Many people will wake up one day, perhaps in their forties, and look with dissatisfaction at the state of their bank accounts. Even those who achieve a certain amount of financial security after their first few decades of adulthood may hold some misgivings about their past choices. Those who have been there have advice for those with years ahead of them: advice based on regret and risks that have panned out.
Have a Rich Mentality
While wealth might not be as simple as “think rich,” your mindset is a huge factor in determining your long-term financial well-being. Knowing that wealth is possible is the first step. The second step is planning for your future. Choose a few actionable steps that can put you on the road to financial health and follow them. Your plan might change over time. Making adjustments as circumstances change is not losing faith in yourself; it’s just being practical.
Save Early, Save Often
It’s advice you’ve probably heard more than once: Putting aside a little bit on a regular basis can add up to a nice cushion in the long run. There is some truth in this adage. If you get into the habit of putting $25 a week in a secure investment, over time it will add up to significant savings. The key is to do it automatically, like a regular contribution out of your bank account, so you won’t even give yourself the option of ordering pizza instead. Of course, the only way to save the cash is to leave it in your investment and not spend it recklessly.
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Successful money managing happens over the long term. That means not just consistent savings, but being able to ride out the ups and owns of the stock markets, if you choose to invest. Think in terms of a decade, not a year. When you’re ready to start putting money away into a portfolio, find an adviser you trust and don’t be afraid to ask for references before you let them manage your money. Even if you’re being patient, don’t neglect your duty to keep tabs on what’s going on with your money.
Don’t Spend What You Don’t Have
Everyone knows they should avoid debt. It’s easier said than done, but if you can achieve it, you’ll be closer to the financial stability you seek. Living like you are poor, even when you have sufficient money to put away, can get you into the habit of living on less. You won’t have a hole of debt you have to dig yourself out of, and you’ll be prepared for the ups and downs of life. Even those trained for good jobs might not have that comfortable income all the time.
Take Greater Risks
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, taking more chances as a youth can lead to greater financial reward later. Even if you are offered a so-called stable job early on, you might not always have that level of comfort. Taking a riskier opportunity to work in a new industry or for a startup can pay off in terms of an expanded professional network, a broader skill set and knowledge that can get you more money in the long run. Risk goes for your financial investments as well — the key is to diversify, with safe stocks and riskier bets. Warren Buffett called diversification “a protection against ignorance.”
Choose Your Education With Care
Education is a great thing. But spending a lot of money to train for a career for which you’re poorly suited makes little sense. It can cost you money, and chances are if you don’t enjoy it, it won’t be a successful career path. Student loan debt is a tremendous burden for many adults. Do your best to choose the schooling that you know will pay off in the long run. Even if you have enough saved to pay for your education out of pocket, the time you spend in school can impede your chances of pursuing the right path for you.
Don’t Waste Time
Many people define wealth in terms of material goods. But as much as you shouldn’t spend money on things that you don’t need, you shouldn’t waste time on jobs and relationships that bring you little long-term happiness. As you get older, you may discover that your time is as valuable as the dollars in your bank account. Spending moments developing strong bonds with family and friends and developing a skill or hobby that brings meaning to your life can mean more than a healthy 401K.
Don’t Live in Regret
Having a good plan, a comfortable job and strong relationships are all well and good — but few people have them all at the same time. Today is the future’s 10-20 years ago, which means that the choices you make right now are already determining your future, good or bad. There’s little benefit to rehashing the past, and if you’ve not yet started to put away that $25 per week, you can always start on Monday.
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