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.
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.
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.
- Consider a balance transfer credit card to pay down your debt at 0% interest
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.
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.
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.
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?