Money Management for a 20-Something
For the first time in my life. I feel like I am really sticking to a money plan. A budget. That may be surprising if you know me well because I have always been obsessed with budgeting. So why have I never really used one? Until a few months ago, I only ever MANAGED my money, I didn’t really stick to a budget, or “money plan” for my expenses and saving (more on my budget later). But I have always loved managing my money. Learning about money, how to keep more of it, make more of it, know more about it.
And listen, I know that everyone is at a different point with their money, and their relationship to money. I am not going to tell you exactly what to do for your specific circumstance (I have read a lot of money books and have a full savings account but I don’t have a mortgage or kids). But I DO think you should think about money. Learn about it. And maybe if you are in a similar circumstance to me (single-income-no-kids-rocking-that-twenty-something-but-still-responsible-life) or somewhere similar, my experiences, lessons, and tips will be of some value to your own money journey.
Start Right Away
I was raised in a family that had enough. But not extra. My dad is a small business owner and my mom homeschooled my sisters and I. Because my parents had a family so young, my dad didn’t finish University and started a business instead. He is a self-taught everything and I am his biggest fan. I learned all of my money basics and money confidence from my dad. He always said, “do as I say, not as I do” and I did, and it is working, thanks dad 😉 He read The Wealthy Barber when I was about 11 and I know that, because he started teaching me the lessons he was learning about starting early and paying yourself first. Because of his interest in the topic, I started really early. I was fortunate enough to work quite a lot in my high school years because I was homeschooled and could do my homework when it fit into my schedule. So I had a nice little savings account by the time I got to University, which helped me graduate debt free.
This is all to say, that I started really early. And it has helped me with my understanding of money (When you learn about credit and mutual funds in your early teens, its not so scary in your twenties) and my money management. The big lesson here is not that you have to start in your teens, it’s that you should start sooner rather than later – no matter what age or what stage of life! The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. That is one of my favourite Chinese proverbs. So don’t feel like you have all the time in the world to start, start now.
Find a Financial Guru
I mentioned that I have only in the past few months been following a budget for real. Well.. I have been searching for a budgeting tool that I like for what feels like a decade. But I have found my financial guru and for the past 3 months I have been loving following her budgeting guide. And I found her in the least likely place. YouTube.
HeyBerna is a self-proclaimed “Financial Hype Woman” and I love her videos and outlook on money. Her first video (watch it here) is totally worth the watch and I CANNOT RECOMMEND HER BUDGETING STRATEGY ENOUGH!! I won’t explain it all here.. but it pretty much involves separating your bill money from your fun money, paying yourself first, having specific steps you take each payday, and keeping a money journal. And to top it all off, her videos are hysterical.
Finding someone (a YouTuber, an author, a blogger, your mom) who you trust for money advice, so much so that you actually follow it, is a big part of keeping your money journey on track.
Consistent is Better Than Perfect
I constantly need this reminder. Just because you overspent, bought something you regret, can’t afford to pay off your credit card that month, does not mean you should stop trying! Keeping a perfect budget or never making any money management mistakes is NOT the answer to a successful relationship with money. A successful relationship with money is built when you shake it off and stick to your budget tomorrow. Perfect for 3 days won’t make you rich. But consistently saving (even imperfectly) for 30 years, will.
Pay Yourself First
Pretty much the most agreed upon money management tip I have found to date. If you pay all your bills and treat yourself before you deposit money into your Emergency savings (house savings, travel savings, etc) then you are putting your own goals at the bottom of your priority list. You are putting out energy into the world that you don’t matter as much as your cable bill or drinks with the gals or a new couch. Paying yourself first literally just means that before you pay for ANYTHING else with that nice paycheque, you put money aside for savings (for YOU!). This makes saving happen more regularly, manages your spending, and keeps your own goals at the top of your priority list.
What I do is put 10% of my paycheque away in a long (and I mean LONG) term savings option and I do that before anything else gets paid. Event rent. Now of course, I am lucky to have this option. But I think more of us do than we realize. Think about what 10% of your monthly income is, try putting that away for even one month and see if it is as apparent as you feel it would be.
Make Friends with Your Bank
Having a healthy relationship with financial advisors at my various banks has been an actual lifesaver. I don’t take every single piece of their advice. But I have learned SO MUCH from our conversations and it builds confidence to talk money with people who help clients like you every day. A financial advisor is not someone you pay to talk to. They are the people at your bank who are there to help you learn about your options with your money. And if you are ever scared to ask a question, seriously don’t be! Any FA worth their salt will LOVE that you are taking an interest in your money and will jump at the chance to help you succeed. All you have to do is book the appointment.
Something really hard to remember, especially in your twenties, is that an abundance mindset will always bring you more in life. An Abundance mindset is the belief that there is more than enough in this world for everyone. Not that everyone HAS enough, but that it is possible. The opposite is a Fixed mindset, where there is a limited number of resources to go around. When talking about money, or money-smarts, it is SO important to remember that there is enough for everyone. And that the more generous we are with both, the more those will come back to us.
I know that money is overwhelming. I feel anxious about it too often. I get scared there is not enough, that I won’t have enough, or that the safety and comfort it brings will go away. I worry that I am too obsessed with it. And that I don’t know enough about it. I am too far ahead, too far behind. I want to give it all away, and I want to keep it for myself. I want to spend it. And never spend it.
But one thing about money that always brings me more peace of mind is when I take control over it. Learning to take the steps to manage my money (know where it comes from, what I do with it, how to keep more, spend smarter) never makes me feel worse, only more confident, hopeful, and yes, richer.