Hindsight is 20/20, and we all have areas of our lives where we wish we knew then what we know now.
While we can’t change the past, we can use the information we have learned over the years to better ourselves and reach our financial goals. The point isn’t to slam our past selves for not knowing but to celebrate how far we’ve come on our financial journey.
In today’s post we are exploring 10 (more) things I wish I knew about money 10 years ago. This post is based on a Youtube video I created when I was 35 years old. That means that ten years prior, I was 25 years old! Twenty-five is a critical time in a young adult’s life. It’s a time when you are gearing up to make some big decisions that could impact your financial future for the rest of your life.
There are some days when I wish that I could go back to my past self and educate her on how to manage money because I probably would be better off financially today. However, since time travel isn’t available to me yet, this is my opportunity to share with you what I have learned over the past decade so that, hopefully, you can make wise financial choices.
#1: Needing a Budget
Budgeting at the age of 25 wasn’t a foreign concept…but I certainly wasn’t diligent with it. I was super excited when I was first introduced to it, I even stuck with it for a few months, and then fizzled out. I wish that I would have stuck with it at the first point of introduction.
#2: Getting Used to Living Off ONE Income
Ten years ago, my husband was working on his graduate degree. We were living in rural Michigan, away from family, and newly married with no children yet. While he got a small stipend from the school, I was the primary breadwinner working full time. We lived comfortably in a small apartment off of one income. Our rent was $565!
When my husband graduated and got a job, we now had two incomes to utilize. Unfortunately, we chose to inflate our lifestyles to reflect our two incomes. We ended up moving to a high cost of living, had two car payments, and kept buying more and more STUFF. It wasn’t necessary to do that, and I wish that we would have continued living as though we had just one income.
#3: Student Loans are Not Your Friend
As somebody who earned three different degrees and accrued over $100,000 in student loan debt, I know now that student loans are not your friend. No, they aren’t the devil; I did need them to achieve the career path I am on now. It was an investment into my future that I would do again.
Unfortunately, I didn’t do my homework on those loans and just took whatever I could get. Had I done my homework, I may have found better loans with lower interest rates. Today, I wish that I would have been more cautious in how I took out student loans.
#4: To Not Buy Stuff to Impress Others or to Buy Happiness
Have you ever heard of the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”? It essentially means that you are buying items that you do not need or want to keep up with a so-called “standard” presented by your peers.
It’s a hamster wheel that ultimately cheats you out of a worry-free financial future. The same goes for buying happiness.
Over the years, whenever I was bored, felt down on myself, or was unhappy with my circumstances, I would try to make myself feel better with (yes, you guessed it) retail therapy.
I ended up spending my hard-earned cash on items that ended up sitting in the closet. Knowing what I know now, I wish that I would have forgone the retail therapy and found another entertainment source that increases my happiness and does not cost money.
#5: Automating Savings
To automate your savings means intentionally choosing to save a specific amount of money regularly, whether it is every week, pay period, month, quarter, or year. For example, it is easy to designate $50 or $100 from your checking account to your savings account with online banking without even thinking about it. Then, the savings are kept out of sight and spending reach to accumulate and grow your wealth.
Ultimately, by not automating your savings, a whole year can go by, with you forgetting to save anything. At the end of the year, you will be thinking, “Where did all my hard-earned money go?”
It’s a terrible feeling to have nothing to show for your hard work, so I wish I had automated my savings a long time ago!
#6: Start Saving for Retirement ASAP
It is essential to start saving for retirement early, especially when you have a job where the company matches your 401(k) or a 403(b). You don’t want to leave that money just sitting on the table.
The only time I would tell you not to start saving is if you have loads of high-interest credit card debt and collectors hounding you for money. At that point, it’s more important to get them paid off before anything else.
However, if you have the opportunity to put some money into your retirement account, even if it is just a few dollars, that money will grow without you lifting a finger.
Ten years down the road, you will be able to look back and see how the power of compound interest benefits you. I hope you will start saving now because I wish that I had started saving for retirement at that point in my life.
#7: Eat at Home
This is one where I really wish I could go back in time and say to my younger self, “Girl, you need to eat at home!
Stop going through the drive-through, stop buying your lunch at work every day, stop eating at restaurants two to three times a week.
Just STOP IT!” You can save so much money by eating at home and packing your lunch!
#8: NEVER Buy a Car Without a Down Payment
Buying a car without a down payment is probably one of the worst financial decisions I ever made in my life. I purchased a $25,000 car…and yes, I justified it by saying, “well….it’s a used; it’s not brand new!”
By going out and buying a $25,000 car with no money down, I ended up with a $500 car payment!
I would have been much better off if I simply bought a little more modest car and saved up some cash for a down payment first.
While I may not have been able to save up enough money to pay for the car entirely out of pocket at that point, I wish I would have been patient enough to save for a few months to have a decent down payment and not have to end up financing such a large amount.
#9: Purchase a Home with a 15 Year Mortgage
It would be amazing to pay for a house out of pocket…but for most of us, that isn’t going to happen. You will need a mortgage, and it is to your advantage to have a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year mortgage.
Ultimately you will save thousands of dollars in interest having the 15-year mortgage compared to the 30-year mortgage.
When you have a mortgage, the interest payment is the heaviest at the beginning, which means that you will be paying more in interest for the first several years of your loan than actually knocking down your principle.
I wish that I had known to choose a 15-year mortgage when I was 25 years old.
#10: Focus on Financial Literacy
I was first introduced to Dave Ramey’s Total Money Makeover when my husband and I did our pre-marital counseling before getting married in 2004.
The book provided fantastic and practical information, but we just didn’t stick to it. I wish that I could go back ten years and tell my 25-year-old self to pick up that book again, read it, learn it, and save myself some heartache!
Related Post: 18 Must-Read Personal Finance Books for Women
Invent the Time Machine
It is amazing how much we can learn about ourselves and how the world works in just 10 years. Again, we should celebrate how far we have come in the past decade and look forward to what we will learn in the next decade.
However, we can take this opportunity to reflect and share our experiences with the younger generation.
So I challenge you this! If you could hop in a time machine, go back 10 years, and have a chat with yourself about money, what would you tell your younger self? Let us know in the comments!