Life milestones have evolved over the past half century. In the post-war period, people in their 20s were typically expected to find a steady job, buy a home and start a family right away. While this is still a relatively common formula in North America, economic conditions and cultural ideals have transformed into a new paradigm for growth. Now, when and how people settle down has changed, accompanied with a few additional steps before starting a family. In this article, we will examine a few important things a person coming of age in this decade will have to deal with, the virtues of these pursuits and ways to thrive financially before settling into a clear life trajectory.

SEE: 8 Financial Tips For Young Adults

Get Some Accomplishments Under Your Belt
The merits of pursuing post-secondary education have been increasingly scrutinized in recent years, with student loan debt reaching the billions and new graduate unemployment levels jumping into the double-digits, the concept of an education being a ticket to success is arguably becoming a relic of the past. However, while the value of studying certain disciplines is debatable, any form of professional development demonstrates motivation and an ability to learn, which can be a boon to your financial future.

Today's job market can change dramatically, and by the early stages of adulthood you should be flexible enough to adapt accordingly. Are you in your 20s and in the middle of an undergraduate degree in sociology, but suddenly you want to become a pipefitter? Don't hesitate to do it. While you may find yourself in academia longer and potentially incurring more debt, it's easier to make these switches earlier in your life than later, especially if you find yourself committed to a job (rather than a career) and supporting dependents. Want to blog for a website or develop your writing skills? Again, it's easier to dedicate time and energy to these pursuits when your responsibilities are relatively minor. Focusing on personal goals pertinent to your marketability should be a priority in your early 20s.

Take Advantage of Your Mobility
If you find yourself within the age range of 20 and 29, you may also find yourself accompanied with people staving off marriage well into their 30s. With that lack of obligation to a spouse or parenthood, traveling abroad is a tempting endeavor to many, and in recent years, has been culturally accepted as a financial milestone for young people next to buying a new car and a home. While building your personal wealth is a significant endeavor everyone should pursue, there is intrinsic value in doing certain things like exploring opportunities beyond your borders.

However, it's not cheap. If you are impatient and optimistic about your ability to service the debt later, you could take out a line of credit; you could also spend a few years working before you embark on your grand adventure. However, if both methods of funding your trip, and the sheer waiting for your goals coming to fruition seem unpalatable, you can go for the middle ground and get a working holiday visa, which will permit you to undertake employment in the country you are traveling in. You won't exactly be hired for executive positions, but you will be earning money to help cover your travel expenses. For instance, Australia and Ireland offer working holiday visas to a wide range of nationalities, including Americans. So if you don't wish to spend a few years of your twenties scrimping and saving to go see the world, finding temporary work abroad may satiate your wanderlust, and you may even find yourself wanting to make your travel destination a permanent residence.

SEE: 5 Of The Best Work Abroad Programs For Young People

Pay Down Debt and Make Your Money Work
Borrowing today takes away your ability to consume in the future. Though utilizing loans is advantageous in building your credit history, it is important to remember that incurring debt robs you of future opportunities; thus, calculate the ROI of endeavors that require you to borrow. Are they going to be a burden to you in the future or build your personal equity later (such as purchasing a home or adding more marketable qualifications under your belt?)

Moreover, it's good to exploit the wizardry of compound interest early by investing in your early income-producing years. It can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in your retirement years than if you invested later. Do you have an employer with a matching 401(k) plan? Capitalize on it. Find yourself with some extra cash after bills and other monthly expenses are paid? Immediately toss that into a savings vehicle like an IRA or a money market fund. Avoid falling into a somewhat nihilistic mindset of satisfying current wants in the hopes that the later version of you will foot the bill, especially if that version plans to comfortably raise a family and retire.

The Bottom Line
Although previous generations have built a basic framework for its young adults to conform to in order to be considered successful, changing societal norms and the current economic environment has left a few individuals lost and embittered by the expectation to fill in all the checkboxes outlined by society's model. What worked for them may not be achievable or fulfilling for the new batch of adults joining the workforce. However, a few of the basic steps mentioned above can provide some adaptable guidelines for "Generation Yers" to navigate the new economy, enjoy their lives and prosper financially.

SEE: The Biggest Financial Hurdles Young People Face

Related Articles
  1. Savings

    Should You Look at 529 Plans Outside Your State?

    529 savings plans are not restricted by geography. So if your in-state offering has high fees or poor investment choices, look elsewhere.
  2. Investing

    4 Billionaires Who Dropped Out of Harvard

    People who became successful despite dropping out of Harvard University.
  3. Credit & Loans

    Student Financial Aid Changes: FAFSA 2015-2016

    Here is a look at some of the major changes to FAFSA in 2015 - 2016 and how they will affect student financial aid.
  4. Credit & Loans

    What to Do When You Can't Repay Your Student Loans

    Student loans should be kept in good standing no matter what. Here are some tips on managing your loans.
  5. Credit & Loans

    Student Loan Deferment: Live to Pay Another Day

    Extending your principal repayment date can increase your chances of fighting off default.
  6. Credit & Loans

    An Introduction to Student Loans and the FAFSA

    Learn how to fill out the FAFSA form so that it is easier for you to fund your education.
  7. Professionals

    Consider A Career As A Financial Communications Professional

    Regulators, sales people and clients all look to communications professionals to help them navigate the markets.
  8. Credit & Loans

    College Loans: Private vs. Federal

    Not all student loans are the same. Know what you're getting into before signing on the dotted line.
  9. Budgeting

    The True Cost of Attending College

    In addition to tuition, there are other college expenses that could potentially add thousands of dollars a year to the cost of an education
  10. Investing

    Most Valuable Career Skills in 2016

    Evaluating the mixture of technical skills and traditional "soft skills" that render career applicants competitive in the 2016 job market.
  1. What’s the difference between the two federal student loan programs (FFEL and Direct)?

    The short answer is that one loan program still exists (Federal Direct Loans) and one was ended by the Health Care and Education ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the best MBA programs for corporate finance?

    Opinions vary based on which publications you consult, but the best MBA programs for a career in corporate finance are at ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. For which kind of jobs is having Magnum Cum Laude most important?

    Having a magna cum laude degree is most important for jobs in the fields of finance, management consulting and engineering. ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  2. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  3. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  4. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
  5. Monetary Policy

    Monetary policy is the actions of a central bank, currency board or other regulatory committee that determine the size and ...
  6. Indemnity

    Indemnity is compensation for damages or loss. Indemnity in the legal sense may also refer to an exemption from liability ...
Trading Center