I’m 29. It’s an odd age because despite me still being in my 20s, most of my friends are in their 30s and I kind of feel like that kid who isn’t allowed on the big kid rides because I’m still a few inches too short. I also just don’t get most 20-year-olds anymore. My younger sister is 23 and when she talks about what’s trending, it’s as if she’s speaking Russian to me. What is the point of Snapchat? She’s the only one I have on it and I still don’t think I’m doing it right. At least I was able to tell her about Periscope first. Winning?
The reason I’m bringing up my age is because as a 20-something personal finance blogger and podcaster, I feel as if it’s my duty to share what I’ve learned over these past 9 years to anyone who is new to the “I’m in my 20s” club.
That and there are a number of articles out there spewing some really bad (and irresponsible) advice for 20-year-olds — and if there’s one thing I won’t stand for, it’s anyone giving out bad financial advice to people just starting out.
Being Financially Responsible Doesn’t Mean You’re Boring or Lame
I know personal finance doesn’t sound like it’s any fun, but it is when you fully grasp what it means. Money is all about freedom and power. When you have money in the bank, your world gets bigger and opportunities become endless.
One of the golden rules of personal finance is to start young. The younger you start saving, investing and paying down debt, the better off you’ll be in the future. I know it’s hard to think about retirement when you’re 21 or even know what 5 years from now will look like. But take it from me, you’ll bat an eyelash and be on the cusp of 30 before you know it.
Because I paid off my student loans early and started aggressively saving and investing when I was 24, I’ve been able to afford things I never thought possible. Sure, I had to make some sacrifices. I lived frugally, first as a university student and then as a newbie adult living on my own.
And yes, this meant saying no to taking a taxi and walking instead. This meant always ordering the cheapest drink on the menu. This meant buying whatever was on sale instead of whatever my favourite brand was. But all of those little sacrifices helped me achieve some major milestones and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Because I was financially responsible in my 20s, I was able to visit Portland, New Orleans, California, Thailand and Mexico. I was able to have the wedding I always wanted. I was able to move across the country to pursue my dream job. Does that sound boring or lame to you?
“I’ll Figure It Out When I’m 30” Is the Dumbest Thing You Could Ever Say
Dumb as it sounds, I’m positive I’ve said this very thing when I was 21 or 22. 30 sounded so far away when I was younger, and even though I knew that I wanted to have everything in my life pretty much sorted out by 30, I certainly wasn’t worried about it when I was in university, making short films and partying with my girlfriends.
But once I moved out of my parents’ place and got my first dose of reality, I smartened up and eventually started this blog.
I know most people don’t follow the same path as me and get super into personal finance at 24. Nonetheless, I think it’s crucial to rebuke the mindset that you’ll start figuring out your finances after you’ve turned 30.
Just think, you’re delaying your financial education by a decade. Hell, you’re losing out on a decade’s worth of dividends! You’ll also find that you’ll be behind the pack at 30. Though many of your peers probably nod and agree with your figure-it-out-later statement, I bet they’ve secretly already got a budget, an RRSP and are glad they’re not in your shoes.
If you want to wait until after you’ve turned 30 to figure out your finances, just be ready to kick yourself in your 40s. Also, newsflash, your 20s aren’t the best time of your life. Life gets better the older (and richer) you become.
You Can’t Take It With You and YOLO Won’t Help You When You’re Broke and in Debt
When you’re young and don’t have many responsibilities, it’s natural to feel like seizing the day should be your main focus. I remember when I first moved out and seized the day by filling up my wine rack with 10 very cheap bottles of wine and going to all the cool mid-week indie shows at The Media Club.
I think it’s great to have the approach to life that time is finite and should be experienced to the fullest. But not having a future plan (or thinking you need one at all) will only hurt you down the road.
I still have to remind myself that I can’t take my money or stuff with me after I die. I don’t want to be on my death-bed and regret playing it safe and not experiencing certain things because I was too cheap and worried about money. I want to have memories and relationships that I’ll cherish until my last breath.
But I also don’t want to be broke or in severe debt in my 80s either. I don’t want to regret not being more financially responsible earlier on in my life and having to pay the consequences when I’m elderly.
I want that perfect balance of having a fulfilling and financially free life — in my 20s and for decades to come. And I know this is possible. It just means being smart, focused and not listening to anyone who thinks that it’s ok to be passive when it comes to personal finance.