4 Money Lessons I'd Teach My 20-Year-Old Self

Photo by Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images LLC
Lifelong financial habits millennials can put into place now.

My 18-year-old son attends college full-time, works at Starbucks nearly 25 hours per week and hones his DJing skills in his newly renovated bedroom suite. 

Sure, it was a much-needed upgrade in our small Cape Cod-style home, but if I'd had it this good, I would have never left home! Maybe that’s why he’s in no rush to leave. According to some recent stats, neither are many other Millennials.

In 2015, 42.2 million Millennials lived with their parents, compared to 41.9 million in 2010. It’s a wise step, especially if you can pay off some debt and bank some cash for the future. 

If I could go back in time, here are some savvy money moves I would share with my younger self. 

Live home longer. Independence be damned! Pay some rent, always be respectful, and clean up after yourself. Your Mom and Dad will love having you, and your pocketbook will thank you. Set goals for your money—whether you’re saving for your wedding, a home or a luxe travel jaunt—and have enough discipline to see them through. 

Pay off your car. I initially had a 1990ish four-door Toyota Corolla with a rust spot on the left side. Yep, it was a hand-me-down from my Stepmom, which was fine. When I bought a brand-new 1999 Mazda 626 I thought I was living large. I paid that note for five years, but I should’ve paid it off in two since I was living at home and making consistent money.

Save 30% of every dime for retirement. All that spending on drinks, clothes and fun, fun, fun is cute, but it’ll cost you. You may not make six figures now, but it’s the habit of paying yourself first that will put you light years ahead of your friends and colleagues. Trust me. At 65, your nest egg will thank you.

Don’t go into debt, period. This is a big one. It’s soooo easy to get a credit card these days that you might not really think about the consequences of carrying debt you can’t afford. One rule of thumb: If you can’t pay off the amount you are spending today by the time the bill comes next month, then you can’t afford it. Use one card for spending and keep one for emergencies.

Managing money is all about making the sound decisions. You’re never too young to start!

Tanisha A. Sykes is a writer and editor living in New York. Follow her on Twitter @tanishastips.

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