Do you ever dream of winning the lottery? You wouldn't be alone. Many Americans would give anything for a lucky ticket, and millennials are no exception.
What would younger adults do with such a windfall? According to TD Ameritrade, the top three things millennials would use their winnings for are:
- Getting out of debt.
- Saving or investing for the future.
- Quitting their jobs.
Unfortunately, your chances of winning the lottery are less than those of getting struck by lightning. Therefore, you're better off not wasting money on those flashy tickets and instead focusing on ways you can improve your financial picture.
Knocking out your debt
If you're grappling with unhealthy debt, you're in good company. But don't bank on a lottery bailout to eliminate that debt. Instead, come up with a plan to do so yourself. Start by assessing your various debts and seeing which ones are costing you the most. From there, you can establish a hierarchy for paying them off so that you're focusing your efforts on those debts with the highest interest rates, and then working your way downward. You might also look at consolidating your debt or transferring your various balances onto a single credit card with a lower interest rate. Doing so might save you money, all the while making your debt more manageable.
Once you establish your debt payoff plan, you'll need money to bring it to life. To this end, be prepared to slash major expenses in your budget. We're talking about potentially downsizing your living space, giving up a vehicle you can get by without, or banning restaurant meals and preparing all of your food at home. At the same, you'll need to consider a side job if your debt is monumental. The great thing about that, however, is the money you earn from it won't already be earmarked for other bills, which means you can apply all of your earnings to your debt load.
Saving or investing for the future
Setting money aside for the future is a respectable and important goal, but you don't need to win the lottery to do it. If you make sure not to spend down your entire paycheck month after month and invest your savings wisely, you can build a sizable amount of wealth over time. And by "invest wisely," we're talking about loading up on stocks. Though the stock market is indeed volatile, it's historically delivered some pretty solid returns, and if you have a long investment window ahead of you (which is the case if you're a millennial), you'll have time to ride out its ups and downs.
For retirement purposes, you should aim to sock away 15% of your earnings or more over time. If you have other goals to save for on top of retirement, you'll want to increase that target to meet them.
How much wealth might you accumulate by saving and investing consistently? The following table will show you:
Monthly Savings Amount
Total Accumulated Over 30 Years at an Average Annual 7% Return
Note that the 7% return used above is actually a few percentage points below the stock market's average, which means that if you fill your portfolio with stocks, you might do even better.
Quitting your job
If your job is making you miserable, it pays to go out and find work you enjoy. But you don't need a winning lottery ticket to bid a bad job adieu. You just need to figure out what it is you want to do and go after it.
That said, having a solid emergency fund will give you more options on the job front. If you have decent cash reserves in the bank, you'll have an easier time accepting a pay cut in pursuit of more meaningful work, or taking the plunge and starting your own business. And if you don't have much in the way of savings, use the aforementioned debt payoff tactics to build some. Reduce your expenses, work a second gig, or do both simultaneously until your bank account is in a healthy state. And then go out there and find a job that actually gets you excited about work.
Winning the lottery is an incredible thing in theory, but an unlikely thing in practice. Rather than sit there dreaming of how you'd spend your newfound pot of cash, go out and make some of those goals happen on your own. They may not come to fruition overnight, but if you keep your eyes on the prize, you'll get there before you know it.
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