You can hardly open a newspaper or magazine these days without seeing a headline about the ‘millennial’ generation. They’re obsessed by tech; they’re lazy; they won’t commit to ‘real jobs’, instead preferring to freelance; and perhaps most damning of all, they are clueless when it comes to money. Saving for the future? Why bother when you only live once? While in some cases that may be true – every generation has spendthrifts – on the whole, these much-maligned millennials have a very good reason for not finding new and exciting ways to invest their spare cash: they don’t have as much as previous generations.

Why Millennials Need to Think About Finances

According to the Resolution Foundation think tank, millennial men earn an average of £12,500 less during their 20s than the generation before them did. Women’s pay has stayed broadly the same, which sounds good, but isn’t all that when you consider that the cost of living has increased exponentially, housing prices – buying and renting – are up, and a lot of Millennials started their working life in debt, thanks to a university fee system which, while not quite as exorbitant as the current generation of students are dealing with, was certainly more expensive than their parents’ – the majority of whom had the opportunity to gain degrees for free.

It might well be true that four in ten Millennials have no pension provision, but when they’re struggling to get by day to day, who can really blame them? Rather than berating and dismissing this entire generation, let’s instead look at ideas that could help them.

Eight Ways Millennials Can Improve Their Financial Wellness

Money

1. Clear debts. This is not new advice; you will find it on practically every financial advice article ever created, because it is the one unchanging truth. Debt drains your resources. At the beginning of January 2017, the TUC released figures indicating that the debts of the average UK household were now higher than they had ever been, and were fast approaching £13,000, before mortgages had been factored in. Millennials are no exception to this, apart from the fact that a huge majority have been unable to afford mortgages – at least not without recourse to the Bank of Mum and Dad. Debt can be managed through making the minimum monthly payments, but in paying the bare minimum all you are really doing is throwing your money away. If you’re finding it hard to do anything else, however, try consolidating your debts into one place – either a low-interest loan or an interest-free credit card. This allows you to clearly see just how much you owe, while helping to reduce outgoings. If you can chip away at your debt each month, you'll soon find that you have more money to play with over all.

2. Company pension. There’s every chance that you’ve seen a really forgettable advert on telly in the last few years, with a big, fluffy amorphous blob following random strangers down the street. Like the people in the ad, you’ve probably ignored it, but you probably shouldn’t have because the message was all about workplace pensions. Introduced in 2012, the UK Government’s workplace pension scheme is essentially a way for you to double your money. If you’re over 22 and earn more than £10,000 per annum you can ask for a percentage of your wages to be invested in a pension, and it will be automatically deducted from your wages on a monthly basis. The really good bit is that however much you choose to contribute, your boss and Government work together to replicate it, so when it comes to retirement you’ll have twice as much money coming to you as you contributed yourself. When cash is tight even a little loss can be difficult to budget for, but in the long-term, it makes tremendous sense, so why not cut out a couple of Starbucks and use those pennies more sensibly?

3. Cut expenses. OK, so it’s easy to joke about cutting back on avocado toast, and you may well feel that you’ve pared everything back to a minimum already, but everyone has something that they can do without. That organic veg box you have delivered every week – do you actually eat it all, or does it just sit in your fridge making you feel virtuous while it slowly moulders? Netflix and Apple TV, how often do you use them? Gym membership. Magazine subscriptions. Eating out – more than half of all Millennials eat out more than three times a week. And that’s not counting coffee. And as for prosecco, do you really need another bottle? It’s not a lecture, it’s a nudge to take another look at your spending.

4. Invest. A lot of people are inherently wary of investment schemes, especially Millennials, who reached adulthood at the start of the financial crisis and have taken away the message that financial institutions are not to be trusted. The problem with not investing is that we’re still teetering on the edge of historically low-interest rates in the UK; while we’ve finally moved on from 0.25%, 0.5% is hardly worth getting excited over. This means that any cash sitting in a savings account really won’t do much more than sit, while investing it means that it will actually be making you money – if you invest carefully. There are two relatively simple ways to do this. The first is P2P (peer to peer) lending. Working with a platform like FastInvest, you can take any spare cash you have – literally from as little as €1 (£0.89!) – and gain a return of 9-13% for a short-term investment. Even if you can only afford to put in a few pounds here and there, it’s still worthwhile because those few pounds will keep growing. FastInvest also provides a default and buy-back guarantee, which removes a huge percentage of the risk. The other option is investing in Cryptocurrencies. This is a little more complicated, but with Bitcoins recently hitting an all-time value high of USD$7,000, there’s little doubt that cryptocurrency is causing a stir amongst investors. If you can work out how to do it – and companies like Vaultbank are beginning to make this a little easier, although all you really need to do is create an access account on an online exchange, deposit your cash and begin trading – you’ll be ahead of the vast majority of traditional investors. Once you’ve made your purchase you can either invest your cryptocurrency in online platforms – if you’ve purchased Ethereum you can buy into the FastInvest ICO, for example – and increase your chances of gaining a strong return, or you can just hold on to them, watch the market and make a sale when the odds are in your favour.

Budget

5. Budget. Budgeting can feel tedious, but it’s an invaluable way to keep track of your cash. It doesn’t just help to stop you spending and start saving, but it helps to stop you worrying too. Having more cash is reassuring. One in six people worry about debt. A budget could prevent you from being one of them. Millennials are often accused of being addicted to their smartphones; let that work to your advantage by utilising the best budgeting and banking apps available.

6. Create multiple income streams. Diversification seems to be the key to surviving in modern society. The creation of multiple income streams plays into this. The favourite way at present is having a bit on the employment side, with more than a third of Millennials having a second job – freelancing rates have grown exponentially because of this. But another way to generate income takes us back to point three: investing. Put £1,000 into your FastInvest auto invest tool and at the end of the year you could have an additional £90-£130 to your name without actually doing anything yourself.

Books

7. Invest in yourself. Oh, it sounds like such a cheesy thing to say, but a bit of self-investment goes a long way. If you feel good about yourself, then others are more likely to look well upon you. If you gain additional qualifications, you’re better positioned to progress at work and increase your salary. If you give yourself time to relax, and take time away occasionally, you’ll feel better and be able to do more, the same goes for eating and sleeping well. Self-investment doesn’t seem like a very British thing, but it can bring a lot of benefits.

8. Learn how to say no. One of the key Millennial failings is that everyone wants to say ‘yes’. ‘Coming out for a drink?’ You’re broke, you’re exhausted, you really don’t want to go. ‘Oh, yeah, ok then.’ And your overdraft begins to tremble. ‘Can you finish this paperwork before you leave?’ You were meant to finish work an hour ago, you’re tired, you’ll have to get a taxi home and you’ll overspend on the childminder. ‘Umm, sure…’ It feels like the right thing to do, but it’s costly and it might be underselling yourself, not to mention hiking up your stress levels. Saying no, and taking time for yourself, is healthy. We all need to do it more, especially when cash is an issue.

Millennials have had a bad rap for years now. Part of it is simply the age-old problem of intergenerational denigration; there have always been floppy-haired youths considered lazy and foppish by their seniors, and there always will be. The other part, however, is that we live in difficult times; cash is harder to come by, and yet expectations are higher. It is genuinely hard for a Millennial to accrue the resources that their parents managed to gather. It’s taking small steps – clearing debt, cutting expenses, saving money and investing – that will help to deliver a future that is more comfortable than many are fearing.