Oh hindsight, you know-it-all, ever-present bia. You can’t change the past so why bother dwelling on it with a post like this? Well, I am hoping someone could learn from my mistakes and missed opportunities. I like to think I have not grossly mismanaged my funds, but there’s always room for improvement.
Things you should know about my financial situation: through a combination of academic scholarships, parent support and employer loan repayment programs, I have no student loan debt. #Blessed, I know. I’m an exception to the majority of my generation. I paid my car off in 2013 and I still rent so there’s no mortgage to speak of. In other words, I’m debt free.
Still, even with this leg up in life, there is plenty that I wish I would have started doing sooner. Here’s what 30 year old Shelly would like to text back in time to 22 year old Shelly as her career got underway.
- Realize that although your first big kid job paycheck makes you feel like you’re rich, you’re not. Sure you’re making way more than you did life guarding part-time through high school and college, but NO SH*T YOU’RE MAKING MORE MONEY. You work full time and for more than minimum wage! Enjoy this fact but then save! Quit buying shots at the bar for you and your 12 closest friends. OK, do it occasionally but not every weekend!
- Maximize 401k contributions sooner than later. It might not have been practical to contribute the max ($16.5k) at the beginning of my career; that would have been half of my income. Take out another $8k or so in taxes and I would have had a hard time covering expenses, especially because I was making car payments from 2008-2013. I can at least pat myself on the back for never leaving money on the table in the form of company matching. I ALWAYS contributed enough to take advantage of available matching. But my salary did steadily increase over time yet I kept my contributions stagnant.
- Knowledge of just how much money is needed to make a down payment on a home and investment property. A co-worker of mine has doubled his income with rental properties and I thought hmm that sounds great, why not me? Oh because I don’t have 25% to put down on a mortgage. Which goes back to #1. Save your money. You might not know what you’re saving for now but eventually an investment opportunity will come up and you’ll want to be prepared with the funds to take advantage.
- Quit moving apartments every year. That is expensive, annoying and a sure fire way to lose something important.
- Start side hustling ASAP. Admittedly, this was not as easy back then as it is now. There was No Uber or Rover (my current side hustle), and far less work-from-home opportunities. Before finding Rover, all of my side job applications, from the local grocery store to online data entry clerk, have gone unanswered. So maybe the odds are good I would have faced similar difficulties back then. But I didn’t even try, so we’ll never know! Again this goes back to #1. I felt like I was making SO much money, it never crossed my mind I needed a second job.
- Learn the value of dividend paying stock earlier. I love dividend payment days more than I love Christmas. It comes 4x a year! Santa got nothing on dividends! You don’t have to be a genius to find a “safe” stock that pays dividends. Safe meaning, you’re not likely to lose the money you put in if the company goes bankrupt. Large, well established companies with a good history of regular payment. Do some research, find a company you’re comfortable with and buy some shares. Enjoy the extra $ at dividend time. Gradually add more to your portfolio.
Oh 22 year-old Shelly, you Keystone guzzling nitwit, I wish you would have wised up sooner but you weren’t all bad. Thanks for not maxing out credit cards, having roommates to share costs, and sticking with your job even though it was a major bummer at first. You’ve come a long way, baby.