Insider Tips: How to Budget and Save Better in 2014

Expert advice for young adults on how to manage their finances.

young woman worried about her finance and bank / credit card statements
David J. Green/Alamy
By the Editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine

For its Insider Tips From the Pros packages in the February 2014 and May 2014 issues, Kiplinger's spoke with dozens of experts in fields ranging from college aid to travel to glean insights they apply to their own financial lives and share with their own family and friends. For those just starting out in their careers, we offer this guidance on saving and spending wisely:

A Budgeting Formula for Young Adults

Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of

One of my favorite budgeting formulas is the 50-20-30 percent rule. Start with whatever money you bring home. Of that amount, 50 percent or less should go to your essentials -- the roof over your head, your electricity bill, your groceries, and your transportation to and from work, because it's critical for you to keep that amount of income coming in.
The next bucket of 20 percent goes to the future -- debt repayment, retirement and all your savings goals, such as a home or a baby. The last 30 percent or less goes to your lifestyle -- shopping, restaurants, travel and so on.

Pick the Right Funds in Your 401(k) for Your Future

John Rogers Jr., founder and CEO of Ariel Investments

I just went through this with my 23-year-old daughter. She recently got a job with a 401(k) option. I suggested that she use individual funds to build a diversified portfolio with representation in all the major asset classes: emerging markets, real estate, blue chips, small-cap stocks, mid-cap stocks and just a very small amount -- 5 to 10 percent of her portfolio -- in cash and fixed income. Having that small cash cushion allows you to move more money into stocks when the inevitable correction comes.

Why Index Funds May Be Better than Target-Date Funds

John Bogle, creator of the first index mutual fund and founder of the Vanguard Group

I would buy a broadly diversified stock index fund. And let's make it clear that I'm talking about a stock index fund. I have no problem with putting 100 percent into stocks when you make your first $500 investment in a 401(k) plan. At that point, the most you can lose is $500, and when you start with an index fund, you get the opportunity to learn how the market works. You see the ups and downs. Do that for a few years and see if you like it.

Target-date funds are not as easy to deal with as the marketplace seems to think. Owners of target-date funds will also get Social Security, which provides a fixed payment in retirement. It's not quite a bond, but it's close. But target-date funds are often weighted too much in bonds and too little in stocks.

If you don't have a good stock index fund in your 401(k), go to your human-resources director and tell him or her you want one. The benefits are so obvious that it should be available for all employees.

Rent vs. Buy

Guy Cecala, CEO and publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance

My two sons, who are in their 20s, asked me that a few years ago, and I advised them to wait to buy because of uncertainty in the housing market. But they both bought anyway. They did their homework and chose strong neighborhoods in relatively strong markets, where home prices were stable. But, bottom line, my sons bought because they would pay about the same each month to own a house as they would to rent a nice place.

Despite rising home prices, high and rising rents in many metro areas often tip the scale in favor of buying. And, of course, despite a [modest] rise in mortgage interest rates in the past year, rates are still historically low -- if you can qualify for a loan. Financing costs won't be as low in the future as they are now.

An old rule of thumb says you shouldn't buy unless you expect to stay in the home for at least five years. I've learned that that doesn't work with young buyers, who tend to think in dog years -- that is, two to three years seems like a lifetime. But if you're just moving to an area, it makes sense to test locations by renting before you buy.

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It's not easy to budget, but you really need to make sure you do. The reason is that you don't want debt hanging over your head, especially when you get close to retirement. Those debts can have a big impact on your future, which you can learn about at Mortgages, car payments, student loans... Pay them off and then save that money because you want those kinds of payments gone by the time you retire.

May 16 2014 at 1:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Stay strong America !!! Don't give up !!!

April 19 2014 at 1:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We need 20 million lawn guys to fill the IT jobs and teaching positions...?????

We are all doomed ...adios

April 19 2014 at 1:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I spend all my money on wild women and today gone tomorrow!

April 19 2014 at 1:16 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Gosh...all these articles about money...they sure do like talking to pepole with money ..about money..

April 18 2014 at 2:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pllove49's comment

That is Wall St. and the one percent. Look, the system is due to break at any time. Don't listen to the owners of the Casinos, listen to your neighbors and form organizations to fight the one percent. If not, then we all lose for when the bridge goes down we wll go down

April 18 2014 at 7:12 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

More 'experts'. Do your own thinking, Americans the plutocrats have nothing but contempt for you

April 18 2014 at 1:40 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

If you find it hard to save for whatever reason, you can start small by transferring from your checking account to savings whatever amount is left after either each pay cycle or the end of the month. At that point just "forget" about whatever balance you have in savings. This could be helpful for someone with low income where the article's "50-20-30" is nearly impossible to achieve.

April 18 2014 at 10:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sybilstewart's comment

Great idea. Savings accounts are paying under .75%. so, if
I deposit one thousand dollars at the end of the year I will have $7.50 in interest.

April 18 2014 at 7:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If you are going on social security and medicare in 2014 thank god that the programs are still here and thank a democrat for getting them passed in 1935 and 1968. Now if you do not need these 2 fine programs or do not want them vote republican.

April 18 2014 at 9:54 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to toosmart4u's comment