Money lessons (and mistakes) for millennials

Thousands of college graduates are celebrating their accomplishments this summer and for many of them, the realities of life are just beginning.

Whether they find themselves saddled with debt from student loans or flush with cash from a cushy job offer, Tana Gildea has advice they can use.

In “The Graduate’s Guide to Money: Tools for Starting Your Financial Journey on the Right Foot,” ($19.95), Gildea walks new grads through important financial lessons from their very first job to their very first investments. The Atlanta-based certified financial planner and certified public accountant wants young people to learn the life lessons they may or may not have picked up in college.

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“The fact that you can graduate from college and be required to take general eduction courses, but learn nothing about personal finance…I think that is a travesty,” she says.

Here are some of the top money mistakes that Gildea says millennials should avoid:

  1. Not setting financial goals
  2. Not tracking your spending
  3. Carrying consumer credit card debt
  4. Not having emergency savings and not having it in cash (versus investments)
  5. Not comparison shopping, shopping sales or using coupons
  6. Having no investment strategy
  7. Thinking “It’s only $5 bucks!”

Gildea advises millennials to be mindful of the kind of life they want. Don’t be so quick to follow what your friends are doing, she says.

If you are in your twenties, start by creating a plan and definitely start investing money while time is on your side and you can afford to be aggressive. Waiting a decade to get started is like giving money away, she says. In your thirties, begin preparing for a new phase of life that may include a partner, a home and children. The key again is planning rather than blindly living and spending day-to-day.

“Be purposeful,” Gildea says. “Regardless of what your salary is, you can make your life be what you want it to be.”

For more information on Gildea’s book or for her upcoming appearances visit

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