By the Echo Press Editorial Board

It’s easy for those in their late teens or early 20s to get into financial trouble early.

Many have looming college debt, are inexperienced in paying bills and budgeting, and may not be spending those first few paychecks wisely.

According to a 2019 Future of Money study, 72 percent of the oldest members of “Generation Z” – those born after 1997 – are feeling stressed about money.

“For those just getting started in their careers, personal finances can seem overwhelming, but they don’t have to be,” said Michael Sullivan, a personal financial consultant with Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency. “Taking the time to fully understand their financial situation and set realistic goals will help young adults build confidence – and have fun – with their money.”

To help get those Generation Z wage-earners on the right track for the New Year, Sullivan shared these four financial resolutions (there’s also good advice for other generations as well):

  • Create (and follow) a budget. Hands down, the most recommended financial tool is a budget. To budget effectively, you need a complete picture of what’s going out and what’s coming in. Track every expense – down to the penny – for 30 days to get a realistic sense of spending. Use this information to allot how much money should go toward each budget category, noting your personal goals such as building an emergency fund or paying off debt. You can use a good ole spreadsheet or variety of mobile apps.

  • Find the right student loan repayment plan. Upon graduation, federal student loan borrowers are transitioned to a standard repayment plan, which may not be the best solution. Graduates need to identify the right repayment option for their individual circumstances – typically an income-driven plan. For guidance, connect with a nonprofit student loan counseling agency.

  • Build an emergency fund. An emergency fund serves as a buffer between you and credit card debt, reserving funds that are solely for emergencies, such as car repairs or medical expenses. We recommend saving three to six months’ worth of monthly expenses in a liquid savings account. That might seem difficult, but saving about $20 a week for a year will net you $1,000 – a big boost to that fund.

  • Start retirement savings. If you have access to a 401(k), be sure to sign up and start saving. Your age is a huge asset when it comes to retirement — take advantage! If you don’t have a 401(k), consider opening an IRA. Contributing just $25-$50 a month will pay dividends down the road.

For more financial tips and guidance, check out Take Charge America’s Financial Education Center or take a free online debt review on its website, www.takechargeamerica.org.