Remember the days when your parents would lecture you about the benefits of saving your allowance for your future. Well it was a lesson that I wish I had paid closer attention to during my formative years. Especially with all the money I wasted on beanie babies (I swear they’ll be worth something….someday) With 2016 being the year that I officially hit my late twenties, I’ve noticed a shift in the way I view my life, the choices I make, and the most importantly, how my relationship with my finances has become a top priority.
I’m starting to have some important conversations with myself about my future. Some of these have included: retirement goals, allocating money toward hobbies and travel, and some oh so serious thoughts of purchasing my own home and truly making Chicago my forever home base. Honestly, all these thoughts would be petrified me just a year or two ago
During a recent visit to my accountant to file my taxes (you’ve got a few weeks left!) a comment made during the meeting truly hit home at just how important the financial decisions I’ve made this past few years post graduation are already shaping the way I’ll be able to make these dreams a reality.
Today I’m sharing the 5 best financial decisions I made in my early 20’s – tips that have worked for me over the years be more confident for the future.
HIRE A FINANCIAL PLANNER/ACCOUNTANT
Taxes – the one thing in life that you can’t avoid even in death. From student loans to consumer debt, many young adults are graduating college with more debt than ever before. After seeing a few friends struggle hard with debt post grad, I made the decision to avoid debt in any way possible. Upon graduating and securing my first entry level position, I made the consciences albeit pricey decision to hire a financial planner/accountant. Why was this decision so important? My financial planner taught me how to budget, holds me accountable to that budget, and allowed me to grow financial. I’ll be heading into my 28th year with no debt, a well planned retirement account, and the financial freedom to do all the things I love including traveling, blogging, and happy hour drinks with friends.
Can’t afford a professional? LearnVest is a great alternative and very cost effective.
DEVELOP A SIDE HUSTLE(S)
An important article recently came out in the New York Times on how more and more millennials are taking on side hustles to supplement their income and give them financial freedom; who says that millennials are lazy? The easiest way to become financially free is to make more money. The key to making more money is simple, diversified income. Over these past few years I’ve developed more than one side hustle that keeps a steady stream of money coming in. Think you don’t have the skills necessary to start a side hustle? Trust me, you do you just may not know it yet. Keep a notebook with you and write down things that you enjoy doing on your own free time. It’s those passions that will fuel your creativity and help you hone in on a marketable skill.
Example: This blog is a labor of love, one which also brings me opportunities that pay to keep it running. From blogging, I developed an interest in photography and I spend some of my free time developing my photography skills. I’m currently at an age where my friends are getting married and pre-wedding boudoir photos are all the rage. One thing lead to another and now I offer my boudoir photography services to brides interested in doing boudoir photography before their wedding. #sidehustle
START A “OH SH%T” FUND
I’m not talking about the emergency fund, although I’m a huge believer that everyone needs one of these, I’m talking about the Oh Sh%t fund. What’s an Oh Sh%t fund? It’s $100-$200 of cash that you keep hidden somewhere in your apartment, or if you prefer to go senior citizen style, you can keep it under your mattress. Over the years life has taught me one thing, cash is king and you never know when an emergency may strike. As a society we rely far to heavily on plastic credit cards to get us out of a pickle. What happens when you lose your wallet or get your purse stolen? That’s where the Oh Sh%t fund comes in and trust me guys you’ll be thanking yourself for your smart financial decision.
Start building your fund quickly and painlessly by taking a $5 bill each week and stuffing it in an envelop until you have enough cash saved up.
BUY INSURANCE, NOT JUST FOR YOUR HEALTH
Once you’ve move into your own place away from the parents, it’s time to start thinking about insurance outside of just your health. Renters insurance is single handily one of the best purchases I’ve made in my entire life. Living in a big city like Chicago (or any city really), crime isn’t a myth and things sometimes go really bad. So if your apartment gets broken into or your garden unit floods, will you have the disposable income to replace your TV, computer, sound system, crunch, and other apartment essentials? I’m guessing not.
Renters insurance is a relatively minimal cost but will give you piece of mind should anything happen. Trust me when I say, the $80/year I pay is well worth it.
DEVELOP A FINANCIAL FILING SYSTEM
Remember how just a moment ago I stressed the importance of developing a side hustle to bring in that extra income on a regular basis. Well your financial planner will definitely be interested in that side hustle money come tax season. The best part of tax season is the sweet refund once all the dirty work is done. The key to getting that refund will be in your organization and financial filling system. This is definitely a personal decision but I’ve found that spending a few minutes each month organizing my financial paperwork into separate categories really comes in handy during tax season. From retirement account information to benefits information from your company, it’s key to be dedicated to keeping it organized and well maintained throughout the year.
I would love to hear what financial decisions you’ve made in your 20’s that truly made a difference. Please share your thoughts in the comments!
*** Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor or planner. Everyone’s financial situation is unique and I’m simply sharing the decisions I’ve made in the last few years that have helped me.