US News & World Report senior editor and personal finance columnist, Kim Palmer, has written an excellent new book for young professionals: Generation Earn. Kim was kind enough to share her thoughts both on the writing of the book and to highlight "5 Money Tips for Today's Young Professionals."
Kim, what motivated you to write Generation Earn?
I felt frustrated with the constant focus on how bad our generation is with money. We're told that we have too much debt and are clueless about finances, but the fact is, we've learned a lot from the recession. We were forced to learn how dangerous debt can be and how important it is to save and understand where your money is. As a result, we probably know more about money than any previous generation did at our age. I wanted to help people with their new goals -- financial security, supporting growing families, and giving back in meaningful way.
Kim, what has surprised you the most as you've talked to people about Generation Earn?
That there has been a huge shift in how young people think about money. We care more about having money in the bank than impressing people with big houses or fancy cars. Financial security is the new measure of success. But that doesn't mean we're greedy -- in fact, the focus on giving back is a hallmark of our generation. We also want to make sure we're spending our money in ways that support the bigger causes, from environmentalism to social justice, that we believe in.
Kim, what do you know today that you wish you had known 5 years ago about personal finance?
That the only way to get ahead financially is to save at least one-third of your income. It sounds impossible, and sometimes it is. But if you don't start saving that much for your emergency fund, goals, and retirement in your twenties and thirties, it's just going to get harder later, when you have even more responsibilities. Sometimes that means living in a tiny apartment for a lot longer than you ever thought you would.
5 Money Tips for Today's Young Professionals... from Kimberly Palmer
1. Save one-third of your income. Yes, saving such a big chunk of money each month means sacrificing some comforts and indulgences for the short-term, but it's the only way to get closer to that ultimate goal of financial security.
2. Don't scrimp on career-related investments. There's one area where it's okay to be a spendaholic, and that's when it comes to investing in your future earning power. The category includes not only education expenses, but also voice lessons for an aspiring podcaster, how-to books for those with potentially lucrative hobbies, and even a new wardrobe for office workers who need to impress the higher-ups.
3. Pay off all but your cheapest student loans early. Student loans that carry a 5 or 6 percent interest rate (or higher) are costing you much more than your savings can earn in our current low-interest rate environment. That means paying off a chunk of your loans will immediately start saving you more money than you could if you continue to make those slow and steady monthly payments.
4. Don't wait to invest until you have "extra money." Waiting to start a retirement account until you feel like you can afford it might mean you can never retire. Don't wait to open up a 401(k) account if your workplace offers it, even if you start by contributing just 2 percent of your salary.
5. Give back -- on your own terms. Use Charity Navigator to check up on the background of your chosen organization before donating any money to make sure they're going to use the money the way you want them to.
What about you -- what advice do you have for today's young professionals?
Want more financial love? You can follow Manisha on Twitter at @ManishaThakor and sign up for her email updates here. Starting in Fall 2010, Manisha will teach an innovative online course on "Financial Literacy 101" for women through www.Sympoz.com. Manisha Thakor, personal finance expert for women, can be reached via her website, www.ManishaThakor.com.