Andrew Carmichael Post is used to fast-tracking his way through life.

At 13, when most boys are fretting about the perils of girls and middle school, Post was attending Cal State Los Angeles, working on degrees in computer science and applied mathematics. At 18, Post was entering the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law. At 22, Post became a member of the State Bar of California.

Along the way, the U.S. economy took to the slow track. Like many in his generation facing the worst job market in decades, Post opted to stay in school.

The Altadena resident is now 24 and has landed well-paying work as a programmer for a website operator. But he also faces $215,000 in student loans, with a minimum monthly payment of $2,756.

"It's like some sort of nightmare where someone gave me a bank mortgage but forgot to add the deed to the house," Post quipped.

To save money, Post has moved back into his boyhood bedroom, putting him among the 36 percent of Americans ages 18 to 31 who still live with their parents. That's the highest percentage in four decades, according to the Pew Research Institute.

Although Post's debt is higher than average, it underscores a growing problem that has begun to affect how quickly young adults are able to contribute to the U.S. economy, said Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, an Oakland nonprofit.

"It used to be that people with student debt were more likely to have a home mortgage," Asher said. "Now, they are less likely to have one."

Other experts have called millennials the "failure to launch" generation. There was nothing wrong with Post's launch; it just was just ill-timed.

But things are looking up for Post, who estimates his annual income has risen to between $80,000 and $96,000, cobbled together from four sources, including a part-time teaching gig and the new full-time programming job with a 401(k) matching plan.

But he still needs to make the right financial choices to reach his short-term goals: new shoes, his own apartment, a later-model used car rather than his 187,000-mile mid-1990s Toyota sedan, a gym membership, his first smartphone.

Longer term, he's eager to avoid his worst fear: "reaching my 30s, wanting to get married, buy a house, start a family, with bad credit and a lot of this debt still hanging over me."

To fee-only adviser Lara Lamb, director of financial planning for Abacus Wealth Partners, Post is at a crucial phase.

After depriving himself of some of the common perks of a successful 20-something, Lamb said, Post could reach too quickly for those freedoms "and severely limit his ability to strive for success in several financial areas. Having multiple goals is very important."

Lamb added, "He needs to pare down his debt, but he also needs to build up an emergency fund, repair his credit, get on a budget and begin contributing to his retirement by embracing his company's matching 401(k) plan."

For many of her clients, Lamb advises setting up several bank accounts to aid in budgeting.

One main account collects all of Post's income. Regularly scheduled transfers go to smaller accounts dedicated to paying his debt and other regular bills, building up emergency cash reserves equal to three months of expenses, holding funds for discretionary spending and salting away something for infrequent bills.

Making these transfers automatic means Post doesn't have to think about them as often, Lamb said. If Post sticks to the plan and remains at home with his parents, Lamb said, "his debt could be paid off in less than six years."