If you’re in college or starting your career, this post can make you money. If you know someone in their 20’s, forward this to them so they can make money (and give them your best piece of money advice, too).
I asked some of my Stewardship co-workers to think about what they wished they knew about money in their 20’s.
Start your 401(k) NOW–even if the timing is not right.
“If your company matches a 401(k), max that sucker out. I worked at Starbucks for years and didn’t start investing into my 401(k) until it was too late. I worked for another company for over five years and didn’t participate in the 401(k) there either because it was complicated to sign up and I was too afraid to ask for help. I could have so much more money in retirement accounts if I would’ve been more intentional. Instead, I’m basically starting over in my 30’s.”
You might be tempted to wait to start your 401(k) until income goes up, you pay off debt, or you finish saving up for your new house or car. Spoiler alert–life happens! There is always something else to pay for. Take our advice–start now, ask for help, and be intentional.
Invest–it’s not that hard.
“I wish I knew how easy investing was earlier in my 20’s!”
Technology has made investing accessible, even if you are completely ignorant! You can invest small amounts to build the habit of monthly savings.
Do some calculations before you get student loans.
“I recommend new college students calculate your future payments on your student loans. Once you do that, determine if your post-college salary will allow you to pay those monthly payments.
Student loans kicked my butt for a long time as I was trying to start a business. They were a huge financial motivator for me to hustle and get the business thriving ASAP.”
College can be a great investment that pays off tenfold throughout your career. Just make sure you have a plan to pay those student loans. It makes you think twice about the loans or your career if the salary doesn’t match up with the loan amount.
Consider your first home as a long-term investment opportunity.
“I wish my first house was a multi-family home that I could convert to an investment property when moving on to my next home!”
Your house is first and foremost a place to raise your family. But it’s also an appreciating asset and can be a great investment. Your first home is likely not your long-term residence. Since this is the case, explore ways to keep that house as a rental property when it’s time to get a bigger house for your expanding family.
Know your value.
“I never negotiated my pay in my career or even asked for a raise when I took on a leadership role. I always just took what they gave me even though I felt I was underpaid. I worked so hard and did so much more than was asked of me, but never spoke up.”
One of the best ways to improve your financial situation is to increase your income. No, you don’t need to start a “side hustle.” The first step to increase your income is to be a great employee! However, this might mean you have to be proactive about asking for a raise. Keep tabs on average salaries for your occupation and articulate the value you bring to your employer.
Be smart with debt.
“I wish I would have known to keep one or two lines of credit open when my wife and I paid off all of our debt.
About five years ago, we were poised to buy a house. No debt and about $18,000 saved up, but we didn’t have a credit score, so we couldn’t qualify for a mortgage. Being anti-debt actually hindered us.”
Most advice for young people is to “stay away” from debt. Being smart with debt means having open lines of credit to build your credit history. The only way a lender will give you money for a mortgage is by proving your history of paying your loans on time.
Don’t use your household budget as a guilt trip.
“I wish I would have given my wife and myself more freedom in our budget.
A budget is great! It helps my family understand where money should be spent before the money comes in. The problem with a budget is, well, it’s a budget. No one really likes them. Without healthy boundaries it can create tension and frustration.
Eventually we added two line items to our budget to help with this. We each budgeted a monthly amount for “personal.” This was money set aside for each of us that we had 100% freedom with. We could do whatever we wanted with it, whenever we wanted, with no questions asked. If she wants to buy a pair of kid’s pajamas every time she goes to Target, great! If I want to save my personal [money] for a few months and buy some new golf clubs, great!
This freedom relieved some of the budget tensions and allowed me to celebrate my spouse’s purchases instead of getting frustrated with them.”
If you are married, you can probably understand the frustrations that come with managing money together. Tensions in the budget can cause long-term financial damage because money discussions become poisonous. This causes finances to never be talked about.
If this is you, try adding personal line items to your budget–no questions asked!