Millennials afraid for financial future

- Millennials have a lot going for them. A recent study shows they're better educated than the rest of us, more ethnically diverse, more economically active. But - and here's the problem - they're the most financially illiterate. 

And that's a big deal when you are the face of the future. Thirty-four percent of millennials, the study says, are unhappy with their financial situations but lack the tools to fix it. Meet Melissa Newton who took that nosedive into debt but managed to climb out.  
 
"I know the first purchase it started with; I needed a new laptop. I was, like, I'll pay it off, but it just started piling on stuff," she said sitting in her living room. 
 
It was 2008. She was just out of college and having fun. And, living on her own in pricey Decatur as a young journalist. 
 
"It's a fun job, but not a very high paying job," she said laughing. 
 
She got the laptop but kept buying and charging for everyday purchases like groceries and gas. And of course, going out with friends. 
 
"Things started to add up and then I got another credit card because I wanted to transfer the balance to get a lower interest rate, but then I kept using that other card."
 
Sound familiar? Well, for young people today ages 23 to 35, it's their story. Here's a peek at a recent study that highlights this generation's relationship with money and debt. 
 
Fifty four percent say they're afraid they can't pay off their student loans. Thirty percent of millennials are overdrawing on their checking accounts. And only 36 percent have a retirement account. 
 
And many are like Melissa was then - at their limit in credit card debt. 
 
"I think I had about $4,000 that I had and my payments were high. And I got to the point where I couldn't make the payments."
 
And that was the cold water in the face that she needed.  She went to ClearPoint, a non-profit credit counseling center.  Credit counselor Trinette McClain says millennials have an all-too-familiar pattern forming. 
 
"So, as soon as you graduate you have student loan debt. Well, can't pay the student loan debt. Got to get a job. Well, the job is not there, so you might take a job that's less than the income that you want which means you might not have as much financial flexibility which means the credit cards look enticing."
 
And so the debt spiral begins. Melissa, like many others before her, consolidated her debt so it was more manageable but it still took, she estimates, seven years to pay off that $4,000. 
 
In the meantime, she met her future husband and had to tell him about her financial baggage. 
 
She remembers, "I was nervous to tell him. I said, 'Listen we're about to merge our lives and I have some debt to pay off'."
 
She and her husband have no credit card debt. They live below their means. They own a home and have a new baby. They're a success story. And she has advice for a young people before they go to college - consider whether your dream job will actually pay the bills. 
 
"I didn't think about how much money am I going to make, how am I going to manage my finances at all? Yeah, I just wanted to live on my own and have a car and, ya know." 
 
And finally, "Save."
 
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