Getting Your Money

Being a young adult in 2016 is no picnic. You (mostly) don’t know what you want to do, your love life’s a slow-motion disaster film, and your parents keep asking when you’re going to settle down/get married/go to med school.
Oh, and you’ve got crazy student loan debt, wages have been stagnant for decades, housing prices are through the roof, and climate change just killed a bunch of reindeer in Siberia.
It’s enough to make you feel like this:

It doesn’t have to be this hard. While we can’t tell you how to figure out what you want to do with your life, or get you to stop drunk-texting your ex, or bring those poor reindeer back to life, we can help you get your finances in order.
Here’s how to be an adult—on paper, at least.
1. Pay yourself first

It’s a personal finance cliche, but it’s still the first step on the road to financial stability. Saving money often feels like deprivation—you can’t buy stuff you want. But if you change your mindset, and see saving as an investment in (pretty near) future you’s health and happiness, it makes it a lot easier.
How to pay yourself first? Here are a few ideas:
Do (at least) the bare minimum when it comes to retirement savings

Ideally, you’d be putting away a significant amount of money toward your golden years, but we know you’ve got bills: Those fat monthly payments to Sallie Mae, as well as rent, food, and the (more than) occasional night out.
But one of the few advantages (financially speaking) of being young is that you’ve got decades until you’re going to need your retirement money. Thus, every dollar you put away now will be worth more at retirement than dollars you put down in 10 or 20 years, when you’ll be a little farther along the slow crawl to the grave—and thus more flush.
Why? Compound interest. With time, your money earns interest, and then that interest earns interest, and then the interest on your interest earns more….you see where this going. Time is on your side on this one.
So what’s the bare minimum?
If your employer offers a match, contribute as much as you need to get the maximum match. For most of you, this will be 6 percent, with an additional 3 percent coming from your employer. Free money!

And with that, you’ll be close to halfway to the 20-percent savings rate that most financial advisors (and Money Under 30) recommend.
If you start right out of school, it might even be enough for you to have a year’s salary saved up in your 401(k) by age 30.
And because that 6 percent comes out pre-tax, you won’t feel as much of a pinch in your (slightly) reduced paycheck.
If you employer doesn’t offer a match?
Then you should open up a Roth IRA and aim to max out your yearly contribution. Since you’re young, and probably not making a ton yet, you’ll be paying less in taxes than you will later on. Contributions to a Roth IRA are done with post-tax money; withdrawals you take in retirement are tax-free.
Regardless, you’ll want to put your money in low-cost index funds, as fees can really eat up your returns.