As a young woman, my wealth building journey really started right after I graduated from college and got my first real job earning my first real income. It was around this same time that I started to educate myself about personal finance and I was able to save my first $100,000 in a little over 3 years right after graduating.
I’ve learnt so much on my financial journey and each experience has been a major lesson towards the money decisions I make today and will make in the future.
As I look back at my financial journey to date, I’m grateful for the great financial decisions I made but there are also a lot of things I wish I knew or wish I had done and if I had the chance to have a sit down with my younger self, I would give myself these key pieces of advice!
4 pieces of financial advice I would give my younger self
1. Max out your retirement savings right away
When I started working at my first job, I didn’t know what a 401k was i.e. an employer sponsored retirement plan. All I knew was that my employer was offering me free money up to a certain percentage of my contributions match and once I heard free, it sealed the deal.
I contributed just enough to get the match to start out and then gradually increased my contributions over time until I eventually started maxing out my retirement savings contributions a few years later.
However, If I had maxed out my contributions right away, I would have saved much more money. It wasn’t until I started learning about investing that I realized how worthwhile contributing to my retirement accounts could be.
If I could go back in time, I’d make it my mission to learn about and understand my 401k and max out my contributions as soon as I could.
2. Get life insurance sooner
For many people, talk of life insurance can be a tad bit morbid and when I was one of those people who thought having life insurance was similar to planning your own funeral.
Now that I’m older, I fully understand the importance and benefits of having life insurance and while I have the right kind of insurance for my needs right now, if I had gotten insurance in my 20s my premiums would have been so much cheaper. Now in my 30s I have to pay a lot more to keep my policy. Still worth it but the lesson has definitely been learnt.
3. Learn about investing and invest sooner
Once I had saved that first $100,000 of mine (which I mentioned above), over $50,000 of it was money that I kept in a savings account that earned me a pitiful amount of interest.
I had by far exceeded what I needed to have in emergency savings and if I could go back in time, In addition to learning about my 401k, I would have delved deeper into exactly how no retirement invest worked and invested much more of my money as opposed to keeping so much in cash.
I eventually did learn about non retirement investing and get into it a few years later but if I had started sooner, my money would have had even more time to grow towards my non-retirement goals.
4. Buy fewer handbags
Once I had accumulated a good amount of savings in the bank, I got a bit comfortable with the fact that I had money in the bank and as a result I relaxed my aggressive savings and started to splurge more on myself and my way of splurging was buying very beautiful yet very expensive handbags (Read the full story here).
My justification for owning these bags was that I was a saver (I had saved a ton of money), at this time I was maxing out my retirement accounts, I wasn’t traveling as much as I would have liked, I worked hard, I deserved it etc.
But as I got older (and wiser) and I began refocusing more on my savings vs my spending, I started to realize these handbags were just money sitting in my closet that I could have been investing instead.
Over time, after going back and forth (with myself lol) and trying to justify my very expensive but very useless handbag collection (because those handbags were sitting useless in my closet), I decided to let go of them one by one.
Luckily for me, I was able to sell most of them for what I paid or slightly more (because of the brand and the price increases that were occurring) and put my hard earned money where I’d rather see it – invested and working hard for me and my future self.
If I could go back in time, I’d definitely tell my younger self to keep aggressively saving and chill out on the excessive handbag purchases!
Those are the 4 key pieces of advice I would give myself looking back. I’ve learnt so much on my financial journey and each experience has been a major lesson towards the money decisions I make today and will make in the future.
So now it’s your turn, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
*Originally published here.
Bola is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI), money & business coach, finance writer, social media influencer and founder of Clever Girl Finance, a platform that empowers and educates women to make the best financial decisions for their current and future selves and to pursue their dreams of financial independence in order to live life on their own terms.
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