Do you ever look back on financial mistakes you made when you were younger and cringe? There are many money-related things I wish I’d done differently during my teen and young adult years. If I could go back and give myself financial tips, I’d probably be better off today. Too bad I don’t have a time machine!
I can’t fix my past mistakes, but at least I can write about them to encourage others to take a different path! Here are four pieces of financial advice I’d give to my younger self if I could.
Get a Summer Job
As a teenager, I never had a summer job. When I was younger, I had social anxiety and was too afraid to jump into the working world. Most jobs available to teens are customer service oriented, and I didn’t think I could handle that much social interaction.
In hindsight, getting a summer job would’ve been just what I needed to break out of my shell sooner and get over my anxiety. Plus, money saved when you’re younger is worth more because of compound interest. I can’t imagine what my net worth would look like now if I had gotten a job and invested my paychecks in a Roth IRA!
If I have kids, I’ll definitely encourage them to get out of their comfort zone and start working in high school to get a financial head-start.
Research Cheaper Colleges
Last week I wrote about why I didn’t go to college. One of the reasons I skipped college was to avoid student loan debt. When I toured colleges, I was focused on finding my dream school. I looked at many small, private liberal arts colleges instead of focusing on more affordable options. When the reality of how much debt I’d be getting into hit me, I decided not to attend school at all.
My career as a freelance writer hasn’t been affected much by not having a degree. Many companies are willing to work with freelancers who have strong portfolios and experience regardless of their education level. However, being educated is never a bad thing. Looking back, I wish I had looked at in-state universities or considered going to school online.
A year or two ago, I discovered a college called the Open College of the Arts, which is based in the UK. Their bachelor’s degrees are extremely affordable. Last time I checked, tuition for all three years was around $20,000.
Although I’ve tried to enroll in the OCA and go back to school, life has gotten in the way. It’s significantly harder to attend college as you get older and take on a mortgage, bills, and other responsibilities. It would’ve been much easier to get my degree when I was younger and still living with my parents. So I wish I had focused on affordable college options from the start and earned my bachelor’s degree when I was younger.
Start Building Credit Early
When I was younger, I didn’t understand the importance of building credit early. Now I know that your credit score affects every aspect of your financial life. If you want to buy a house or take out a loan to start a business, you need a good credit score to get favorable interest rates.
Watching my parents struggle to pay off $50,000 of credit card debt made me too scared to get a credit card. However, I wish I had researched my credit building options more. There are secured credit cards that allow you to deposit a small amount of money which serves as your credit limit. This ensures that you’re not spending money you don’t have and racking up a big credit card bill.
Secured credit cards allow you to build your credit score without encouraging overspending, so I wish I would’ve gotten one when I was younger. I was very lucky that my spouse had a great FICO score and allowed me to be added as an authorized user to improve my credit. Without that boost, my credit score wouldn’t be 750 today.
Understand Needs Versus Wants
In my teenage and young adult years, I was very focused on having the best of everything. I thought the main goal of life was to be able to afford designer clothes, meals at the best restaurants, and fancy trips. I regularly splurged on things I didn’t need and wasted my money until I learned about the FIRE community. But hey, you live and you learn!
Although I wish I had started saving earlier, it’s never too late to change your habits so you can reach your financial goals. Some people are naturally spenders and have to learn how to live frugally. But trust me, speaking as a reformed spender, you’ll get there!
What are some financial tips you’d give your younger self if you could? Let me know in the comments section below!
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.