Being a millennial doesn’t exclude you from having a full-time job and a family. Just ask Jessica Otero—wife, mother of three, homeowner, social media manager and millennial. It just takes the right approach.
Millennials can’t be bothered with marriage, kids or home ownership, right? Not so fast. This misconception largely stems from the fact that millennials have expenses and high forms of debt that their parents didn’t, but that doesn’t mean this generation is ignoring these traditional life events altogether. When it comes to purchasing a home or having children, millennials typically have to be a bit more creative in their approach to balancing financials … and everything else. Jessica Otero, an Atlanta-based social media manager and millennial, knows this well.
Jessica and her husband, Joey, are millennials with jobs, a home and three young children (including a set of identical twins). And what’s more, many of these factors fell into place quickly. “Being a young couple and getting married and having kids kind of all at the same time, we’ve had to grow as a couple really fast,” Jessica says. Growing as a couple to better manage the life you are building is not the same as forfeiting fun. While tough decisions will come along more often, it’s all about taking a realistic approach.
Growing Stronger Together
When Jessica and Joey learned they were expecting twins, they were immediately overwhelmed, at least at first. The idea of purchasing two of everything was one they had not considered. But it didn’t take long for them to take action. They realized if they wanted to build their family comfortably (with as little stress as possible—no small feat), they would have to change some habits. Jessica and Joey discussed making the choice of outfitting their kids in designer threads, or spending their money on a family trip to Disney World.
To ensure their life was moving forward to the fullest, Jessica took a step back and wrote out everything that was important to her and her family. This helped her get perspective on how they were spending their money. Or as she says, “That was when the light bulb clicked, and I figured out, ‘This is why I have no money right before payday. I’m spending money on all the wrong things. I’m not focused on what matters most to me and my family.’”
Prioritizing What’s Important
Jessica focuses on three items with her family to prioritize spending:
- Clarify your values: Start with the basics. What are your top priorities? For Jessica and Joey, these are their family’s health, their jobs and their home. Having these established helped prioritize spending and eliminate unnecessary expenses. But this also included leaving some extra dollars for inevitable surprises—and for fun. “We established an emergency fund for unexpected expenses and a vacation fund for getaways,” Jessica says.
- Build a plan with clear guidelines: After defining your values, make a plan and stick to it. A great way to do this is by taking advantage of tools or common approaches that have proven to be successful, such as the 50/20/30 rule, which advises that half your budget goes to fixed-cost essentials, 20 percent to savings and 30 percent to flexible lifestyle expenses. There is a reason this rule is constantly recommended by financial advisors, as well as millennials like Jessica who’ve found it helpful.
- Involve your family: Whether you’re working on a massive overhaul of the family budget, or simply looking to stay on the right path, it’ll only work if everyone is aware of and on board with the larger plan. Keeping family members in the loop (starting at an early age) brings priorities to the forefront and helps establish good financial habits. This way of thinking encouraged Jessica and her family to come up with a slogan they can all get behind: “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Jessica’s situation is not an uncommon one. She is like many millennials today looking to advance in their careers, pay down debt, manage finances for a growing family, prepare for the unexpected and still not lose sight of fun pursuits. But she and Joey are prime examples of how facing a situation head-on—with the involvement of your family—can reduce stress and boost confidence that your family is moving in the right direction.
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