Time to Grow up: 10 Money Moves You Need to Make Before You Turn 25

Kelsey Buxton, Stamatios Kapous, and Justin Morrison head to a happy hour in the downtown area of St Petersburg. St Petersburg, Fla.
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I’m a little less than two years out from my 25th birthday.

And while I hear 25 is the last birthday people really get excited over (something about getting older, quarter-life crises, yada yada), I’m counting down the days until I hit that blessed quarter-century mark.

Why am I so excited to see 25, you ask? For one, renting a car when I go on a trip will get a whole lot cheaper. Without the “young renter” fee, I could save a couple hundred dollars in a single trip.

Plus, although the idea that you magically wake up to a $100 savings on car insurance at 25 is a myth, it is true that your rate should start to drop and become way more negotiable as long as you’re a safe and responsible driver.

So yeah, 25 seems pretty great to me.

But while those two perks are pretty sweet, there are plenty of financial strategies you can implement on your own to make sure your finances are organized and optimized for your entry into the rest of adult life.

10 Grown-up Money Moves to Make When You Hit 25

Here are some smart money management tips every 25-year-old should consider to help set you up for real adulthood — along with some tips on where to funnel the extra money you’re saving on insurance and rental car fees.

1. Find out If You’re Paying Too Much for Car Insurance

If you’ve hit 25 and your car insurance still isn’t budging, it’s time to shop around for a lower rate.

Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.

Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:

  • Scan your existing insurance plan.
  • Analyze what coverage you have.
  • Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage.
  • Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate.

Gabi says it finds an average savings of $720 per year for its customers.

It is a true apples-to-apples comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have. Once you sign up, you never have to shop again. Gabi’s software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.

2. Give Your Credit Score a Boost — Add up to 300 Points

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A really easy way to do this is to get a “credit report card” from Credit Sesame.

Credit Sesame is like your favorite teacher from high school — without the pop quizzes.

It gives you a free credit score, plus lays out your credit history so you can see exactly how much money you owe and to whom. It even tells you your monthly payments and interest rate, as well as which debts (if any) are in collections.

And you don’t have to stay home to do it. The Credit Sesame app lets you keep track of your credit score and ways to improve it — on the go!

To keep a closer eye on your credit, you can also get a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you might address it.

James Cooper, a motivational speaker, raised his credit score 277 points using Credit Sesame. Now he talks to high school students about the importance of having good credit and uses what he’s learned through Credit Sesame as a blueprint for his lessons.

“We want to touch the Z Generation,” Cooper says “We’re not in the business of fixing credit. We want to get to you before you have to fix your credit.”

Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.*

3. Invest in Real Estate (Even If You’re Not Wealthy)

view of a home from the outside
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Want to try real-estate investing without playing landlord? A company called Fundrise does all the heavy lifting for you.

Through the Fundrise Starter Portfolio, your money will be split into two portfolios that support private real estate around the United States.

This isn’t an obscure investment, though. You can see exactly which properties are included in your portfolios — like a set of townhomes in Snoqualmie, Washington, or an apartment building in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In addition to four rental properties, Christopher and Meghan Miller have invested in a diversified portfolio of real estate projects across the country — from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles — through Fundrise’s automated investment experience.

“I don’t have to manage them; I don’t have to do the work to improve the properties; I don’t have to find tenants, evict tenants,” Christopher says.

They follow the progress of each project they’ve invested money into through Fundrise, and Christopher receives automatic payments directly into his checking account.

But remember: Investments come with risk. While Fundrise has paid distributions every quarter since at least Q2 2016, dividend and principal payments are never guaranteed.

You’ll pay a 0.85% annual asset management fee and a 0.15% annual investment advisory fee.

4. Freeze Your Credit Cards

A young woman lays on the grass next to a lot of different credit cards.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

You’ve heard the whole “freeze your credit” advice. We agree: It’s a smart practice. But in order to save money, freeze your credit cards.

Literally — in the freezer they’ll go.

Sure, it sounds extreme, but if you tend to make impulsive credit card purchases, stick your card in a Ziploc bag, submerge it in a canister of water and slide it into the freezer.  When you’re tempted to spend, you’ll have to wait for the card to thaw, requiring you to think through your spending decision.

5. Open an Account Just For Your Savings

An Aspiration debit cards slightly pokes out of a closed wallet. A cup of coffee is nearby.
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Operating everything out of one account can make your finances muddy and contribute undue stress to your money management.

To simplify, open an account dedicated to saving, and put your money to work.

One of our favorites is Aspiration’s Spend and Save account — you’ll pay no monthly fees, and you’ll earn up to 2.00% APY on your savings.

Set a goal to start socking away just $25 per month. You’ll be amazed how quickly you have a huge emergency fund built up.

6. Secure $1 Million in Life Insurance for Just $25/Month

money management steps policygenius
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“The biggest mistake I see millennials making is being duped by insurance salesmen,” says Andy Yadro, a financial planner with Googins Advisors in Madison, Wisconsin. “Everyone needs insurance, but a very small subset of young people need the insurance that is sold by most ‘financial advisors.’”

You might still consider a basic life insurance policy, which can be useful if you have loved ones who rely on your income — a significant other, a child or even a relative you help out financially.

A company like Policygenius offers you an easy way to compare and buy life insurance. Unlike traditional providers, this online-only platform provides an easy way to apply, and it offers instant quotes from top carriers online to help you make a quicker decision.

To get your quotes, you’ll just enter some info about yourself and your health online. Once you choose a life insurance company, you can apply right online, and a Policygenius rep will give you a quick call to ask a few follow-up questions.

7. Let This Company Pay Off Your Credit Cards

Two hands reaching out to each other.
Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.

That’s where a company like Fiona can be helpful. It can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands of dollars in interest.

Fiona will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit card and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.

If your credit score is at least 620, you can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 3.84%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.

Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.

If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.

So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Fiona won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.

8. Invest in Envelopes

A woman is shown sitting criss-cross on her bed, as she hunches over and labels envelopes for the envelope budgeting method.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Buy a box of envelopes. Now stuff some cash inside each one.

OK, so it’s not that simple but the envelope budgeting method, popularized by Dave Ramsey, helps folks who tend to overspend. Each month or each pay period, take out a chunk of money. Now divide that money up: groceries, dining out, personal care, etc. Then, stuff each envelope with your spending limit.

This budgeting method helps you be more mindful of your spending and keeps you above the red. Money management made simple. 

9. Ask Your HR Department These Questions

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Got a new job? Here’s what to do next: Enroll in your company’s 401(k) plan ASAP so you can start saving for retirement. And yes, it fits in your budget!

As much as you want to be prepared for present-day responsibilities, the last thing you want is to leave old(er), future-you with bills, bills, bills and more bills.

If your employer sponsors a 401(k) plan, you should have access to people who can answer questions in your best interest — AKA HR.

And you’re going to have questions, because, well… 401(k)’s are tricky. To get the most out of your plan, here are some important questions to ask to ensure you’re putting your retirement savings in the best possible hands:

  1. Does your employer match?
  2. Where is your money invested?
  3. Can you rollover from your existing 401(k)?
  4. What fees are you paying?
  5. What can you do if your plan sucks?

10. Invest Your Spare Change — and Get a $5 Bonus

Girl with blue hair using smartphone
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If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.

You can start small — with $5 — and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. And the sooner you start, the more you could potentially make. For example, Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate that would let her stash $420 away per year.

At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.

But the beauty is you can set your own pace with Acorns’ features, so if you want — and can afford — to invest $1,000 faster, go for it.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $5,000, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

Skip the Quarter-Life Financial Crisis

Listen, you’re going to have enough to worry about at 25. Those existential quandaries are going to start hitting hard and fast, and the last thing you’re going to want to funnel valuable brain power to is money.

But if you can use these tips and tricks to set up your finances (and your life) for success, you’ll have one less thing to think about.

Well, at least until the big 3-0 comes a’ knocking…

*Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.