OK, I know the title is a bit extreme, but I had to get your attention given this is a PR/marketing blogger talking about finances 🙂
First, I want to start this post with two quick disclaimers:
1–This is not your average Communications Conversations post. I am NOT going to talk about PR, social media or corporate communications in this post.
2–I am in no way, shape or form a financial planner or professional. Please do not take my advice as financial gospel.
That said, I think this is an important topic for students and younger pros just starting out in their career in their 20s.
Why? Because I was you 20 years ago. And I faced the same challenges you do now.
Really, not so much financial challenges as financial literacy. In essence, understanding how to better manage your finances.
It’s a class you typically don’t get in college. You tend to obtain your financial literacy in one of two ways: 1) From your parents or other family members, or 2) From the school of hard knocks–learning as you go on your own!
I want to address the folks who might fall in that second bucket. Because establishing financial literacy early on in your professional life can pay huge dividends down the road. HUGE.
I’ve boiled my tips down to seven concepts I believe are worth considering. Again, this is not necessarily financial advicel–just a few helpful tips to consider as you map out and plan your financial future. And, a few things that have worked well for me over the years.
1–When you get promoted, maintain your lifestyle–don’t upgrade it
This is probably one of the biggest–and most simple–concepts you can implement that will potentially help you the most. When you get that big promotion, or that new job with a 20% increase in pay, resist the urge to upgrade your life. Resist the urge to buy a better car. Resist the urge to go on a huge shopping spree. Resist. Resist. Resist. Instead: Maintain. It’s not as hard as it looks. You do that through 3-4 promotions, and you’ll be sitting on more cash than you think.
2–MAXIMIZE your earning potential
Learn how to negotiate. Learn how to stick up for yourself. Learn how to ask for a raise. And, most of all, learn how to constantly re-invent and market yourself. These skills will be HUGELY valuable to you throughout your career. Just look around at people within your company in senior positions right now. Sometimes, they’re not the smartest people, right? But, they’re most likely killer negotiators and self-promoters. Yeah, I know, no one likes a self-promoter. But guess what? There’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, if done right. And, it could wind up making you tens of thousands of dollars (if not hundreds) over the course of your career.
3–Don’t buy a BMW
I realize a car is a very personal choice for many, but resist the urge to buy that top-shelf car. Why? It’s an “asset” that depreciates the second you drive it off the lot. And, it depreciates quickly. And, at the end of the day, who really cares what kind of car you drive? My wife and I have driven some combination of Hondas, Toyotas and Hyundais throughout our lives. We’re at a point in our lives where we could afford nicer cars now–but we resist. Because it’s a car. It gets us from point A to point B. Period. And it’s never going to MAKE you money.
4–Splurge on ONE area of your life–save everywhere else
When you get that raise or promotion, splurge. Don’t upgrade your lifestyle (that’s something different–see above). But splurge. But–and here’s the key–only splurge on ONE item. For us, it’s usually food. We spend a decent amount of money on food and going out to restaurants in South Minneapolis. We enjoy that–it’s our splurge. Find your splurge. Spend money there. And then stop.
5–Use ONE credit card and use it VERY sparingly
This one’s obvious, but it bears repeating since so many young people seem to get mired in debt. Establish one credit card, but only use it if you really have to. And, when you do use it, pay it off quickly. Very basic financial advice, but there’s a reason everyone reiterates this. Getting to a “no debt” stage is absolutely key for financial security.
6–Learn how to invest on your own
I’m not saying you shouldn’t hire a financial planner. Go ahead–hire away (in fact, if you’re looking for a good one, hire my friend Eric Rislove in Woodbury–I can provide details if you’re really interested). But, learn how the market works. Learn how investments work. Learn how your 401K works. If you don’t, you increasingly won’t understand what your financial planner is talking about when you sit down once a year. And, that’s dangerous territory. For me, personally, this has meant understanding financial basics enough to invest on my own through Vanguard so I avoid costly fees I would incur through other firms. But bottom line: Learn investing basics. It’s not that hard.
7–Track your expenses–religiously
I have a friend who’s an accountant. This friend sets up a budget for his family each year. He’s meticulous about it. And he tracks EVERYTHING. I used to laugh at this friend. But, eventually, I saw how wise he was. Especially now as a business owner, where I track all my expenses each month. I can see how smart this strategy is. The beauty: By tracking your expenses, you start to become more self-aware of your spending. It’s kinda like keeping a food diary. Once you start tracking how many Oreo’s you’re eating on a daily basis, you become pretty damn aware every time you shove one of those cookies in your face. Start tracking your expenses. Make it a habit.
So, those are my tips. I hope those help. Sorry for the off-topic post today. Back to regularly scheduled programming Monday 🙂