Financial Advice to my 22 Year Old Self
Every March 8th the world celebrates International Women’s Day with the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women but also to highlight the crusade to close the various gender gaps that still exist. This year, I’m participating with over 40 other female bloggers on the #WomenRockMoney Collaboration. Coordinated by Mama Fish Saves, the #WomenRockMoney Movement is “a collection of inspirational posts from women to women about how to achieve success and improve their finances”.
Over ten years ago (gasp), I was a newly minted college grad with a great entry-level corporate job, ready to climb the ladder, living in an expensive major city. I’d always been interested in finance, investing, I even had a 401(k) when I was still in college. Looking back now, I thought I was pretty shit hot when it came to money.
What financial advice would I give my 22 year old self?
You don’t have to have a huge salary to save and invest and conversely, making a smaller salary isn’t an excuse to spend every penny you make. Instead of spending all your time searching for the best deals or shopping the best sales, make sure you are saving and investing first. More importantly, make sure you have a financial plan. If you don’t, who cares that you go those $100 jeans on sale for $50, you still spent $50.
Financial Sins of my Past
As a single 22 year old, I had an amazing apartment on 2nd avenue in downtown Seattle. I had the cutest VW convertible with a car payment that matched a car payment I had had 10 years later as a dual-income couple. That expensive car was parked in a garage for $200 a month because, no way I was parking my “Gina” on the street where she could get scratched. My car insurance was expensive. I bought my make-up at Nordstom’s and my sunglasses at Chanel. I joined a fancy gym that I never went to.
The only good financial move I can say I made back then was putting 15% of my income into a 401(k). Thankfully, I did do that! I didn’t worry about savings because I figured someday when I was older, I’d meet a guy and we’d get married and we could worry about all that kinda stuff at a later date. For now, I was living my life how I wanted to in the big city.
One memory that really stands out to me is that when my boyfriend (now husband) deployed to Iraq, I thought, “how would I be able to afford to send him care packages?” I literally could not afford an extra $25 a month to mail a box of beef jerky, candy, and baby wipes because my paycheck was 100% gone by pretty much mid-month. At the end of each month, I was lucky to even break zero on my budget…and not because I was practicing a zero-based budget either. So, I put those extra types of charges on a credit card, I’d just pay for those things later.
How Did I Break Free from this Cycle?
Sheer. Dumb. Luck. I took a temporary assignment with my company that happened to be in a much less expensive city. I moved in with a few of my old college friends and we shared rent and split groceries. It was tempting to fall back into my old ways, but moving gave me a fresh start without having to put in much effort. I was really lucky. I created a budget for myself. Since I knew about my over-spending tendencies, I bumped up my 401(k) contributions and then skimmed another 20% off the top of my salary, straight into savings and investments. I still like the splurges, don’t get me wrong, but now I planned and saved for them.
How I learned to Manage My Money
- Can you be trusted to stick to a budget? If not, skim your savings, investments, or debt repayments right out of your paycheck before you can spend it
- Don’t plump up your lifestyle every time you get a pay raise. Instead, pump-up your savings, investments and debt pay-back (if you have any). If I can be honest, this is still something I struggle with. I can pat myself on the back that with every raise my husband and I have received a raise, we’ve increased our savings (good). However, each time we’ve purchase a new house or car, its usually a little bigger and better than the last one (bad).
- Get specific about your goals. “I’m saving for a down-payment on a home” “I’m building up my emergency fund” or I’m going to pay back my student loan debt”. These are all great financial goals. However, they become more realistic when you create specific and measurable goals. “I’m saving $1,000 every month for my future down payment need of $40,000 and it will take me 40 months to get there.
- Learn to say NO. If you’ve created a budget for yourself and you want to stick to it, than you most likely can’t do every fun thing that comes your way. For those of you that know my financial style, I’m definitely not a minimalist, I like to shop, travel, and dine out. I also budget for a cleaning service and sometimes meal delivery kits. In short, I’m not having a “no-spend year”. With all that being said, my husband and I just said no thank you to a spur of a moment weekend trip some of our friends were going on. The trip would have cost us well over $1,500 for a long-weekend, and it would have been fun! BUT, we decided to make a mature and rational decision that we can’t go on every trip that comes our way, we have trips already planned and we have some important financial goals that we are planning on meeting.
My Challenge to You
As a female, single or not, just starting out or “seasoned”, what can do to improve your financial situation?
Do you shy away from investments because its not your wheelhouse? When people talk about investments do you glaze over? Pretend to understand what’s going on, but don’t really quite get it? If you’re shying away from investing because you aren’t quite sure what to do, learn, ask questions, and start micro-investing.
Save up your first $1,000 in an emergency fund and go from there. Create a specific savings goals with dollar amounts, timelines, and what the savings is going towards.
Take action now. If you have a fixed cost that is wrecking your budget, seriously think about how you can change it. It might mean moving, getting a roommate, selling your car, do whatever it takes. If you’re already chugging along with your money management, don’t let temptations throw you off. Live your life and enjoy the money you work hard for, but
Can you improve your financial life through one of those three areas above? Is there something else that’s weighing heavily on your financial situation. What can you pledge today that will change your financial life this year? Let us know. Click to tweet or drop me a comment below, I’ve love to hear what you can do this year.This year I pledge to (insert your money goal here)! #WomenRockMoneyClick To Tweet