship.

Don’t be afraid to try online dating. I personally know multiple people who have found ‘the one’ through online dating. There are also social meetups for singles, church groups for singles, and various events on college campus’ to get involved in.

Allow yourself the opportunity to add one more meaningful relationship in your life by stepping outside of your bubble.

In the meantime, remember that your relationship with all the other people in your life still matters and should be continuously nurtured.

Career

Career. Let’s just take a moment to all roll our eyes… Done? Okay, why an eye roll you may ask? Well, the idea of a career for a millennial is ever so slightly changing from the norm.

We don’t necessarily want the 9-5 jobs. We are looking for more flexible hours, more technology, more benefits, more social impact, work with a greater purpose, better leadership, more growth opportunities, better work/life balance, more diversity, and so on. That might seem like we are overreaching and viewing career from a selfish perspective, but the fact is that the 9-5 model doesn’t work like it used to.

One person working a 40-hour workweek used to be enough money to sustain an entire household. That is not the case anymore.

Most average households need the income of two full-time people to stay comfortable. In order to achieve that, many millennials are working jobs entirely unrelated to their field of study just to get by.

So, back to the major eye roll.

How does a millennial find a satisfying and pleasing career?

Well, the obvious answer would be to not settle. While you may need to take a job in the meantime while you’re searching for your dream job, it’s important to not give up the search.

Another way is to figure out how to get ahead. This might involve more schooling, more self-taught knowledge, more networking, and a bigger resume, and more life experience. Essentially, we will have to put in some work to get to the career we want.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible by any means.

Oh, and let’s not forget about a millennials desire to work for themselves by starting their own business. I know that is my personal goal.

While much of the older generation encourages the 40-hour work week route, millennials tend to launch a business by the age of 27 while baby boomers tend to wait until they are 35.

Being a business owner and working for yourself is a great alternate career that a millennial can work towards while putting in hours at a 9-5 to temporarily sustain them.

Education

To go to grad school, or to not go to grad school? That is the question many millennials are facing. But, as always, here are some statistics regarding millennials and education.

First of all, millennials are on track to be the most educated generation to date. This can be due to many factors. Typically, to get a good job, we need to have completed a decent amount of schooling. Another reason is that school is more accessible with the opportunity to go to school online.

Around 60% of millennials have obtained a bachelor’s degree, which is a huge jump compared to previous generations.

So, what about the millennials who don’t hold a college degree? Do you need a college degree in this day and age?

There does seem to be a big debate about this. Some great and intelligent people never graduated college and it’s worked out great for them (Mark Zuckerburg).

Does that mean you should skip college? Not necessarily.

People with a college degree tend to get paid more, have more job satisfaction, and know more. Yes, going to college is expensive. But, I personally would agree towards the value of knowledge.

Now, should you go to grad school or pursue a Ph.D.?

If you want even more money and more knowledge, grad school might be for you. I know that I have greatly enjoyed my time in grad school as it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Not everyone will feel that way, but give it some serious thought.

If I can guilt you in the direction of pursuing education, just remember that 264 million children around the world don’t have access to education.

Politics

Republican. Democrate. Independent. Green Party. Libertarian Party.

Which one are you? If you know the answer, good. If you don’t, it’s time to decide.

My political stance is very strong. I have chosen a side and done my research to back up my views. I keep up with the news, debates, laws, and I always vote.

My point is, pick a side and be there for your choices.

Someday, a millennial will run this country. We need to be educated to be able to vote the right millennial into office.

Now, I am completely aware of the divide in the country right now so I won’t go into detail or try to persuade you a side to pick.

All I’m saying is that politics is not going away. It is our duty to equip ourselves with the knowledge we need to have an opinion toward the status of this country.

Side Hustle

Here at The Life Hunt, I write a lot about side hustles.

I am a firm believer that side hustles are the key to a better and more ideal future. Like I said earlier, the 9-5 doesn’t work for millennials like it worked for the baby boomers. And, millennials want to have freedom.

How can we get that freedom and work environment that we want? We have to create it ourselves.

While most of us can’t quit our jobs to pursue our business ventures, we can start something on the side. Hence, the side hustle was born.

I recommend that every millennial start some sort of side hustle asap. It could turn into something full time and be bigger than you ever expected. All you have to do is start it.

Also, a side hustle doesn’t necessarily have to be a business you start, it can be something like driving for Uber, Lyft, or doing Postmates, Door Dash, or some other sort of delivery services to make some extra money.

Here are my top 3 articles about side hustles:

1. How to Make Time for Your Side Hustle While Working Full-Time
2. Do You make Enough Time For Your Side Hustle? Here’s How to Dedicate Even More Time
3. The Ultimate Guide to Balancing Your Job While Pursuing a Side Hustle

Rent vs. Buying

Millennials rent more. In fact, in 2016, 74% of millennials rented property vs. the 22% who owned a home.

There are benefits to both options. Let’s start with renting.

Renting allows for more freedom with where you live, it can seem more affordable, especially if you live with roommates, and any repairs are the responsibility of the landlord.

While renting is the most popular option among millennials, it might not be the most financially sound thing to do.

If you are paying $1,500 in rent a month, that’s $18,000 a year. If you rent for 3 years at that rate, you are spending $54,000 for something you don’t own and have no say over.

My personal vote would go towards buying. When you own a house, that is yours. It’s a permanent home base and can be a place for you and your family to build a life.

If you ever want to move, you can turn your home into an investment property or sell it to get money back.

If you are saving money aggressively, you should be able to save up for a downpayment on a house in no time.

Just think about it. Is it really financially worth it to rent for the rest of your life? Or, are you getting more bang for your buck by owning? I say owning is the way to go.

Building Credit

I think it’s safe to say that the struggle with credit cards and building good credit is not limited to the millennial generation.

However, it is good to know the right and responsible way to build credit. After all, having a solid credit score is extremely valuable when it comes to important purchases like buying or renting a home and purchasing a car.

I pride myself on having great credit and I know many of my friends do as well. I also have friends whose credit isn’t so hot and it’s really affected them in a negative way.

From what I’ve learned in my personal life combined with extensive research and consultations with bankers, here are the best ways to effectively build credit.

Have the right credit card. There are plenty out there. Do your own research to figure out what card is best for you.
Make all your payments on time. I can’t stress how important this is. Falling behind on paying your credit card is the complete opposite of building credit.
Whenever possible, pay your balance off in full. It’s a common misconception that making minimum payments on your credit card is what builds credit. This is a myth. First of all, I built my credit score without ever making monthly payments because I also pay in full each month. Also, I’ve talked to bankers and financial advisors who admitted that making monthly minimum payments does not magically build credit. So, save yourself the interest fee’s and pay your credit card in full each month.
Familiarize yourself with interest rates. Understanding how interest works will help you in the long run and will save you money. If you can understand interest, you can come up with a strategy on how to build your credit.
Check your credit score often. Don’t obsess over your credit score, but check it each month to see the patterns. If your score is low, it can be good to see it rise each month.

Charity Work

Millennials are charitable. Bottom line. Regardless of the economy, the job unemployment rate, and the student loan debt crisis, 84% of millennials still give to charity.

What is the reason for all this giving? We have the option to give through simple measures like online. We also tend to buy a product if we know that part of the proceeds goes to a good cause.

We also care more about our planet and tend to embrace the ‘green’ lifestyle more than other generations.

So next time you see a GoFundMe campaign or campaigns for natural disaster relief, just know that millennials donated the majority of the money.

We may not have a lot of money, but our charitable giving is a reminder that we aren’t as selfish as everyone makes it out to be.

Health and Wellness

Health and wellness is a huge topic these days. We know that we should eat kale, exercise and focus on our mental state, and a lot of us actually do.

But, are we really healthy? That’s debatable.

At times it might look like we are healthy based on our social media posts, but what truly matters is how we treat our bodies behind closed doors.

We’ve heard it all before, but for the sake of this article and you reading it, I’ll repeat some health and wellness basics one more time.

1. Exercise at least 3x a week for 30 minutes. 4 is better, but at least give yourself 3 days.
2. Eat your veggies. Even if you have to hide them in your smoothies, make sure you are eating some greens.
3. Drink a ton of water. Right when you wake you, drink a glass of water and then continue to drink water for the entire day.
4. Get enough sleep. Be good to your body and let it rest. Your body works so hard for you, give it a proper break each night.
5. Don’t over consume anything. Not TV. Not social media. Not people. Not food. Nothing. Find a healthy balance and between you and everything else so that you are never over consuming.
6. Take time for yourself. Avoid letting your mental state get bogged down by never giving it a break. We all need breaks sooner rather than later. Take time each week to do something you love and allow yourself time to refresh.
7. Pursue a hobby. If you can look forward to something that makes you happy, it can make life more bearable during the roughest times. Find a hobby you love and allow yourself the freedom to enjoy it on a regular basis.
8. Surround yourself with positive relationships. People can be draining. Don’t surround yourself with those kinds of people. It can be extremely damaging to us.
9. Sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. For our own wellness, at times we have to put ourselves first. And guess what? That’s okay.

Social Life

Either you have a great social life, an okay one, or one that is practically non-existent.

It doesn’t matter what generation you’re from. Everyone needs and deserves friends. As someone who has grown up struggling with my friend group (or lack thereof at times), I know what it feels like to have a friend to turn to and to not have anyone.

A healthy social life is part of a healthy balance for a millennial. Good friends can encourage us and have fun with us in the midst of good and bad times.

Is it possible to have too much of a social life? That depends.

Do you tend to put friends and fun before important things like school, family, and work? If so, chances are you need to scale it back a bit.

On the other hand, if you feel like you have no social life, it’s time to get out there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having friends and hanging out.

This might be an area of struggle for you.

As we get older, it seems like it becomes harder and harder to make friends. If we didn’t keep in touch with our friends from high school or college, all we are really left with are co-workers.

If you fall into this category of not enough of a social life, make an effort to reach out to old friends or go make some new ones. It’s easier said than done, but it’s completely worth it.

Travel

According to the U.S. News, millennials travel more than any other generation. That’s incredible!

The millennial generation has adopted the idea that experience is more important than the expense of it. And, with technology such as AirBnb, traveling is more affordable than ever.

However, there are many reasons why someone may not travel, even if they want to.

Traveling costs too much or its dangerous or you have no one to go with. Sound like a familiar excuse? Well, here are some solid arguments for why you should travel.

The main argument that you’ll hear from anyone who has traveled is that you’ll discover things about yourself and life that you never knew. Traveling has a way of opening up your heart and mind to different cultures, experiences, and wonders. Why miss out on that?

Additionally, traveling provides a great escape from everyday life and it drops you into the unknown where the opportunity to learn is endless.

Science even suggests that travel is the key to happiness. Not sure you agree with that bold statement? Well, take a trip and see what it does for your happiness.

Retirement

As of 2018, 66% of millennials have no money saved for retirement.

There are a few reasons for that. For one, millennials working part-time jobs often don’t qualify for retirement. Another reason is that we aren’t choosing to take advantage of 401k’s or other retirement options offered.

Regardless of the reason, millennials need to have a retirement plan in place. While it may seem like there is plenty of time to worry about that, you can never start saving too soon. However, you can start saving too late.

When retirement age comes, that last thing you’ll want to do is be forced to work an extra 5+ years because you didn’t start saving early enough.

An easy solution to making sure you have money for retirement is to set up a Roth IRA. Roth IRA’s are a great way to set aside money each year to go towards your future.

To learn more about establishing a Roth IRA, check out: 6 Steps to Open a Roth IRA.

Family

While most things on this list are aimed at bettering your life as a millennial, this one is more of a gentle reminder.

Family won’t always be here. That can be a sobering but true thought.

If anything is certain in life, it is that we all die someday and we don’t know what day that is. Spend time with your family and those who love you. Never allow yourself to get so busy that you don’t make time for your family.

We live in a fast-paced society that is always on the go, go go. Whenever you feel yourself on the constant move just remember to ask yourself if you have spent enough quality time with your family lately. If the answer is no, make time immediately for your family.

Trust me, you won’t ever regret the time you spent with your loved ones.

Bucket List

What’s on your bucket list? Do you even have a bucket list?

We all probably have a mental one, but have you ever taken the time to write it down? You might surprise yourself with all the things you want to see and do in your lifetime.

Instead of letting your bucket list items stay as dreams, actively work toward accomplishing them.

Right here, right now, we are young. But, we won’t always be. Someday, we will be at the end of our lives. I hope you can look back on your life and be pleased with the amount of success you had with your bucket list.

Social Media

Oh, social media. We all probably have a love/hate relationship with it.

We love it because we can keep track of all our friends as well as keep our followers updated with our day to day lives.

The hate part of social media revolves around all the fake happiness portrayed and the fake lifestyles people try to convince everyone they are living.

Regardless of if you love or hate social media, do your best to not let it consume you.

Social media should be a treat, not an obsession. It is very easy to let social media become an unhealthy habit in your life.

I’m not saying don’t have social media (I am on all the platforms and I enjoy social media, especially Instagram!). What I am saying is just remember that behind all the happy people on social media, everyone still has to live their lives and continue with their day to day business.

So, ‘like’ various pictures and then get back to chasing your own dreams off of social media.

Final Thoughts

Being a millennial is tough. We are faced with so much negativity and hardships in our path. However, as millennials, we have so much to be grateful for.

We are generous. We are adventurous. We are problem solvers. We are smart!

If you are ever in doubt on your journey through life, just remember: We. Are. Millennials.

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