College was rough already financially, but how little did I know just how expensive the “real world” would be once I went from being a happy-go-lucky recent graduate to now being a chronically unemployed, check-to-check-living semi-functional adult living just outside of Washington, DC. Life will smack you in the face with bill after bill and fees and taxes coming out of every corner the world. It is shocking, and public education and higher education just don’t really prepare you for it at all.
So would I go back and change things to ensure I’d be more financially savvy in the future? You better believe it!
First things first, I would have gotten a part-time job that paid actual money. Now, I was doing odd jobs here and there, and in Virginia there was always campaign work since we have elections all the time, but a regular part-time job that gave me a reliable, long-term income would have been better. Yeah, I looked down on the dudes in my class delivering pizzas while I was the chairman or lead intern of some random campaign, but you know what that paid? Nothing, nothing at all but maybe free food every other Thursday. It might look good on a resume, but that sure didn’t pay the bills. A job would have helped me save more than I spent, which brings me to my next point.
Starting to put savings into a money market account or mutual fund sounded alien to me at the time, but now since I understand what financial independence really means, I should have paid just a little more attention than I did. Having a healthy and growing savings account is fine, but getting involved in investing early would have helped me get farther in my financial journey.
Lastly, I would have shredded my credit card. The temptation to spend was there far too often and got the best of me on more than one occasion. All this being said, I’m glad to have learned this all now instead of later, and maybe this will guide some young buck to think about his financial future when he thinks “I have to pay my phone bill now?”