Personal Finance 101

Student loans, credit cards, car loans, and mortgages weigh on Generation Y. What does the mounting debt for these young adults mean for the economy?

Our relationship with money is complicated. Most of us wrestle with the best ways to spend, save and invest. But many of us are afraid to ask questions about money we think we should already know the answers to. So, for a guide to what you should know about money, Michelle Singletary, a personal finance expert and nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post, helps some curious callers get back to the basics.

Michael in Los Angeles has a checking account, knows how to check the balance and when he has enough money to withdrawal, but what's a grown up out on their own really need to know about money? 

Singletary says there's nothing wrong with asking his bank for help. "They understand that this is a complicated thing for a lot of folks." Asking something as simple as, 'can you help walk me through everything I need to know?' would help consumers know what to look out for when it comes to potential pitfalls.

"I also want him to start an emergency fund," says Singletary. "Banking encompasses not only your paycheck, but also how you plan for the future."

What's the best, simple way to get yourself started on a budget for the first time? "Whatever you make, spend less. Most people live beyond their paycheck, it's just really key to be financially smart." The next step is to plan your savings in advance. "The first thing that comes out of my paycheck isn't my mortgage, it's savings. My retirement, my kids college fund, my [emergency] fund," says Singletary.

To hear answers to questions like how much to save for retirement, how to find a financial adviser, and how credit scores are calculated, click the audio player above.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...