I’ve been interested in budgeting, investing and saving content recently, and it’s inspired me to take a look at our family’s finances and try to improve them. I’ve also thought about the best and worst financial decisions I made in my 20s. While I am not dwelling on them as I am about to be 34, I think I have learned from reflecting on what I have done right and wrong, and my financial health is a lot better now because of it. I hope you can take away something helpful by reading about my financial journey.
- Racking up credit card debt. This was partly due to not having financial support in college and partly because I wanted to “keep up” with others. I had several thousand dollars in credit-card debt in my 20s.
- Not negotiating my salary. I worked at a newspaper for six and a half years, and raises were rare or nonexistent. I was one of few people who received raises at one point and was asked not to share that with others, but I was still probably underpaid, as were many of my colleagues. That’s just life in journalism, it seems. You don’t get into it for the money.
- Not saving enough. I just assumed that anything left after expenses and initial savings should and could be spent. I probably could/should have saved more.
- Financing my car. I purchased a car after totaling my previous (paid off) car in an accident, and I financed it. It was more money than I should have spent. I did realize this and paid it off early by making extra payments, but it would have been smarter to save and buy a less expensive car.
- Graduating early. I finished college after three and a half years and immediately began working at a newspaper. I feel like I had a much easier time finding work than the people who graduated in the semesters after me during the recession. I took a job that wasn’t exactly what I wanted and worked my way into the newsroom, where I loved working.
- Starting my 401(k) immediately and taking advantage of matching funds at age 21.
- Keeping my car once paid off and not financing a new car.
- Buying my condo in a short sale. This is probably my proudest financial accomplishment. I paid a low price because it was during the recession and we made a profit once we sold.
What would you say are your best and worst financial decisions?