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Money Moves Teens & Young Adults Should Make

Last updated January 16, 2024

Learning how to manage your money is an essential life skill. Figuring out how to build and maintain a solid financial future can seem daunting, but with the right guidance, you can be set up for success. Here are seven money moves you can start making now to build financial understanding and security! 

Create a budget

Your first move is to create a budget. Think of managing your budget like managing your social life. You wouldn’t make plans without making sure you were free first, right? The same rules apply when it comes to your money. Creating a budget will show you how much money you have, what your monthly expenses are, and if you’ve overspent. Having a budget allows you to take control of your finances, encourages you to live within your means, and helps you achieve your financial goals!

Open a checking and savings account

Once you know your budget, you should open a bank account. It is essential to understand the different types of bank accounts and how they work when making smart decisions with your money. While there are several types of accounts to choose from, the main two are checking and savings. Learn more about checking and savings accounts here.

Keep in mind that requirements for opening checking and savings accounts will vary based on the bank you choose. There may be fees associated with a checking account (like overdraw fees) if you don’t keep an eye on it.

You might think you don’t need a bank account because you have CashApp, Venmo, or PayPal. Those apps are great for quickly sending and receiving money, but do not leave your money in them. Put the money you want to spend into your checking account, and the money you want to save into a savings account so you can (1) make more money over time, and (2) guarantee your money is safe. CashApp, Venmo, and PayPal are not banks, they are third-party apps that allow you to move money. They are not FDIC insured, which means if CashApp, Venmo, or PayPal ever go out of business, all the money you had in those accounts is gone. On the other hand, checking accounts and savings accounts are FDIC insured, so if your bank went out of business, your money is insured up to $250,000.

Know your credit score and understand why it’s important

Another great money move you can make is to learn your credit score. If you are under 18, you will likely have a 0, as you cannot apply for credit yet. A credit score is a three-digit number, typically on a scale of 300 to 850, that estimates how likely you are to repay borrowed money (credit cards, department store cards, car payments, etc). This number is important because it not only determines how much money you can borrow, but also how much it will cost (in monthly payments, for example) and how long it will take for you to pay back the money you’ve borrowed.

Learn how to use credit cards wisely

Credit cards allow you to borrow money from a bank to buy things and are a powerful tool to help you build your credit. Using a credit card should not be taken lightly. There are several fees associated with using them and, if not used responsibly, can negatively impact your financial future. Your credit score largely determines what types of credit cards you’re eligible for and how much interest you will pay if you use them, which is why you want to work hard to keep your credit score high.

If you have a credit card, be sure to pay off the balance every month. A general rule is that if you can’t pay off your credit card balance, it means you can’t afford what you’ve been buying with it. You can use your credit card to make purchases like gas, groceries, Netflix, and more, and then pay the balance at the end of each month. This behavior will show lenders like banks that you’re a reliable borrower and will pay off your debts. The sooner you start building your credit, the more established and reliable your credit history will be.

Understand how debt works and how it can affect your life

At some point in your life, you will want (or may need) to make a purchase that you don’t have enough money to pay for in full; such as an emergency expense, a down payment for a car, a vacation, or your education. In order to pay for that purchase, you will need to borrow money from a bank, credit card provider, or other type of lender. This means you are going into debt because you are purchasing something with money that isn’t actually yours, that you will eventually have to pay back.

Oftentimes, when you borrow money and go into debt, not only do you have to pay back the amount you borrowed, but you will have to pay off all of the interest that accrues with it. This means you will end up paying back more money than you spent to make the purchase.

The amount you pay in interest will largely depend on your credit score, and the lower your interest rate, the less money you have to pay towards your debt. People with high credit scores usually receive low interest rates (sometimes no interest at all), while people with low credit scores get high interest rates, meaning they pay more than the amount they originally borrowed. Before reaching for your credit card, applying for a store credit card, or taking on student loans, be sure you fully understand how this purchase will impact your financial future and that you have a solid repayment plan. 

Invest in your future

It’s never too early to start investing in your future. Making wise investment decisions can help you build wealth and reach your long-term financial goals faster. When it comes to investing, there are a number of great ways to get started! 

The most common investments for teens include custodial accounts, college savings plans, and retirement accounts. The great news is that you don’t need a bunch of money to get started and being young is a huge advantage when it comes to investing. Thanks to the magic of compound interest, making small (but smart) contributions at an early age can add up to a bigger impact later. Good investing is about time in the market, not timing the market, so don’t get caught up in the latest trends because you believe it will make you rich overnight. Instead, choose reputable investment companies such as Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, and other companies that focus on long-term returns.

Learn more about investing as a young adult here!

Note: Investing can be risky. Be sure to talk to a parent or guardian before making any investments.

What are other ways I can invest?

Investing isn’t just about buying stocks or putting your money in savings accounts. It can also mean buying items that will last longer instead of ones you might only use for a little while. These types of investments include things like:

  • Purchasing higher quality clothes and shoes
  • Using a water filter over buying single-use plastic bottles
  • Buying items in bulk over singles

Talk to an expert or a trusted adult

Before making any big financial decisions, we strongly advise you to talk to a parent/guardian or a trusted adult. They can help you make informed choices about building credit and taking on debt that can ensure your financial stability and success in the future.

Now that you know the seven money moves young people should make, it’s time to get started! Let us know what money moves you are starting with by texting #Jobs to 33-55-77 (click here to have the text message set up for you), and be sure to check out our other money management resources!

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