Young people with limited assets, and their peak earning years ahead of them, are often forced to borrow money for a variety of things, such as a college education, a car and perhaps a home. The debt can push their net worth into the red.

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Young people with limited assets, and their peak earning years ahead of them, are often forced to borrow money for a variety of things, such as a college education, a car and perhaps a home. The debt can push their net worth into the red.

Jennifer Baick and Frances Smith, financial planners at Mercer Advisors in Bellevue, have some advice for them: attack your debt systematically, save for the future and don’t panic.

A huge step is simply taking the initiative to address negative wealth. “It’s just starting,” Smith said, by doing such things as setting up automatic savings transfers and mapping out repayment plans.

Baick urges young people to start saving early and keep at it, without letup, until retirement. She likes to share a line graph that shows a young person who begins investing at age 25, and continues for 40 years, accumulates far more wealth than other saving scenarios.

Smith stays motivated with her own savings plan by periodically plugging numbers into an online investment calculator that shows the effects of compound interest over time. One of her favorites is a savings calculator on the Charles Schwab website.

Seeing what her incremental savings for today add up to in 30 years gives Smith an extra jolt of motivation that keeps her going, she says.

Student loans leave couple worried about negative net worth