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If I think back, I can remember when I first started considering my own financial goals.

I was 20 years old. I wasn’t financially savvy and ended up maxing out a credit card along with incurring other debts.

While I certainly wasn’t alone (many of my peers did the same!), it was a stressful time. Then and there, I knew something had to change.

Several years later, my wife and I paid off over $30,000 in consumer debts (in addition to over $200,000 in student loans). I had realized that I didn’t have to drown in debt, live in frustration, or be doomed to a lifetime of payments. And you know what? Neither do you.

Here are some of the most important financial goals for those of you in your 20s. Start early and focus on them now, before making the same mistake that I and so many of my peers made.

You’ll be so thankful you did in your later years, when you’re financially secure.

Related: Dough Roller Podcast 303: 4 Pillars of Financial Success

1. Make giving a priority

Giving to others changes how we view money. And it’s a very good thing.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of building wealth – you know, hoarding it for yourself. However, giving can transform your attitude and help you remember that money isn’t everything.

Giving is also a lot of fun, so be on the lookout for opportunities to bless others. And when you give, give with a cheerful heart.

Rob: My daughter called me from college yesterday to discussing a donation she wanted to make to a charity. I was so proud!

Before she gave, however, we checked out the organization on a website called Charity Navigator. The site rates charities and shows you how much of your contribution actually goes to those the charity seeks to benefit.

Related: How to Make Giving Part of Your Financial Plan With Vanguard Charitable

2. Develop your career skills

Be a lifelong learner. You’re going to need to develop your skills throughout your lifetime, especially in today’s workplace.

Times are changing, and you have to be flexible enough to change with them. Even if you have a secure job, think about some hobbies or trades you can do on the side. Working a side job or two will give you the experience you need to switch to a new full-time position if needed.

3. Eliminate your credit card debt

While there are some enticing credit card rewards programs out there, I always suggest that readers “know themselves.” No matter how great the rewards may be, you should avoid credit cards if you are prone to carrying a balance.  You can pay off your credit cards using a number of free tools and methods, such as the debt avalanche or debt snowball.

Paying off our debts has given us a lot of peace, along with the obvious flexibility it provides our finances. If you can be debt-free in your 20s, by all means do so.

Learn More: A Review of Qoins, The App That Pays Off Your Debt

4. Build an emergency fund

If there’s anything you can expect, it’s that emergencies will occur. While you might not have experienced too many of them yet, believe me… they’re coming.

Many financial professionals recommend having 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund. That should be enough to cover you in the event of a job loss, a large medical bill, or another emergency.

By putting your emergency fund into a high-yield savings or money market account, you can have quick access to your funds while earning a higher interest rate than your average checking account. After you use your some of your emergency funds, make it your goal to replace the funds you spent as quickly as possible.

Resource: Big Expense? How to Decide If It’s Emergency Fund-Worthy

5. Start investing for retirement

We’ve all seen the power of compounding at work. Time is a powerful variable in the compounding equation, and because you’re in your 20s, time is on your side.

If your company offers a 401(k), start investing there – you might get a match on your contributions. You should also consider starting a Roth IRA or opening an account with an online discount broker to take advantage of gains in the stock market.

Many experts suggest putting 10-15% of your gross income into retirement savings. If you’re still living with your parents, you might even be able to put more than this into your accounts, but 15% is a good goal.

Get Ready: 10 Valuable 401(k) Tips to Help New Grads Invest Better

All of these goals are more like ongoing practices – ones that you’ll want to adopt and hang onto throughout your life.

By solidifying these habits when you’re young, you’re setting the stage for financial freedom as you grow older. And money lessons are definitely better learned as early as possible.

What financial goals are you working toward in your 20s?

Author Bio

Total Articles: 1083
Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Article comments

Steve Will says:

Great info I am in my 20s and I plan on taking advantage of your tips to plan for my future.

Great post – i hope lots of young people get to read it.
Its so difficult for young people to start their financial lives on the right footing – as theyre up against a whole marketing industry telling you to buy buy buy

These are all awesome points. I think #5 is the most often overlooked tip, but it could save people years of work when they get older if they start young.

Lucy88 says:

The order is a little out of wack. Otherwise, good points.