Money Matters For Generation X

Investing can be structured to suit any lifestyle and age. The key is making those first steps count.

Financial challenges never end they’re at the root of every obligation we face–raising children, buying a home and establishing a comfortable lifestyle. To help you face the financial challenges ahead and guide you to a secure future, we’ve set up our first feature series, the BLACK ENTERPRISE Lifetime Planning Guide. Part One walks recent college graduates, Generation X, as they’ve been labeled in the media, through the steps of gathering enough money to participate in the stock markets wellspring of wealth. Later installments will be tailored to those from young families to 60-year-olds on the threshold of retirement. Throughout the series, we’ll present not only advice and insight, but also worksheets to help you come to grips with your current financial state, needs and goals. Whether you’re a 20-something or wise grandmother, we invite you to look through the entire series to glean great investment tips and basic strategies that we all can use along life’s travels.

Alexandra Burrell feels that she’s planted in the center of a financial crossroads. A finance attorney practicing for the city of Chicago, Burrell logically knows what financial steps to take. She’s saved several thousand dollars, searched for the “right” mutual fund, and has even collected a dozen or so prospectuses that lie in wait on her living room floor. The next step, however, has the 27-year-old in the financial equivalent of a catatonic state. “Whenever I look at that part of the room where I’ve gathered all that material, my eyes start to glaze over,” she confesses.

Burrell’s condition is not that uncommon among Gen Xers. Having finished school with a freshly minted degree in hand, they’ve begun to stake their claim in the business world. At the same time, they’ve focused on a future full of goals. Unfortunately, most times they’ve neglected to lay out a solid financial plan that will make those goals attainable.

There are steps anyone can take to get on the right road to a bright financial future. It starts with assessing your financial picture, deciding on a regular amount to save, amassing enough to put into a few mutual funds that will spread the risk between blue chips and aggressive growth stock–then, diving in.

Just three short years after completing her law degree at the University of Michigan Law School, Burrell found herself in a comfortable job with a salary in the low $40s. All the while, she had aspirations of someday returning to graduate school for an education degree and starting a family. And she was a prime candidate who needed no coaching on the value of saving; currently, she salts away about $500 a month. Still, as she frets about making that first big investment move, her money languishes in a bank savings account. “I know that’s measly, but I just can’t make up my mind,” Burrell admits, referring to the pile of prospectuses that sit neglected.

Burrell’s first step–a rigorous savings regimen–is a sound one. But the sorrowful fact is that scrimping alone isn’t enough. By parking her

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