Financial Advice I Wish My 20-Year-Old-Self Knew
Your 20s are some of the most formative years in your life. Typically, during this 10-year period is when your personal life truly begins to form and your professional career launches…and hopefully progresses. However, this is a period in our lives that we also make the most mistakes.
We all know that hindsight is 20/20 and many of us learn more lessons in life (including financial lessons) that we wish we could have told our 20-year old self.
Note: Even if you’re in your 30s or older, don’t tune out just yet! The six points below are still very much applicable to you.
1. Invest in your education
After high-school, everyone seems like they’re going into debt for that continued degree, but is it worth it for you? To some, it may be a good idea, but to others, it would be better to attend a trade school or to take a gap year. No matter your situation, you should always invest in your education or to gain valuable work experience first, because it will guarantee good returns. Just make sure that if you are pursing a degree—or real-world work experience—that it’s right for you and that there’s a market for those skills.
Most financially successful people will tell you that the single best investment they have made early in their lives doesn’t actually involve purchasing real estate property, or going all-in on a hot stock tip. Rather, the best investment that had significant returns was spent on their education. How else are you going to recognize that hot investment property without arming yourself with knowledge?
Learning never stops, and you probably could still learn a new thing or two when you’re in your golden years. There are also many forms of education other than the traditional book or podcast medium. Going to new places, talking to new people, trying and experiencing new things are all forms of education that will also challenge your perspective and world-view. Not only will it make you well-informed about the world around you, it also helps you to be skilled in identifying opportunities that could bring you financial success.
2. Develop marketable skills
Staying ahead of the game by developing skills that are sought after or marketable is a strategy many people fail to put much thought into. “Marketable skills” are abilities that are in demand in the job market and they are useful for tasks that are valuable to employers. As labour market trends constantly evolve, marketable skills also change and evolve.
Staying up-to-date on market trends helps individuals determine how to position themselves as a valuable resource for years to come. By identifying relevant and changing trends, professionals can pinpoint locally, nationally and globally relevant data that aligns with their interests and abilities, the type of education and training required, and the steps needed to maintain a competitive edge. This alone can be a huge determinant on your career potential and your financial health.
To stay up-to-date on current marketable skills: The Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2019
3. Spend time with people who are smarter than you
Many successful folks got to where they are because they had mentors and peers who were a lot more knowledgeable than them. The shortest path to success is to not make mistakes and the best way to not make mistakes is to seek out people who have gone through those mistakes.
Your mentor will share valuable insights on how to navigate through a certain problem or situation. Drop an email or a text to someone who you respect or admire to grab coffee with. You never know how the relationship will develop, what you can learn, and what opportunities may await to bring you much closer to financial success.
With that said, don’t start ditching your “less-smart” friends just yet! It’s equally as important to have mentees to share your successes and failures with. Teaching people is a great way to bolster your understanding of a certain topic, and another great way to build your network to grow your community. Now that’s a win-win situation.
4. It’s never too early to start saving and investing
We’ve gone into great lengths about learning the habits from people who are debt-free, and we’ve found that this crucial habit is absolutely key to incorporate into your life when you’re young. If your employer matches your 401k, then put in the maximum amount that you can. Also, make sure your emergency fund is already locked and loaded.
Even if you are older and are still finding yourself struggling with saving and investing, it is never too late to start this habit. Take a lesson from this old Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is today.”
DECU offers debt consolidation so that if you have multiple debts, you can combine them with a new, possibly much lower interest rate to save you more money. This will allow you to pay down your debts more quickly and the debt becomes a much more manageable task.
5. Don’t be afraid to move for opportunities (or take risks).
You’re young, you’re wild and you’re free. You have the world ahead of you, and if you have big ambitions and dreams, don’t be afraid to make the first move when opportunities come knocking on your door.
A great indicator that you may need to move is when your learning curve stops and advancement opportunities aren’t present in your workplace—you’ve also probed around the job market in your geographical region and the opportunities doesn’t inspire you or excite you like it used to.
For example, if you’re in tech or finance, opportunities in San Francisco or New York could propel you to another level. Just remember to adjust for the higher cost of living in your final calculations!
What we recommend to do before jumping into a big decision like moving, is to always save up a good chunk of your basic fixed expenses (rent, food, insurance, transportation). In other words, an emergency fund can help you ride out choppy waves and keep you afloat when you’re looking at taking on big risks.
6. Prioritize yourself and your health first
No matter what life may hit you with, always prioritize yourself first. Get that gym membership, take some extra days off, or decline that project that would result in burning yourself out. There is nothing more valuable than your mental and physical health. Poor health will only sap your energy away from you and is counterproductive to building wealth.
Like all good habits, we need to start as early as possible because it’ll likely be tough to break once we have decades of poor habits ingrained in us, having to rewire our brains. Making exercise a priority and head to the drive-throughs less often. Even when your body eventually and inevitably starts to decline, your mind still runs sharp. Your body and mind are your greatest assets so make sure you continuously invest in them.
Please keep this advice in mind when making decisions to build a strong financial foundation for yourself. We all make mistakes at various points in our life, so don’t pay too much attention to your age or wonder if it’s already too late. Progress is the name of the game, and any ounce of improvement over your previous self is all that matters!