As I reflect on my financial journey and the lessons learned in my 30s, I can’t help but wish I had known some of these invaluable personal finance tips when I was in my 20s. Those formative years were filled with excitement, opportunities, and the freedom to explore, but also riddled with financial pitfalls and missed opportunities.
Today, I want to share the top 10 personal finance tips I wish I could go back and give my younger self. Whether you’re in your 20s or beyond, these insights can pave the way to a brighter financial future.
Educate Yourself on Personal Finance
In my 20s, I didn’t pay much attention to personal finance education. There is a reason for this to be the first lesson to be learnt: I’ve learned that staying informed about money management, investing, and financial planning is crucial for making informed decisions. There are many bad actors in the society but the responsibility is on you to be aware of scams and knowing how to at least express what you need.
It is not a coincidence that everyone is saying knowledge is power. Beyond the benefits, there are also simply no excuse. There are now tons of resources online that not only help you get started but also extract key information quickly.
If I can restart my 20s, I would take this really seriously and even take this a notch further by reaching out to people who are knowledgeable in the area for advice.
Start Investing Early
Cliché but in my 30s, I realized the true power of compounding. I wish I had known this earlier and started investing in my 20s. Even a small contribution to retirement accounts or low-cost index funds could have grown significantly over the years.
Furthermore, with technology and developments, there are more options such as robo-advisors and low-cost brokers where it is much easier to invest automatically.
Set Clear Financial Goals
In my 20s, I often lived for the moment without considering long-term financial goals. I learned that setting clear objectives, like saving for a down payment on a home or paying off student loans, provides direction and motivation for smart financial decisions.
These objectives need not be long-term goals that span 10 years but minimally, I found it useful to at least plan when to finish paying student loan. I had this thought out in advance and this helped tremendously where I was able to reduce time in school. This reduced my tuition fees and loans. Eventually, I was able to pay off my loans in a year and that accelerated my financial progress.
Build an Emergency Fund
I wish I had prioritized building an emergency fund in my 20s. Having a financial safety net would have provided peace of mind during unforeseen challenges, preventing unnecessary debt and stress.
Do not assume that your young age is a panacea to all surprises such as illnesses and accidents. Lastly, do not definitely assume your family is well positioned to fully help you when needed.
Avoid High-Interest Debt
In my 30s, I worked hard to get rid of high-interest debt accumulated in my 20s. I wish I had understood the importance of avoiding credit card debt and managing student loans responsibly.
While this is not a direct experience, I have seen how others have crumbled in credit card debts. In our 20s, it means that we now have some income but minimal expenses. It may be possible to pay off the high interests and debt principal now but slowly it will erode your financial capacity.
Though my 20s were filled with fun experiences, I also spent frivolously on non-essential items. Learning to embrace frugality can lead to significant savings, which can be invested or used to reach financial goals faster.
The tip here is to balance what you want and adds joy to life, while ensuring these are not too damaging financially.
Pro tip: If you really want the item, consider how many hours you will need to work before paying off for the item.
Prioritize Retirement Savings
In my 30s, I am grateful for ramping up my retirement contributions. However, I wish I had taken advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans and Roth IRAs earlier to maximize tax benefits and secure a comfortable retirement.
Put in other words, “It is free money from your employer.”. Make sure you capitalize on it.
Negotiate for Better Pay
I wish I had known the art of negotiation in my 20s. Negotiating for better pay and benefits early in my career would have set the foundation for higher earnings and financial security in the long run.
This is something that I am definitely working on. It goes beyond knowing what to negotiate but also who, how and when to negotiate. It is also an art to negotiate where all parties leave the table satisfied.
Don’t Keep Up with Others
Comparing myself to others and trying to keep up with their spending habits was a mistake I made in my 20s. I wish I had focused on my financial goals and avoided lifestyle inflation to secure a stronger financial foundation.
Pro tip: I learnt to maximize for experiences instead of physical possessions.
Diversify Income Streams
In my 30s, I explored multiple income streams to boost financial resilience. Starting side hustles or investing in income-generating assets in my 20s could have provided additional financial stability.
While I can’t go back in time, I hope sharing these top 10 personal finance tips will inspire you to make wise financial choices in your 20s. Embracing these lessons early on will pave the way for financial success, a stress-free future, and the freedom to live life on your terms. In addition, I also created these templates to incorporate these lessons with technology to help you get ahead of my previous journey and use the lessons without the mistakes. Access them here: https://www.pocketmint.co/personal-finance-templates/
Remember, the journey to financial security starts with small steps and a commitment to lifelong learning and growth.
Note: The above article highlights the author’s personal experiences and tips. Readers should always consult with a financial advisor or professional for personalized advice.