Growing up, my parents never prepared me for the challenges of money. We never had a “money talk”. I was taught that you don’t ask people about money, it’s just something you don’t do. And because of the lack of communication, I made many avoidable mistakes.
As a young adult, I floundered through life until I found myself in such a dire situation with money, I was forced to figure it out on my own.
The following are my top 5 money lessons for young adults.
1. Open a savings account and start saving early
As a kid, any money I earned sat inside a wallet in a desk drawer. Needless to say, the money I earned was spent pretty quickly.
I was about 16 or 17 when I got my first job and opened my first savings account. Getting that first job and making my own money, even though I had a savings account, only compounded my problem with spending money.
Let’s be honest, no young adult wants to be told what to do with their money, but most need the guidance whether they know it or not. I needed that money lesson!
We should enjoy the money that we worked hard to earn, but also learn the value of saving money for emergencies and anything we might need in the future.
It’s about finding a healthy financial balance. It took me a very long time to find that balance on my own.
2. Understand your Credit Score
I knew what a credit card was before I knew what a credit score was. It wasn’t until I applied for a credit card, and got denied, that I was forced to figure out what my credit score was. It seems a bit backward but this is the truth for many Americans.
Parents, teach your young adult about credit before helping them to fill out their first credit application. It just might help keep them out of trouble.
3. NEVER carry a Credit Card balance
Credit card companies want you to carry a balance month to month and only pay the minimum payment. This is how they make their money. I never made the connection and thought that paying the minimum payment due was being responsible.
In the meantime, I kept charging my credit card and my balance kept increasing. Of course, the money in my checking account mostly stayed the same so I didn’t feel like I was doing that bad.
The money lesson is this – If you carry a balance on your credit card, you will pay interest on that balance. All your purchases just got substantially more expensive. Doesn’t sound like such a great deal anymore, does it?
If you currently carry a balance, use a payment calculator to see what it’s going to end up costing you.
4. The ability to spend money doesn't make you a better or more likable person
I was just like any of these young guys I see today driving around in expensive cars they can’t afford while working two jobs and living at home. I was young and flaunted the little money I had. New clothes… Lots and lots of new clothes… Video games, date nights, vacations, and eating out. Man, I felt good.
I would go out in my new clothes and spend like the money would never end. I would go on dates and pay for the whole evening no matter the cost. Looking back, I know I was stupid, but it was a necessary money lesson to learn.
Maybe I grew out of it. Maybe I’m just a bit smarter than I was (I can hope right?) I have more money available to me than I ever had before, but I don’t need stuff or to show off to feel good about myself. I enjoy seeing my investment and savings accounts grow. My car, my clothes or my net worth does not define who I am. I have nothing to prove. I do it for Chelsea and me.
5. It’s good to talk about money!
I am certain that we would all be a lot better off if we could talk openly with each other about money instead of treating it as a taboo. It’s not about comparing who has more money or is more successful. It’s about learning from one another and growing together as a family and community.
Parents, talk with your young adults. Tell them about your job and the work you do. Teach them about how money is earned and everything it pays for. This is the time to start preparing them for when they become responsible adults and citizens.
If you don’t know about personal finance, find someone that does. Pick up a book. Start reading the many websites with great information available. It’s never too late to learn. It’s never too late to make a change.