Lessons for Millennials and Gen Z from a Financial Wellness Expert: Q&A with Virtual Financial Center Manager

February 13, 2023

Want to open a new savings account or get advice as you plan to buy your first home? The SECU Virtual Financial Center gives you the option to meet with a member advisor from the comfort of your own home – or wherever is most convenient for you. Plus, with extended hours on nights and weekends, our advisors are available to support you on your time.

We spoke with Tracy Matula, Virtual Financial Center Manager, to learn how SECU member advisors can help millennials and Gen Z achieve their financial goals.

What can members expect when they first meet with an advisor?

We always take the time to get to know our members. We seek to understand their short and long-term financial goals, so we can offer the best advice possible. Getting to know each member on a personal level helps us see where they’re at on their financial journey and what they might be able to do differently.

Every member enjoys a personalized experience. We even build follow-up appointments into our long-term plan to ensure they’ll continue to have the support they need to succeed.

How can millennials and Gen Z benefit from speaking to an advisor?

We didn’t learn much about budgeting in school. We usually learn lessons about personal finance through family and friends, or we learn the hard way. Fortunately, there are tons of opportunities out there that most young adults just aren’t aware of – like speaking to an advisor at SECU. We can help young adults set a budget that enables them to meet their needs while pursuing long-term goals. Plus, you can do it without making the trip to a branch. Just make an appointment in the SECU Virtual Financial Center.

How do you work with members to craft a financial plan?

First things first, I ask if they have a budget. Most of the time they don’t. Then, we talk about their goals. One of the most common goals I hear is: I want to buy a house next year. In that case, we ask about their plans to come up with a down payment.

We take a look at their savings and any other financial accounts they might have – including debt like credit cards. Debt is one of the most common barriers we see when it comes to saving for a down payment, so we explore strategies to reduce their debt like consolidation or balance transfer.

We want to ensure members are in the best possible position when the time comes to buy a house. For members just starting to build credit, we often recommend a starter Visa credit card. A starter card can help you build credit without taking on large amounts of debt.

What advice would you give to millennials and Gen Z saving towards long-term goals like a down payment or retirement?

Budgeting is essential. Whether you’re building a nest egg for retirement or coming up with a down payment for a home, creating a budget that prioritizes savings will help you get there.

Establishing good credit is also important. A good credit score will position you for a competitive rate. When building credit, it’s important to keep in mind the type of debt you’re taking on. Avoid taking on debt for more frivolous spending. If you do choose to use a credit card for these types of purchases, like retail and restaurants, be sure to pay that off right away.

When it comes to saving for retirement, the earlier you start saving, the better. If your employer offers a 401(k), max out your contributions – especially if they offer a match. 

What are the most common challenges holding millennials and Gen Z back from their financial goals?

Credit is often the biggest barrier, particularly the misuse of credit. Having multiple credit cards with very high balances can negatively impact your credit score. Plus, not all credit cards are created equal. Many people don’t realize that store credit cards aren’t the same as credit cards from financial institutions. In fact, these are weighted more heavily on your credit score, so carrying a high balance on a store credit card can be risky.

To maintain a good credit score, people should aim to keep their utilization below 30%. That utilization factor is actually one of the most important to your credit score. You might make your payments on time every month, but if your credit cards are frequently maxed out, your credit score will go down.

In addition to the challenges of building smart credit, many young adults simply don’t have access to the knowledge or tools necessary to make the best financial decisions. That’s why taking the time to make an appointment with the SECU Virtual Financial Center can be so valuable.

We can take a look at your full financial picture, and offer tips on how to improve your financial situation. Plus, we even have tools within our online banking to help you build and maintain a budget. For instance, say you allot $100 to dining out. Our online budgeting tool categorizes your purchase and shows how much you’ve spent of the allotted amount, so you can keep track of your spending.

Personalized financial support – at your convenience

We ask a lot of questions to get to know our members, and we always look out for their best interest even if the best path forward might not be with SECU. Schedule an appointment with our Virtual Financial Center to get assistance with complex money matters.

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