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7 Personal Finance Lessons I Learned in My Twenties

I turn 30 next week [gulps audibly]. Now that I’m an old man, I thought this would be a good time for me to share some of the financial things I did right, plus a few of the things I did very wrong during my twenties. [Note: I wrote this with my 5 day old daughter sleeping on my lap. It would have been 10 things, but I could only think of 7 before she needed a diaper change.]

  1. I started saving for retirement early. You’ve heard it a million times, but I’m telling you, start saving for retirement NOW. I got my first post-collegiate job at 22, and I promptly set up my 401(k). Every time I check the balance these days, I can’t help but smile.
  2. I spent too much money on cars. I’ve mentioned before that the biggest financial mistake I ever made involved a car. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that they’re just tools for getting you from point A to B. I should have known that new car bliss only lasts for about a month, but the payments last for years. Thankfully, I learned from my personal tendencies, and do what’s best for me in the long run.
  3. I kept investing even when things looked bad. A lot of people decided to sell their investments when the market bottomed out. I decided to keep buying, and I doubled that money when things came back around. Remember, buy low and sell high.
  4. I stayed at a job I hated for way too long. The money was good, and I couldn’t walk away despite the fact that my health and relationships were suffering. The term “golden handcuffs” is a real thing, and I’ll never fall victim to it again. It’s just not worth it in the big scheme of things. On the bright side, the things I learned at that job helped me with this site.
  5. I automated everything. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved by having my bill payments and monthly savings automated. I socked away more cash than I would’ve if I had been moving it manually, and I avoided late fees from missed payments.
  6. I splurged every now and then. Spending more than you should is good for you now and then. However, there is a smart way to do it. Spend your money on experiences, or things that can be sold later to recoup some or all of the cost.
  7. I started this blog. I wanted to share some of the things I had been taught with the world, but I ended up learning more than I ever imagined. Over 178,000 people follow this site these days, so I feel more of a responsibility than ever to give sound advice. As I dig for content for this site, it has led me to awesome advice that I never would have come across otherwise. If you want to take your expertise in something to the next level, just start teaching what you know to others.