10 invaluable things I've learnt about money in the past 10 years

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In the last ten years I've paid off debt, bought property, gotten married, had children, and changed careers. I've learned some lessons along the way.

  • Some of the first lessons I learned were about investing, like how important it is to start early and invest often so you can take advantage of compound interest.
  • I've also learned that planning ahead can save you a lot of headaches, from building your credit before you need it to prioritizing an emergency fund, even when everything is going OK.

Ten years ago, I was graduating from college and had just accepted my first full-time job. Over the course of the next few years I met my now-husband, went to grad school, bought a starter home, had two children, changed careers, worked as a financial adviser and coach, and bought our dream home.

In that time, I've made financial mistakes and have celebrated financial wins. But here are the money lessons that have stuck with me:

1. Invest early and often

Compound interest the process by which interest earned on your investments earns interest on itself is your friend. The earlier you invest, the less you need to invest to reach your financial goals. My dad made me open a Roth IRA when I was 22 and encouraged me to fully fund it, which I did. That money I put in early on grew and I was able to take out $10,000 of my contributions penalty-free to buy our first home.

2. Automate everything

If you have a hard time with spending every dollar you make, set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings and automatic withdrawals into your investment accounts so that you are paying yourself first.

In addition, if you use credit cards I recommend setting up automatic minimum payments as well as setting up your bills to be paid automatically so you don't get charged late fees.

3. Figure out where your money is going

If I could highlight one lesson I learned over the past 10 years it would be this one. Figuring out where your money is going helps you not only understand where you've spent all your hard-earned money, but can also help you pay off debt, save more, and hit other financial goals.

4. There's always more money to be made

If you are in a set-income job, it may feel that you can't possibly make any more money. While I used to feel this way, I've since changed my perspective. Money is everywhere. There are side jobs to work , raises to ask for, other education, and careers to pursue. The amount of money you can make is never fixed, and opportunities are now greater than ever to increase your income potential.

5. Stop buying things to impress other people

Keeping up with the "Joneses" is not only financially straining it's impossible. There will always be bigger, better and more to purchase. Align your spending with your own unique values and priorities and then put your blinders on.

6. Two words: FIRE movement

FIRE stands for Financial Independence Retire Early , and it's a rapidly growing movement. The members within the movement have either gained financial independence and potentially retired early or are striving to do so.

I didn't learn about the FIRE movement until late 2018 but it has already influenced my financial behavior more than anything else. Because of this movement, my husband and I are motivated to pay off our debt early and build up our investment accounts as much and as early as possible.

7. Build your credit early before you will need it

While this lesson dates back to when I was in high school, I didn't realize the importance of it until I was in my late 20s. By building a credit score in high school and through college I was able to buy my first home without having to figure out how to quickly build my credit score.

8. Plan for the unexpected

Right after my husband and I got married he had to have shoulder surgery that wasn't covered by our insurance, and we ended up racking up medical bills and credit card debt during that time. In hindsight had we had a better handle on where our money was going and saved more in an emergency fund we could have completely sidestepped that recurring debt.

9. When paying off debt, it can pay to do what feels good

When I graduated grad school with a total of $50,000 in student loans and a $10,000 car loan , my dad couldn't understand why I wanted to pay off my car loan first, despite it having a lower interest rate. I explained that it helped me feel like I had accomplished something, and thus, wanted to keep knocking out the smaller debts first.

It wasn't until years later that I learned what I was doing was called the debt-snowball method , and although it doesn't necessarily work for everyone, it really motivated me to keep going.

10. The mindset that got you into debt won't get you out of it

My husband and I struggled with recurring medical and credit card debt before we decided enough was enough and got a handle on it. By getting organized and understanding where our money was going, we were able to free up cash to put towards the debt. Getting out of debt is possible, but a change in your mindset and spending behaviors will likely need to happen first.

 

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