Real Life Example: I wish I’d known about the most important things I could do in my twenties when I had no money and wasn’t likely to get some. What practical things could I have been doing?
I love this question because most of us (well, me anyway) just weren’t that smart in the early adult years. I might have spent more on compact discs than I did on rent for a couple years. I loved music and still do, but that choice didn’t help me start smoothly.
Here are three buckets you can start with:
Start Learning What it Costs to be You
You don’t need to torture yourself with budgeting. Rather, build your own awareness of what you’re spending and why. Just the awareness and the occasional review will have a powerful positive impact on your entire financial life.
Manage Your Debt
If you’re between 18 and 24, there’s a strong chance you have debt or are building some up. As of this writing, student loans in America are generally associated with the word, “crisis”. Consumer debt and student loan debt need attention as early as possible in your life. You want your money to grow, not your debt.
Your First Jobs and Saving
Saving at this age can be tough and sometimes impossible. Here’s why you should make it possible: the more you can save, the more options you’ll have when your life presents choices. In the early years, that might mean enough savings to cover a $400 emergency (12% of Americans can’t). In your late twenties or thirties, that might mean enough money to comfortably change jobs or buy your own place to live. The more you save, the more you build circumstantial freedom of choice.
If you can get those three things started in a good direction, your momentum will build steadily. If those three feel like too much, just do the first one. That single thing – the awareness of what it costs to be you – produces great results.