What One Financial Expert Would Tell Her 20-Something Self
By career

My journey to building wealth really started after I graduated from college—when I first started earning a real income and became truly independent.

I moved out of my parents’ house, bought a condo, got a car, and basically began funding my life, all on my own.

As a young independent woman, I’ve made a number of money mistakes and also had a number of financial successes. Based on those experiences, here’s what I would tell my younger self if I could.

MAX OUT YOUR RETIREMENT SAVINGS

When I started working at my first job, I had no idea what a 401(k) was. All I knew was that I was being offered free money via a contribution match and I was all about “free.” I contributed just enough to get the match to start out and then gradually increased my contributions over time until I eventually started maxing out my retirement contributions a few years later.

If I had maxed out my contributions right away, I would have certainly saved more money and been able to take advantage of the power of compounding. It wasn’t until I started learning about how investing works that I realized how worthwhile contributing to my retirement accounts could be.

If I could go back, I would have made it my mission to educate myself much earlier and max out as soon as I was eligible to start contributing to my employer sponsored retirement savings account.

GET LIFE INSURANCE

For many people, talk of life insurance immediately leads to morbid thoughts. When I was younger, I was one of those people who thought having life insurance was similar to planning your own funeral. I was young and healthy with zero plans to die anytime soon, so why get insurance?

Now that I’m older, I fully understand the importance of having life insurance—especially the type of life insurance that has living benefits (in the event of a critical illness that requires expensive care) and cash value that I can get any time before or after I retire (another way to diversify my long term financial portfolio).

Now I have life insurance but if I had gotten it in my 20s, my premiums would have been so much cheaper, and I would have accumulated a lot more cash value. Now in my 30s? I have to pay a lot more. Still worth it, but lesson learned.

DON’T KEEP SO MUCH MONEY IN CASH

Ah yes, there is such a thing as too much cash! Right after college one of my big financial accomplishments was saving more than $100,000 in a little over three years. More than $50,000 of it was money that I kept in a savings account that earned me a pitiful amount of interest.

I had by far exceeded what I needed to have in emergency savings. I should’ve invested much more of my money as opposed to letting so much of it sit in cash. I eventually did get into non-retirement investing a few years later, but if I had started sooner, my money would have had even more time to grow in the stock market.

That being said, I am now a huge fan of investing for the long term, and I make sure I don’t keep excessive amounts of cash (outside of my emergency fund) sitting around in low interest savings accounts, when that money can be working hard for me in the stock market.

You seriously, seriously need to invest—and with investing sites made by women for women make it easier than ever.

What money advice would you give your younger self?
Feature Photo courtesy of With Love From Kat.