I was at a fundraiser the other night and the gentlemen next to me recognized me. He told me that his philosophy is, "I manage my money, my money doesn't manage me." He was prepared to retire comfortably at 65, he said.
I thought about this man and his money management and retirement plan, and I started analyzing my personal plan. It's right on track, but I would be in a better financial situation if I started saving earlier.
Here's what would I tell my younger self to do — or not to do — to achieve better financial success:
1. Try harder to get scholarships for school. Do not use part of your school loan to go to Florida for spring break. Education, whether it is a trade school or college, will only increase your chances for a higher salary.
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2. Do not use your credit cards for clothes, dining out or paying other bills unless you plan on paying the credit card balance each month. Learning to decide what you need and what you want is a hard lesson, but once learned will save you money.
3. Start a savings account. If you had put $20 in the bank each week starting when you were in your 20s until you retire that amount could surpass $40,000. I know this isn't enough to retire on, but you could save that much and not even miss it. And, speaking of saving money, don't overlook any "free money" when your employer offers a 401K with matching funds. Put in the maximum allowed.
4. The condo I was renting went up for sale. At the time I thought I didn't want a mortgage payment. However, if an opportunity arises for you to purchase a property you are renting, try to see if you could qualify for a mortgage. It might be worth the investment.
5. Don't think you are too young for a Roth IRA. If you start putting away $200 a month in a retirement account from your first full-time job at age 22, within 10 years you'll have a stash of more than $37,000, assuming your investments grow 8 percent a year. In 20 years, you'll have more than $122,000 and by the time you reach age 67, your investment will be worth $1.2 million.
6. Balance your checkbook. Doing this every month will help you understand exactly how you spend your money. Going out with friends to parties, restaurant, bars or concerts can eat up your budget quickly. I am not suggesting you don't have a good time, just budget yourself a reasonable amount of money a month for entertainment.
7. Be responsible for your money. Don't beat yourself up if you think you paid too much for something, but do the research before you shop. Impulsive buying can lead to overspending. There is nothing that you need that can't wait a couple of days. Walmart is helping customers get the best prices. Enter your Walmart receipt at Walmart.com/savingscatcher and Walmart will check top competitors' advertised prices for the item you purchased. If a lower price is found on a grocery item you purchased, you will get a Walmart Rewards eGift Card for the difference.
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