If you want to have financial freedom one day, then there’s no time like the present to start taking better care of your money. Here are the five most important lessons you can learn about personal finance before you reach 30:
1. Don’t Spend Everything You Make
The average person will pay their bills every month and use the rest of their money for whatever fun they can afford, whether that’s evenings out, new clothes or something else entirely. Go that route and you’ll never save any money. Don’t get caught up in buying things you don’t need. Set aside a portion of your income every month to a savings account, and gradually increase the amount you save.
2. Use Credit Wisely
There’s nothing wrong with credit cards, they just get a bad rap because people don’t use them responsibly. Using a credit card for your expenses is actually a great way to accumulate cash back or reward points that earn you a return on your spending, and build up that ever-important credit rating. The key is paying off what you owe in full every month. Never spend money that you don’t have and you won’t fall into the credit card debt trap like so many others.
3. Figure Out Your Financial Goals
The best way to make your financial dreams a reality is to actually write them down and then plan how you can get there. Let’s say you want to pay off $20,000 in student loans. Write that as your goal, and then look for ways you can make extra money to put towards that. When you set a goal, it gives you something to work towards and keeps you motivated.
4. Save for Your Retirement
It’s easy to make retirement an afterthought when it’s several decades away, but that’s a foolish mistake. If you start saving for retirement now, the money you save will compound over time. Starting your retirement savings 5 or 10 years earlier can make a huge difference. See if your employer offers a retirement plan, because if they do, they’ll likely match what you contribute up to a certain amount. Take advantage of that and contribute as much as possible.
5. Plan for Financial Emergencies
What are you going to do if your car breaks down, or you lose your job? Ideally, you should have an emergency fund for exactly these types of situations. Without one, you’ll be stuck putting unexpected expenses on your credit cards and then paying interest on them. It’s good to have an emergency fund of at least $1,000 to start, and then building it up to about 3 to 6 months of living expenses.
All of these lessons may be simple concepts, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow them. When you start living by these lessons before your thirties, you’re building good habits and putting yourself in position to achieve financial success.