Your 20s is a time to set yourself up for debt-free 30s. The money you save now will pave the way for real estate and college funds. In the throes of student debt and low pay, here are 10 ways for a 20-something to start investing in their futures, a few dollars at a time.
1. Gym membership. The U.S. leads the world on medical spending, with $2 trillion spent annually on healthcare expenses. It’s common knowledge that this number could be drastically reduced if people took better care of their health. Getting fit in your 20s prevents expensive health issues later in life, and for around $10 a week, a YMCA gym membership won’t break the bank either.
2. Three bottles of good wine. Wine is a stable investment that can be traded on the Wine Stock Exchange. It takes a minimum of five years for wine to mature for sale, and most wine auction sites sell in sets of three. Stored properly, your investment could make you thousands. Bordeaux and Burgundy are popular drops and in the worst-case scenario, if you can’t offload it, you can drink it.
3. Kiva. Kiva is a non-for-profit microfinance organization that allows you to loan money to third-world business enterprises. For example, assisting a Kenyan in purchasing a bike to do deliveries. Kiva is a personalized approach to charity that helps people help themselves. The minimum investment is $25, and you’re given the option to withdraw or re-invest in the same or another business as soon as you start receiving repayments.
4. Social media strategy. According to a recent study, 18 to 34-year-old Americans spend on average 3.8 hours a day on social networking sites. How much of this time spent on making business connections and profiting from these platforms is unknown. Developing a simple social media strategy by identifying your brand, your offering and who you need to connect with will make good use of this time. An online presence takes years to build up, so it’s best to start right now.
5. An extra set of keys. This may seem like a ridiculous ‘investment,’ but who can argue that they’ve never locked themselves out, creating panic and wasting time. Taking simple preventative measures for when life goes wrong, such as always having a spare tire will save you thousands in the long run. A callout to a locksmith can cost upwards of $200. A spare key will set you back $2. You do the math.
6. Self-insurance. Chances are that in your 20s you won’t have mountains of insurable items or be at the stage to consider mortgage cover, but you must protect what is most valuable. Consider insuring the three technological items (laptop/tablet/phone) that are imperative to your business and find a policy that covers their loss at any location, not just at your home. Consider wage insurance to cover your bills during periods of unpaid sick leave and unemployment.
7. Retirement plan co-contributions. When you’re in your 20s, scurrying money away for your 60s seems impossible, however, there are several incentives to take advantage of a company-sponsored 401(k) scheme where your co-contributions will be rewarded. Some companies will match your deposits; most will give you at least half. If your company doesn't offer matches, or you're self-employed, you must set up your own fund. You won’t have to work forever if you start saving today.
8. An online filing system. Again, this is another common screw-up of a 20-something's life: losing data. Many panicked trips to the Mac store would have been saved if we learn to file our documents online. A decent-sized external hard drive is expensive and runs the risk of getting damaged. Not to mention how onerous backing up one’s computer is. Google Docs provides a filing solution that is safe and reliable with an easy-to-use format. Most importantly, it’s free!
9. Preferred stocks. The idea behind investing in stocks in your 20s is not necessarily to make big money -- unless you’ve got the capital to spend big -- but familiarize yourself with the process for when you do have the dollars to invest. It’s argued that preferred stocks are a good way to whet your trading appetite as their dividends are more stable than common stocks. Look for stable large companies such as Coca-Cola and Disney that will allow you to buy and sell your stock without a broker.
10. Crowdfunding. Although the popularity of crowdfunding has hit an all-time high in the last few years, it’s not a new concept. In 1987, investors who put in $1,000 in the Australian film Crocodile Dundee earned a reported 730 percent return. Politicians to artists are using the crowdfunding platform to get their projects off the ground. It can be lucrative, as well as help grow your business network.