Millennials generally get a bad rap when it comes to their financial acumen.

Or so the media thinks.

That narrative has been pushed hard by the talking heads and it seems like every business or financial website has a story about how poorly Millennials are with their money.

What we don’t see much of is a deeper explanation as to why some millennials may seemingly struggle with their financial decisions.

READ ALSO: Here’s how Millennials are making big moves in real estate

Millennials are generally categorized as those being born between 1981-1996. So, let’s take a step back and look at what has happened over the last 20 years.

What major event happened as the first batch of millennials were just graduating college and beginning their adult lives? 9/11.

The following six years saw the Iraq War combined with a stagnant stock market coming out of the internet bubble burst. From January 2002 to January 2008, the stock market saw a measly return of just 5% over the six-year period.

Then, right when the market was starting to trend higher, we saw the great financial crisis take shape which brought the stock market down a whopping 54% over a 17-month period between October 2007 through March of 2009.

The lasting impact on the average Millennial was devastating.

Not only did they witness the destruction of their own financial portfolio, but they also saw the pain of their parents and elders with many losing their entire retirements and some their jobs.

Outside of the Wall Street perspective from the financial crisis fallout, the job market for entry level workers went bare, with the unemployment rate at nearly 10% during the summer of 2009. It became very difficult for those entering the workforce to find a job and those millennials that were lucky to be working found less job security than ever before.

You can’t find a tougher eight year stretch of an era entering their adult lives like this since World War II. 

It’s not much of a surprise then that millennials seemingly struggle financially after looking at everything they have had to go through!

In fact, we are getting to a point where you can spin this to say how resilient this generation has become with everything they have faced in their lifetime.

The question becomes how we can help the younger generation get out of this hole some may be in and start guiding them towards financial freedom?

Let’s take a look at five tips to help millennials begin correcting their financial mistakes.

1. Invest in the stock market

The stock market creates an opportunity to provide financial freedom for you and your family. Since 1986 the stock market has finished ahead in 30 of the last 35 years. The lesson here is long-term investing is a sure way to build your wealth. Find a trusted source to help you get started and learn how to use this investing opportunity to your advantage.

2. Save for retirement

Waiting to start saving for retirement can be detrimental towards your post-working life. Even waiting an extra five years to start saving money can put you in catch-up mode. A common excuse we hear is people don’t make enough money to save for their future. This typically tells us you are overspending and you need to restructure your lifestyle to fit your income. There’s no perfect time to start saving for retirement but by just starting with even a few bucks as early as possible, you will get started on your path towards financial independence.

3. Don’t spend at the rate of your earnings 

This leads us right into what was previously mentioned above: Don’t spend your entire paycheck every month. It’s tempting to live the “YOLO” lifestyle. Buying the expensive car, going on vacations and splurging on fancy dinners can all be fun in the moment, but if its leading to financial stress, then it’s time to dial it back. Make sure you are able to put money aside for your retirement and investment portfolio as well as your rainy-day fund before taking that extra vacation to the Bahamas.

4. Have a rainy-day fund

Life happens. And it happens quickly. From losing a job to a medical emergency, it’s important to have spending money saved to cover at least six months expenses in case something goes haywire. Failing to do so can put you in debt at a time when you are dealing with something that may already be of great stress. Put some money on the side and save yourself an additional stress.

5. Pay off credit card debts

Allowing credit card debt to run wild can hurt your credit score and will put you on a path towards perpetual financial purgatory. If you have credit card debt, it’s essential to become disciplined and start cutting back until you get everything paid off.

Mike Waldron is director of marketing at TruWest Credit Union. TruWest Credit Union is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, and operates as a cooperative providing its members with a lifetime of quality financial services and a culture of caring for its members, employees and communities. TruWest is a strong and sound financial institution with more than 90,000 members and assets totaling more than $1.5 billion. TruWest® Credit Union has 12 branch locations – eight in metro Phoenix and four in Austin, Texas. For more information, visit