Sense & Centsibility Blog
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What would you tell your 20-year-old self about money?

We're flashing back this Friday to Elaina's post about being proactive with your money decisions now...even if you didn't start out on the right financial foot.

Have you ever said to yourself: "If I could go back in time, I would have...[insert wish here]"? One of the few times I said it was about having a boyfriend in high school and if I could go back I'd hang out with my friends way more and way less with the boyfriend (with whom now I don't even speak). But one of the more important things I wish I could have told myself back then was to plan better for my future...financially.

I was taught the basics about saving money and balancing my checkbook, but what I didn't know was how important savings and retirement is.

At first I felt like I had won the lottery because I earned much more doing a similar job in Minneapolis/St. Paul versus on the Iron Range. I had plenty of money to eat out for lunch, shopping, and going out on the weekends. Luckily, I didn't accrue credit card debt and I didn't go crazy, but I definitely spent more than I should have. I had savings, but I could have been saving a whole lot more than I was.

Relatively speaking my salary wasn't huge since I was new to the workforce and finishing up college, but because I had minimal expenses I easily could have saved 6 months' worth of expenses relatively quickly - which experts say everyone should have just in case. I also didn't take full advantage of the 401k match my employer offered because I wanted most of my money 'now'. The future was not on my mind; I was living in the moment and thought I would have plenty of time to save for retirement "later".  

Not to mention - and this is a biggie - I could have started paying my student loans while they were in the grace period and I could have made higher payments to get rid of them sooner.

Even though I won't be retiring by age 50 or anything, luckily things have worked out well for me so far (even with my less than stellar planning) because I figured out sooner rather than later that I should make retirement and savings priorities.

So this is what I would have told my 20-year-old self and it's pretty simple:

Be young and have fun, but contribute as much as possible to savings and retirement accounts while you can. And pay off any debt you accrue ASAP.

What would you have told YOUR teenage or twenty-year-old self about money?

Call us at 888.577.2227 for your free and confidential financial counseling session or get started online. Our counselors will provide realistic options and concrete steps to take to pay off debt and achieve your financial goals.

Author Elaina Johannessen is a Program Director with LSS Financial Counseling.