What if I hadn’t learned some critical financial lessons young as a result of my career in the financial industry? What if I had to make my way through this world not being educated in financial matters the way the vast majority of young adults do today? Here is the letter I would write to 20 year old me:
Dear 20 year old me,
I know you want to live life, travel and spend like there is no tomorrow, but slow down a minute and listen to what I have to say. It’s boring I know, but you need to think about money now. Don’t throw it down the toilet. You will regret it later.
Treat money as a tool to live life on your terms. It’s what buys you the chances to make the choices that YOU want to make. Pick a career you love and be smart with the money you make no matter how big or small your paycheque is.
Always, always, always save something. No excuses. Pay yourself first. Start now. As much as you can. Do not wait to save until one day when you ‘have more money’, because it won’t happen. You won’t ever feel like you do. You can’t see it but it IS easier to save more now. There will be years when saving is harder, much harder, if not near impossible. Save while you can, as much as you can. You have more money and freedom right now than you will have again for many years.
Once you start having a family things will change big time. Right now all you need to take care of is yourself, but in the future you will have little mouths to feed and your dollars won’t stretch the way you might imagine they will. Your income may not increase the way you imagine it will. You need to be prepared for the unexpected.
Money makes money. So save and let it grow. Forget about it and live on a reduced pay cheque. Always live below your means when you have the choice. Now is the best time to start. It is a safeguard to your long term security.
Working means trading your time for dollars. It is best to trade time for dollars as much as you can right now when you are young. There will come a time when that trade off won’t make sense to you anymore and you will want to work less. Work hard and save to buy yourself the freedom to make choices later on.
You will open the door to options you can’t see right now. The choice to work less; the choice to continue to work but on your own terms; the choice to take time off to help your friends and family when needed; the choice to volunteer more and donate more of your time and money for causes you are passionate about.
You will thank yourself later when you have a mortgage, vehicles, home repairs, childcare expenses and little bodies that continue to outgrow shoes and clothes and toys among many other things. You will thank yourself later when you can trade less hours for dollars to spend time with them. To your children time equals love, and you will want to spend it with them doing things you love to do together as much as possible.
Beware of debt! It has a place but use it wisely. It can be a shadow lurking in the dark if you aren’t careful. Save for your indulgences. Save first, buy second. To take on debt means to pay far more for that item after interest. Save for your down payments. Make your down payments as big as possible and don’t bite off more than you can chew.
You do not want to be a slave to your bills and in future years. It robs you of your choices. You will want the freedom to choose. Financial stress is ranked high for couples and young families. You do not need that. Life will be harder if your choices are limited.
So please, make the smart choice. Live on less than you can afford now. Do it. Save as much as you can, for as long as possible right now. It will improve your life in the future in ways you can’t begin to imagine.
Me in my 40’s
Share this with a young adult who could use it.
Stephanie Farrow, B.A, CFP., Stephanie has over 20 years experience in the financial services industry, a diploma in Financial Planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning and Certified Financial Planner designation. Stephanie has been writing a financial planning column for the local business magazine Elgin This Month since 2010. Stephanie and her husband Ken Farrow own Farrow Financial Services Inc. About our Farrow Financial Team.
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