To paraphrase Oedipus, Hamlet, Lear, and all those guys, “I wish I had known this some time ago. - Roger Zelazny
Ever wished you’d made a change earlier? It’s easy having the benefit of hindsight to see how you could have improved your situation a lot earlier especially when it comes to money. Have you ever thought, “I wish I could go back to when I was younger and tell myself to start saving just £1 or $1 more a day?” It’s true that with hindsight you can pass on this wisdom to your younger friends or family but if I had the ability to give advice to my 16-year-old self, here’s what I’d say.
1. Start Reading Money Advice For People in Their 20s
Having always been the youngest (in my academic year, family, relationship and group of friends) I have had the benefit of advice from those with more life experience.In my early 20s I googled “money advice for people in their 20s” and now that I am halfway to 30 I have read the advice for 30-somethings. Staying ahead with your money research gives greater power to take action but also if you don’t think you are anywhere near the recommended steps then you have an early indication that you need to change how you’re currently managing money.
2. Don’t Take Any One Person’s Advice on Money…or Anything
Leading on from the first point, I think my 16-year-old self was far too trusting of any one source. I used Money Saving Expertfor everything. It was only when I recognised that not investing in research farther afield was keeping me in the same state of investor paralysis and helped me get my nickname – risk-averse mo.There are too many out there claiming they have the advice you need but it can be difficult to know whose advice you can trust. The simple truth is you need to diversify your learning resources and advice channels. Take a new course to meet new people, form a mastermind group or become interested in something completely different. Don’t put all of your advice eggs in one basket!
3. Accept That Others Will Disapprove
As with any change you make, it can be alarming to those around you, who knew you before, when your behaviour or attitude is altered.Although your friends may say they are happy for you and probably do have your best interests at heart when you make a positive change in your life (whether they truly mean it or not) changing your money habits at a young age will attract negative attention.I found it hard to hear my friends tell me that I was ‘obsessed’ with money. At the time I brushed it off but what I really should have said is “And how does this change in my money management impact you?”
4. Make Excel Your Best Friend
I was afraid of excel because I’d never learnt to use it in school – I know it’s a poor excuse! It was true that a lack of confidence meant that I resigned myself to manual tracking of expenses which resulted in errors and more hours spent than necessary.Had I befriended this software years ago I would have started using an intuitive and minimal input spreadsheet. I use one now thanks to FW’s post on tracking expenses.
5. Give Yourself More Credit
Like most teenagers a lack of confidence often left me feeling that I wasn’t good enough.
Most young people need to expect to make mistakes with their money even with their best efforts to educate themselves.It’s great to strive for more and become a better money manager but it’s also important to recognise how far you’ve come when you make any changes to your money management. Rewarding yourself for good behaviour is positive reinforcement and will help you stay the course.
It’s easy to say ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda and if only I did that…’ but the truth is I can only change myself from today. I hope that if any 16-year-olds do stumble on this article that they can benefit from my advice.
If you could turn back the clock, what money advice would you give to your 16-year-old self? What change can you make today that will help you with your money management? Check out our articles on Personal Finance to give you some inspiration.