Get Your Financial Life in Order (While Still Living With Mom and Dad)

It has become more common for young people between the ages of 18 and 34 to live at home with their parents than to live with a spouse or partner, according to the Pew Research Center.

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Although Pew’s data says college graduates are slightly less likely to move back home compared to peers who don’t complete an undergraduate degree, it can take time, patience, persistence — and a whole slew of job interviews — before you’re financially ready to strike out on your own, regardless of education or experience.

Yet, that doesn’t mean you should wait to start getting your financial life in order. Here are seven ways to pave the way for a life of financial independence — even while you’re still living under someone else’s roof.

1. Check Your Credit Report

If you have a credit card, private student loans or are named as an authorized user on another person’s credit card, you likely have a credit report.

Pull your free annual credit report: Verify the accuracy of your name, address history, Social Security number, the accounts included in the credit report and the reported account activity.

2. Look at Your Credit Like a Lender (or Landlord)

Creditors, lenders, landlords and employers may use your credit history to help estimate the financial risk you present. Experian says there are a few key pieces of information that are typically an area of focus in an applicant’s credit history, including:

  • The types of credit or loans you own: Your oldest credit accounts can potentially make the most positive impact on your credit score. And a lender will look for more than one type of borrowing in your history, such as credit cards and installment loans.
  • How much of your credit you use each month: A general recommendation is to use no more than 30%-50% of your available credit in order to have an optimal credit utilization ratio, one of the biggest factors used in calculating your credit score.
  • Payment history: If your credit history includes missed payments, Experian.com says a late payment could stay on your credit report for up to seven years; with payments late by 90+ days tending to be the most damaging. Commit to making on-time payments.

3. Open Your First Major Credit Card

If you don’t have a major credit card, consider opening a credit card before you move out on your own. If you have little or no credit history, you may want to consider a student card or secured credit card. This can help establish a credit history.

4. Budget Like You’re Paying Rent

Create a budget that simulates financial commitments like rent and monthly utility bills —even when you live under someone else’s roof who pays for them. When the time comes to live on your own, you’ll be accustomed to living within your means.

5. Tackle Your Debts

Start tackling interest-bearing debt like student loans and credit card balances while your living expenses are minimal. The more aggressive you get with your payments, the more you can reduce the size of the balances, as well as the amount of interest on any carried balances.

6. Invest in the Future

The future can seem light years away when you’re still relying on financial help, but it will come eventually. Start making retirement contributions as soon as land a job. The earlier in your life you can begin to save for retirement, the more time the money has to grow and the more options you will have later in life.

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7. Learn the Ins and Outs of Taxes

Read all about the details in your taxes. Parents/ legal guardians may not be eligible to claim you as a dependent on their federal taxes once you’re 19 years old if you’re not a student, says Bankrate. Enrolled college students may be eligible as dependents up until they turn 24 years old. Plus, you’re not an eligible dependent if you provide more than half of your own financial support, regardless of your age.

If you’re not eligible to be claimed as a dependent, leverage the financial rite of passage that is learning to file your own federal tax return: The IRS offers free online tax filing software for taxpayers who earn less than $64,000 a year.

By using these 7 steps you will be well on your way to having the financial life you’ve wanted.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

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