There have been moments when we wished that we could go back in time and change something we did or should have done. Maybe we needed that little extra push at a certain time or place; or maybe we needed a full 180-degree spin! The choices we made when we were younger have molded us into the person we are today. And I’m grateful that I had the right family and friends in life to help me make wise decisions. But, if I could write a letter to my younger self, in a financial sense, well, let me tell you, it might be a long letter!
I don’t think we have time for the full letter, but let me shed some light on the main points that I would write to my younger self.
Save Your Money Kid!: “Right now hanging out with friends, going to the movies and not thinking about tomorrow is really all that’s on your mind. It’s ok to have some fun but don’t forget that someday you’re going to need some money saved up in case you want a car, or if you go to college. Do you really want to stay at Mom and Dad’s forever?”
The Plastic is Real: “Think again before swiping that credit card. Unfortunately it’s not like free Monopoly money. You’re on the right track by starting build your credit, but make sure you are aware of the money you’re spending so debt does not consume you.”
Listen Up: “When Mom or Dad tell you to start a budget, could you just do it? It’ll make your life a lot easier in the long run; I promise. If you put a budget together on what your income and expenses are now, it will really help you see where all of your money is going. Imagine how much better off you’ll be when you’re 40?”
Contribute: “When you get the new corporate job you’ve been dreaming of, make sure you are contributing. Put as much into your 401(k) when you start as you can. That company will have some kind of match plan so think of it as, free money.”
Raise Your Hand: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You’re a smart one but unless you’ve ended up in the finance business and know the in’s and out’s, it’s ok to ask. That old saying still rights true to this very day; Carl Sagan, in his work The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark said, ‘There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.’
Now imagine if we could jump into the future and write a letter to our younger selves. Do you think it would change your mind? Would it make you just a little more financially responsible? What about now? Imagine when you’re 20 years older, what would you say to yourself right now at this age? What advice would you give to yourself?
As I get older, I tend to think that I’ve got it all figured out. And every time I get a couple more years under my belt, I look back, crack a smile and laugh at my younger self.
Don’t stop thinking about your future and how you can help better prepare yourself for it.