In Their 20s, Struggling to Save and Tired of Being Lectured About It

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Shea German-Tanner tries to put a portion of her paycheck, even if it is only $50, into her savings account. But most of the time, she has to reroute the cash back to her checking to afford her expenses. Ms. German-Tanner, 22, has about $600 in her savings account right now and has not started saving for retirement.

“Everyone’s telling you to save money and do this and invest, and I feel like I can’t do that because I’m living paycheck to paycheck,” said Ms. German-Tanner, a social worker in Fort Wayne, Ind., who makes about $40,000 a year. She said she felt that inflation had impeded her ability to save money.

Young people who are just starting to get their footing as they enter adulthood are grappling with how to balance their incomes and spending priorities so they have money left over to save for emergencies and retirement. Worrying about saving has always been hard for 20-somethings who begin their careers at the bottom of their earning potential. But saving is especially difficult right now because on top of student debt, housing and food costs remain high even as inflation has started to cool.

Ms. German-Tanner said 20-somethings were often encouraged to take financial steps like build emergency funds, save for retirement and pay off debt. They’re advised to invest when the market is down and to start thinking about their futures as early as possible. The FIRE movement (an acronym for “financial independence, retire early”) has been glorified in recent articles, and videos about budgeting and saving in Roth individual retirement accounts have taken over TikTok.


https://static01.nyt.com/images/2023/01/20/multimedia/20twenties-savings-01-hplt/20twenties-savings-01-hplt-superJumbo.jpg?quality=75&auto=webpCredit…Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times



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