1) Get educated.
Most 20-somethings receive a ton of unsolicited financial advice. Everyone with a checkbook believes they have it all figured out and confusingly, most of the advice is seemingly conflicting.
What I’ve learned is that no matter what you are told, you have to take the “responsible role” and research on your own. You might find out advice you’ve been given is either not correct, or detrimental to your situation.
For example, my little sister was given advice by her credit union that she needed to keep a balance on her credit card every month. This is not only expensive advice, it’s wrong. Using a credit card appropriately means not paying for interest by paying your balance in full every month.
So at the end of the day, you’ve got to educate yourself.
2) Debt will defeat you.
Thankfully, I learned this very quickly. When I graduated college, I had $30,000 in student loans and was able to pay it off in 10 months through a bit of strategy and short-term sacrifices (aka. No eating out, SBUX, and working 70-80 hours per week).
But so many 20-somethings don’t understand how detrimental debt can be. You cannot get ahead with a life of paying interest and payments. You should be earning interest, not paying it.
Too often, our money is tied up in paying car payments, student loans, and credit card minimum payments that we aren’t able to invest as much as we would like.
Debt will defeat you. Even if the interest rate is low, the monthly payments take your cash flow that you could have used to invest money or even take a sweet vacation.
Which leads me to my next piece of advice…
3) Spend money on experiences.
Hands down the best thing I did for myself in my twenties was traveling… a lot. It might seem counterintuitive given the advice I shared previously, but if you pay off debt or get really close to it, spend on experiences instead of stuff.
The memories from experiences last much longer.
Those new workout clothes might seem like everything you’ve ever wanted in the moment, but you will be so much happier with lifelong memories of taking an inexpensive vacation or having late night conversations and belly laughs with friends around the campfire.
When purchasing items, you might think they will bring you happiness, and in the moment they might produce a slight boost in your endorphins, but it fades almost as quickly.
The memories from experiences last much longer.
If you are like me, I used to think travel is expensive, until I learned that you can absolutely travel inexpensively using services like Scott’s Cheap Flights, Airfare Watchdog, or google.com/Flights.
But keep in mind, although I’m painting this picture of spending on experiences as traveling, that’s only one part of that. You can easily hang out at home, drinking wine or coffee with friends and hosting a game night. Some of my favorite experiences have been game nights at my home.
4) Invest in quality over quantity.
This is a super important piece of advice I wish I received early in my twenties. When you do make purchases, always invest in quality pieces. Maybe it’s one pair of jeans that are higher quality and cost a bit more, but you won’t have to consistently go jean shopping. Or maybe it’s a higher quality bra instead of your typical bra that fits like crap and makes you purchase a new one every few months.
“Once I purchased my first blazer that fit correctly and was made of durable materials, it was a game changer. I looked like a million bucks and that same blazer has been in style and lasted for five years so far!”
Whatever it is, invest in quality items. Quality doesn’t always mean expensive either. There are stores like Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx or Nordstom Rack, that allow you to shop for quality items at a fraction of the cost. Spend money on timeless looks instead of trendy items. You’ll look more put together and they don’t go out of style.
I used to buy really cheaply made shoes and blazers. Once I purchased my first blazer that fit correctly and was made of durable materials, it was a game changer. I looked like a million bucks and that same blazer has been in style and lasted for five years so far! Not bad!
And a big piece of advice — get a high quality piece of luggage. Trust me, it matters!
5. Retirement isn’t that far away.
Even though it can feel like retirement is a million years away, as a young 20-something, you have time on your side. In the investing world time equals money, because of compounding interest. This allows your money to grow as the market goes through it’s ever chaining ups and down. Those ups and downs, dividends, and consistency in adding to your retirement accounts is what makes you a very wealthy person in the long run.
The more you invest now, the sooner you can retire. It matters a LOT.
Open up a Roth IRA and get investing.
If I could go back and give my younger self advice, this is the exact stuff I would tell her over a cup of coffee. I hope it inspires you to take control of your financial life and start to make great decisions with money.
This post was originally posted on WhitneyHansen.com.