If you're a member of Gen Y (born between 1980 and 2000), you're probably driving just now to find the perfect job and establish your career.
The here and now can sometimes block the holistic view — for example, planning for your future. You need to take an active role in managing your finances for now and the long term.
Here are five basics to get started.
Build an emergency fund
Save three to six months' earnings for the unfortunate and unexpected expenses. Your likely thought: "I already have so many expenses!"
It is hard to sock money away into an emergency fund. But what if your car breaks down? What if you have a surprise medical bill or lose your job?
You'll be grateful for that fund to keep you afloat. If you struggle to build your emergency fund, try direct deposit or automatic transfer from your paycheck into a separate account. With automatic deposit, you probably won't notice the missing cash.
If you don't think you can afford to save anything, skip that morning latte twice a week and save the extra $10. Every little bit adds up.
Investigate your company's retirement plan
Though your golden years remain decades distant, saving for retirement is critical — even when you're young.
After you land that first big post-college job (or your second or third job), use that opportunity to contribute money to your company's 401(k) plan.
Track your spending and create a budget
Do you really know how much runs through your fingers every month or year? Online financial resources such as Mint, BillGuard or Budgt can help you track your expenses and wrap your head around how much you actually spend. These resources also provide tools to help you set and meet a budget.
Remember to build into your budget holiday gifts, student loan payments, vacations and other modest wants and commitments so the expenses don't sneak up on you. Review your budget every month to see if you remain on track.
Establish and monitor your credit
Ever thought of buying a new car? Owning your own home? Such big-ticket items usually require loans, and loans usually require a good and established credit history.
Whether you're single, engaged or married, you are responsible for your own credit score. You can build credit simply by using checking and savings accounts, paying student loans on time or opening a credit card account (and then using that account prudently).
You're entitled to one free credit report each year, which you can order from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Ask for help
You are never too young to seek the advice of a financial planner.
Financial independence also means planning for the factors you can't control. Your planner can help you evaluate your needs for life and disability insurance, or help you establish an estate plan to support your present or future spouse and children.
Megan Olson is an associate consultant with Wipfli Hewins Investment Advisors in Minneapolis. She writes for AdviceIQ.