Most of my 20’s were a wonderful time. Some years were better than others depending on the situation I was in. I graduated from college (Savannah State University) at the age of 24. I also had the chance to live in wonderful cities such as Savannah, GA, and Orlando, FL. I did a lot of things right during that time. One thing that I didn’t do right was take good care of my finances. I made a couple mistakes financially that I wish I didn’t. Below are a few things that I would do differently.
I always had a job or a side hustle during my time in college. I never really experienced being a broke college student. I saved a little money here and there, but looking back, I could have easily saved a couple thousand dollars for a “rainy day”. Once I graduated from college a couple “rainy days” happened. Having a decent savings account could have helped me struggle less during those times.
Pay Attention to Interest Rates
I didn’t fully understand what interest rates were until it was too late. I could have saved myself some money by taking the time to read my statements and get a true understanding of interest. I could have chosen a credit card or a student loan with much better rates than the ones that I have now.
If Traveling With People For The 1st Time, Get Money Upfront!
I’ve had a couple situations where I’ve had to pay extra money on a trip because people canceled at the last minute. It’s not a good feeling having to pay an extra $200 for a hotel room when you didn’t budget for it. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to me since 2007, but I can still remember that extra charge to the credit card like it was yesterday. I’ve made sure that will never happen again by getting money from people in advance.
I would have done more investing. I had a 401 K with one of my jobs, but in my opinion, that wasn’t enough. Even if I would have put some money in a mutual fund that would have been better than nothing. I refuse to let my 30’s be like that. Once the majority of my debt is paid off I will start actively investing.
Paying on Student Loans
I promise for at least 2 years I was the king of deferments and forbearances. I thought I was doing it by not paying on my student loans. Fast forward to today. Not only was that not the smartest idea, but the amount that I owe to my lenders (especially Sallie Mae) has damn near doubled. Even though I didn’t have the best-paying jobs immediately after graduation I should have at least paid $50 per month on the loans. My situation would be a little better than it is right now.
Using Credit When I Had Cash
My credit card debt isn’t the worst ($3200). It could have been even less, though. I could have paid for a couple trips from back in the day with my debit card. Also, I could have relaxed on a few of those Irish Car Bombs for me and my friends.
Now that I’m in my 30’s I refuse to let those things happen again. Over the past couple years, I’ve gotten much better with my finances. I know this is a struggle for many people. There are a few places online that can help you get organized. Personal Capital is a website that has a free tool that shows you your net worth among other things.
What would you do different financially in your 20′? What is one thing that you would tell anybody in their 20’s to do today?