What I Wish I Knew About Money When I Was 20
This is a guest post by Marissa Anwar
20 was an odd year for me. I was working full-time (and making a decent salary), while going to school full-time. As such, my sense of entitlement was through the roof.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want others to do anything for me, but rather, I wanted to get anything that I wanted. I felt that I was working hard and deserved everything shiny that crossed my path. This ranged from vacations ( when I found the time), $1200 jeans (another story), cars, makeup, electronics. I was a slave to the consumer culture, and while I am still very fond of nice things, I do my best to pay attention to where my money goes. There are so many things I wish I knew at twenty:
I wish I learned how to invest early on.
Buying into the company stock plan does not count as investing. Neither does putting away money in saving account that has an interest rate of 2.5%. This is one of my biggest regrets when it comes to my money. I truly wish I had paid attention to where I was storing it, and had some sense of direction or plan. I’ve learned the art of automatic withdrawal recently, and find it to be the easiest way to manage my savings.
I wish I knew that I didn’t know everything, and never will.
I still have issues with impulse control, but its nowhere near what it was 8 years ago. Learning my triggers, and finding a way to diffuse my overwhelming impulses have taken a long time. My relationship with credit cards is a tumultuous one. The high of spending money combined with the crash of seeing my credit bill kept me in a spiral that I try to avoid at any cost these days.
I wish I paid attention to what my accounts looked like.
I rarely logged on to see my what kind of shape my accounts were in. I also never paid attention to bank receipts with my balance on it. It’s hard to tell whether I was subconsciously trying to avoid facing reality, or I was just that reckless. Nothing makes you feel like you’re losing control than not having any sort of idea if your bank account has money in it or you’re working in overdraft.
I wish I had set more concrete goals.
Goals that made me think about the future- 5 or 10 years away. While I had school to focus on, and the goals of being in the medical field, I allowed the rest of my finances to be in shambles. Its a strange feeling knowing that you’re ignoring a huge chunk of your responsibilities but being too careless to pay attention.
I wish I knew the value of my hard work.
I worked 3 jobs each summer, and a full time gig while in school. Working hard/a lot was normal to me. My mother did it everyday. Being 20 allows you to have endless pools of energy and as such, work never really seemed like work to me (even if I was waking up at 5:30 am). I worked with people I liked, doing something that I was good at, and the days flew by. Looking back, I realized that I worked hard for what I earned. My days never really belonged to me, and as I rebelled as a result. The sad truth is that I was only hurting myself.
I wish I knew what my priorities were when it came to my money.
These days, its stability, especially when you work as a Consultant, travelling, and being financially secure. It took a few years to figure that out, but had I really examined what I was spending my money on and look at how happy it made me, I would have altered my spending patterns.
I wish I knew that buying electronics at FULL PRICE a month before they are released to the telecom companies isn’t cool, its stupid.
Gadgets was my biggest vice in my early 20s. It still is, but I like to think I have full control over it. Working in the tech sector comes with certain requirements, and knowing your way around an operating system is one of them. I shudder to think of what I spent phones, car stereo equipment, laptops etc. Had I invested that or even saved it in a savings account, I could have gone on a 3 month trip.
I wish I knew that you can’t buy people’s affection with money, and those who have it for sale aren’t worth being around anyway.
I inherited this trait from my father. The men in my family have a hard time expressing anything but anger, so they showed their affection by buying things. I followed in those footsteps. I wanted to pick up everyone’s bill at the restaurant, buy my boyfriend at the time really expensive gifts when we had a fight, lend money when someone needed it knowing full well that I would never see it back. Looking back, I can see who my friends are and who was along for the ride. Those are hard lessons to learn, but I’m still thankful that I learned them early on in life.
My relationship with money has certainly improved over the last few years. It might be an age thing, or it might be the fact that we’re more comfortable taking about finances out loud. Being able to have that conversation can be difficult, even if its just with yourself, but I’ve learned that its worth it.
This post is written by Marissa Anwar, a Business Operations Consultant. She blogs about personal finance at Thirty Six Months. Feel free to reach out and chat. She loves getting emails!