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Parting with just $100 a month can go a long way

Galloway has one crucial piece of advice for young Americans — get into the habit of saving regularly.

“If you get used to saving just $100 a month … you're immediately in the top 10% of most financially responsible people in America,” he said. “Most people can’t do that.”

What exactly can saving $100 a month do for you? If you save and invest that money over a 45-year period and generate an average annual 8% return in a stock portfolio, which is a bit below the market’s average, you could end up with about $464,000.

According to the Federal Reserve, that's more than twice as much as the median $200,000 retirement savings balance among Americans aged 65 to 74 as of 2022.

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How to start off the right track

Not all young people are taught how to manage money before going to college, so they develop bad habits after they graduate. If you want to set yourself up for financial success, aim to adopt the following routines once you begin working. 1. Keep your overhead low. You may not have the largest salary when you’re new to the working world so try to keep your larger expenses, such as rent, to a minimum. For example, if you commit to an apartment lease that has you spending $1,200 a month instead of $1,500, you gain an extra $300 of leeway. 2. Automate your savings. When building an emergency fund, assign a preset amount to leave your checking account every month and land in your savings. If you're saving for retirement, sign up for your company's 401(k) or find an IRA with an automatic savings feature and set up a monthly transfer to that account as well.

Automating the process forces you to save money every month. And once you get into that habit, it becomes easier to stick to. 3. Resist the urge to finance purchases, and keep debts to a minimum. If you rack up credit card balances or finance an expensive vehicle, you are spending money on interest instead of saving that money and earning interest, or generating returns in a stock portfolio. Do your best to avoid credit card debt. And if you need to finance a car, only buy what you can truly afford.

As Galloway puts it, “There are enemies everywhere trying to take your money, trying to legally steal from you. And it takes real maturity not to (give in) to that.”

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Maurie Backman Freelance Writer

Maurie Backman is a freelance contributor to Moneywise, who has more than a decade of experience writing about financial topics, including retirement, investing, Social Security, and real estate.

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