6 Financial Lessons I Would Teach My Younger Self

Leveraging Parents, Schools, and Social Media to Increase Youth Financial  Literacy | SIX

As I reflect on my financial journey at 31, nearly a decade out of college, I can think of numerous past financial decisions I’d like to change, especially from my early 20s. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

Imagine if we could go back and guide our younger selves on financial matters, relationships, and life choices. Though, considering my 21-year-old self, I might not have taken my own advice seriously. Still, hindsight is 20/20, and here are six financial lessons I would impart to my younger self.

1. Keep That Scholarship

When I started college, I had a substantial scholarship. Unsure of my major, I focused on core subjects like math and science, hoping for an easier path later. Unfortunately, I struggled in those areas, barely maintaining a GPA that was just a tenth of a degree too low to retain my scholarship. Losing that scholarship after the first year meant my parents had to cover several thousand dollars for the remaining three years, keeping me out of student debt but at a significant cost. I regret not putting in the extra effort to secure those freshman grades.

2. Save Your First $5,000

Despite losing scholarship funds, I worked through college, mostly in low-wage student or seasonal jobs. The summer after my freshman year, I landed a temp job at a factory, earning $10 an hour insulating industrial air conditioners. By summer’s end, I had saved $5,000, more money than I had ever had. Instead of saving it for essentials like food or gas, I spent most of it, leaving only $500 by the start of my sophomore year—a missed opportunity for financial stability.

3. Open That IRA ASAP

At 22, fresh out of college with a job that offered no retirement benefits, I ignored the importance of starting an IRA. Retirement felt distant, more like a fantasy than a reality to plan for. I spent everything I earned, missing out on the benefits of early retirement savings.

4. Avoid Car Payments

After starting my job, I decided I needed a new car, even though my existing one was paid off and running fine. I took on a car loan for the first (and last) time, soon realizing that a new car didn’t make me any cooler and left me with a monthly payment as a reminder of my poor decision.

5. Don’t Finance Unnecessary Purchases (Like a Boat)

You’d think I’d have learned from the car payment mistake, but a few years later, I financed a 30-foot boat to keep up with new friends. The boat came with a $600+ monthly payment, plus insurance, slip fees, and gas, costing more than my rent. Fortunately, I sold it six months later for what I owed, but the experience was a financial blunder.

6. Have Fun Without Spending Money

Despite financial missteps, I managed to have fun without incurring debt. My college and early post-college years were filled with free or low-cost activities like exploring parks, attending student events, and enjoying half-price wine nights. These experiences taught me that enjoying life doesn’t require spending beyond my means.

In the end, my financial mistakes and successes have shaped me into the financially savvy person I am today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.