Expert Interview with Marissa Anwar on Millennials and Money for Mint

The general perception of Generation Y is that they're lazy and need to be constantly entertained, but personal finance and lifestyles blogger Marissa Anwar wants to set the record straight.

"Gen Y is passionate, motivated and driven," she says. "We hustle just as much as every other generation, but we tend to know where our passions and interests are."

While some young adults might seem self-centered, that's only because they know what their priorities are, she adds.

And Marissa should know - along with her blog Thirty Six Months, she's offered consulting services and started two businesses in order to dig her way out of debt.

Here, she checks in to offer advice to other young adults about how to make more grown-up decisions with their money and achieve their financial goals.

Tell us about your site Thirty Six Months. When and why did you start your blog?

Thirty Six Months started three years ago as an online journal to help me document my journey of paying my grad school and credit card debt. It eventually transitioned into a platform to share other topics that interest me, such as travel and entrepreneurship. At the end of the day, TSM is meant to be as just as much of a guide for others as it is for myself.

Who should be reading it?

Millennials - anyone who finds themselves in debt after going through school, or charging too much on their credit cards - but who still wants to live their lives. It is also for anyone who is thinking of launching their own business and doesn't know where to start.

What do you think are the worst money habits of college students/young adults...ones you wished you had kicked earlier on?

The biggest money habit I see is not having a budget and not making savings a priority. The power of compound interest is a wonderful thing, and it can make even that $50 a month go a long way.

You said you avoided making "grown-up financial decisions" early on...what do you consider "grown-up financial decisions," and why should everyone (not just grown-ups) be thinking about them?

As mentioned above, I didn't think about a budget, didn't think about where I would live when I left school or what my future was going to look like. The reality is that most of us don't really think of life in that way, and are shocked when real life happens.

Grown-up decisions to me are investing, savings, buying a home and well-thought-out decisions when it comes to my spending.

What are the most common financial questions or concerns your readers come to you with? How do you respond?

The biggest one I get tends to be about paying off debt. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula; it's about hustling to put every penny into your debt payment plan so you can get rid of it quicker. I also recommend finding different ways to earn extra income to help, but most importantly, I preach the power of having a budget and knowing exactly where your money goes.

Why is it important to you to pay off your debt within 36 months?

I was lucky to be to able to pay it off in less than two years, but studies show that 36 months is where debt fatigue starts kicking in, and people lose their motivation. My intention was pay off my debt as quickly as possible and start investing in real estate.

What are the best ways you've found to pay down your debt while still having a life?

I attacked my debt head on - I created a budget and I found other sources of income. I provided consulting services, started two businesses - Row 15 Media and Spark Sessions - and cut back on my impulse shopping. Luckily, that seemed to do the trick.

What are some of your favorite go-to money-saving methods?

  • Using credit cards that give me cash-back or points.
  • Looking for discount codes before I buy anything online. (I take 30 seconds; it can save you a ton of money.)
  • Trading services. Not everything has to be paid for - offering a service that you provide in exchange for something that someone else does is just smart.

Over the years, what ways have you found to build your side income?

One of the best ways of earning side income for me is doing things that I like doing anyway - I like creating new things, so I started a web design business, and I saw the need for a fashion and beauty blogger conference in Toronto so I created that. The trick for me is find things to do that don't feel like work.

What advice do you have for young adults starting their investment portfolio? Where can they start without feeling overwhelmed?

I would recommend looking into index funds and mutual funds to start with, and slowly start building up your portfolio. I would also suggest looking into tools like Questrade and Betterment and slowly start dipping your toe into the investing pool. Not everything has to be done at once.

On a side note, I've found that most women are not active participants in their investment portfolio, and that's a shame since women tend to be more cautious and happen do to better in the stock market.

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