07/18/2013 09:02 am ET Updated Sep 17, 2013

Have We Learned From the Great Recession? 4 Finance Tips for Gen Y

Each month SaveUp compiles a U.S. Consumer Savings and Debt Report. April's report titled, Surprise Finding: Young People Are Aggressively Saving Despite Shouldering High Amounts of Debt in Early Adulthood has some surprising findings given the disproportionate challenges Gen Y has faced due to the Great Recession.

My Take on the Report's Findings

I believe some of the optimism found in the report is due to a self selection bias. What I mean by that is, if a young person chooses to use SaveUp, they might be more mindful and committed to improving their finances than the average American in their demographic. That said, I concur with Priya's commentary within the report, "The threat of financial insecurity has instilled a permanent sense of financial awareness with this country's young adults." Our economy, housing and job markets have all taken hits since 2008. Five years later we're still on a slow path to recovery. Young adults who have been impacted can't help but be aware and act accordingly.

The report also notes, "the Great Recession led to a 25.5 percent rise in young Americans moving in with their parents (between 2007 and 2011)." Not paying the primary expense of rent or a mortgage can free up funds to save. Older people likely don't have this option and flexibility.

You've saved some money. What's next?

1. Emergency Fund -- Set aside some of it in an emergency fund. Check out this post titled, Why You Absolutely Need an Emergency Fund.

2. Debt Repayment Plan -- Create a plan to pay off debt. The webinar titled, Getting Out of Credit Card Debt, has helpful tips that can apply to all kinds of debt. To view it, log in to SaveUp and click on "Webinars" on the left.

3. Goals -- Think about your goals; short term, mid- and long term. Maybe you want to buy a car? Will that be in 6-8 months? How much will it cost? Specifically define each goal. Quantify them and give them a time frame. Then you can create incremental steps to keep you on track. With a long-term goal, such as retirement, you might consider setting aside a certain percentage of your income toward that goal. The next step is prudent investment choices that line up with your goals.

4. Investments -- Invest your money according to your goals. Think about choosing funds with low expense ratios and monitor your portfolio with periodic rebalancing.

If that sounds like too much jargon you can learn more about investing by reading Investopedia's 10 Books Every Investor Should Read. You can also seek professional advice. Many people feel more comfortable making investment decisions with the help of an expert. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors offers a search tool where you can find a fee-only certified financial planner.

Be sure to enhance your financial position, beyond saving, so that you are making robust long-term financial decisions. Keep striving to improve your finances and make educated choices so that you can SaveUp!

This post was written by SaveUp's personal finance contributing writer, Catherine Hawley, CFP.