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5 money tips we wished we knew in our 20s

Your 20’s are this funny time period. A decade of finding your way as a teen. And one day, that “You'' gets kicked out the door by an unspoken rule that says: 

Congrats – you’re an Adult now! Good luck figuring out the secrets to #adulting life, like how to support yourself without going broke! Let’s start with your short term financial goals?

So, we asked women in their 30s, the ones with the been-there-done-that vibes:

What do they wish they did differently with their money and finances in their 20’s? 

Their advice is gold, and below we share the top 5 money moves that can help make your debut as a Financially Stable Adult a whoooole lot easier. 

For all the women at the starting line of their financial independence: this one’s for you! 

👀: 7min read

short term financial goals

📸: Pinterest

#1: Know your numbers

If you’re familiar with Penny, You.Know.IT! – this is rule #1! It doesn’t matter if you’re working with long or short term financial goals. You gotta know your numbers. 

AKA: Get comfortable with understanding where you’re at, money-wise. 

It’s so easy to turn the other way when we’re in our 20s. But hey, would you want to date someone who ignores you or treats you like crap? Obviously not! So be good to your money. Light up some candles, grab some cozy socks, and learn how to romance the heck out of your wallet with a savvy, easy to understand mini budget. 

Your relationship with your money is the best investment you’ll ever make (pun intended).

"Money started bothering me less when I started equating it to the lifestyle that I wanted. How much do I need, what are my goals, how much extra do I like to have: okay let’s make sure we make just that. No more [if it means more work], no less. It’s a boundary." - Amanda, Penny Member, 30yrs old.

PS. Ever wish you could just input a few numbers into a smart calculator, and get a loose budget for how much you should save, or how long it’ll take you to pay off debt? We heard ya through the cosmos! Get your answers in 3min with our free money quiz

#2: Start a retirement account (like, yesterday)

Start it yesterday. Start it with $25. Seriously!! 

Those folks who’d always rave about retirement accounts nonstop? Well, they became the old and wise crowd in our book. Heck, we became them. (yeah, it shocked us too.)

Here’s the TL;DR on retirement accounts: 

When you’re young, you ignore it…‘cause you don’t think you need one yet. 

When you’re older, you’re scrambling to save more…‘cause you missed out on compound interest. whomp, whomp. 

The long version? 

Your retirement account is a type of investment account. Fancy, huh? 

You could say it’s your ‘nest egg.’ Big money for long-term goals. Because it really is: If you plan to live until you’re 81+ years old (the average age for women) and retire at 65, you’ll need about $1.5 MILLION DOLLARS. Yes, we just said that. No, not kidding.

Here’s the mistake every 20-ish year old makes about retirement. (granny hat on, please.)

When you add money to your retirement account and you invest it, the compound interest you earn on top of that cash will snowball magnificently.

Contrary to what most people think: the TIME your money spends accruing interest has a bigger impact than the AMOUNT you save every month. 

If you contribute (and invest) $325 a month in your 20s, you have the potential to grow your retirement to $1 Million dollars. That’s a looot of zeros. 

That’s why compounding is your money’s second BFF (you being the first).

What if you simply put your money into a savings account? 

It will never amount to the potential growth of an *invested* retirement account. (key word: invested).

Even $25 can help make a positive impact on your future nest egg. So even if that’s all you have, start today – start now. Your future self will thank you. 

Cristina sums it up well: 

“MAX OUT MY 401K CONTRIBUTIONS! I remember when Ben and I started dating and talking 401ks I couldn’t believe how much bigger his was because I always did the absolute bare minimum. Really just the importance of investing in general...I’ve only gotten into investing in the last few years and it’s such a good way to grow your money. Also understand how a credit card works. Oh, and find a billionaire to marry – JUST KIDDING” – Cristina, Penny Member, 34

LOL!!! Maybe start now so YOU can be the billionaire everyone wants to marry, right? ;)

One last note: Investing doesn’t have to be risky. We’re not into the typical “eat risk for breakfast” approach. If you want to learn how to invest (safely) join Penny – or scroll down to the end for more free resources. 

#3: Do NOT ignore your debt

It’s not going anywhere!! In fact, the more you ignore it, the more it evolves. 

Sadly, sometimes banks don’t tell you the correct amount to pay. After all, the interest you rack up every month goes right into their pockets (eye roll). 

If you have student loans, credit cards, and other loan payments… 

These are the kinds of bad boys you need to stick close to. (the rest? red flags. sashay away!) The key here is to start small. Find out what is the actual minimum you need to pay. And pay a liiiittle over that – even $10 bucks counts!

If you have a mortgage or car loan… 

Mortgages and car loans are typically set up to be paid off successfully by the end of the loan term. Check in once in a while. If you have extra money and want to pay it off faster, do it. If not, don’t stress. It’ll get covered eventually. 

Need to check if you could pay off debt faster? Take the money maker quiz

“I wish I didn’t open up credit cards for different stores to get the discounts because I ended up closing them which I don’t think was good for my credit. [...] I also know people that didn’t pay their credit card off in full…pay it all off!!!” – Stephanie, Penny Member, 31

#4: Build your emergency savings

This is something else we all forgot about in our 20s – and the regret’s real! 

Think of your emergency savings as a F-you fund for any curveball life throws your way. Let go? F-you, I got money. Blown tire? F-you, I got cash. You get the gist. ;)

How much? 6-12 months of living expenses. 

By when? That’s for you to decide! At first, it’s easier to base it upon your short term financial goals, and how much extra cash flow you have to work with.

We’re just saying: Start now. Pick a goal. Think big, then get small. 

Like, $50 per month adds up to $600 in a year. That’s a solid head start on a long-term travel fund or saving for a new car. But probably not for a house, which Jenna discovered the hard way: 

“I wish I saved more!!!!! I had $50 monthly transfers from checking to savings, that could have been much more. I didn’t realize how much I would need for a down payment on a house…” – Jenna, Penny Member, 30

Deep breaths! We’ve been there. If home-buying isn’t top of mind for you, that’s alright. Pick a different goal, and save money anyway. The important thing about emergency savings is that you’ll have the funds to make it happen, no matter what life throws your way. 

#5: Invest in YOU

Shopping, therapy, experiences — whatever it is that brings you joy. We’re here for it. 

Travel for cheap, new shoes for %% off, etc – whatever it is that brings you joy. We’re here for it.

Your health and wellbeing should always come first

Life isn’t always easy. You can’t respond to unexpected curveballs, make solid decisions about your money, and create a financial picture that truly makes you happy – if you’re not taking good care of your physical, emotional, and mental health. 

So, why not make it easier on yourself? 

When you become an active player in your finances, it leads you to a place where you have the EXTRA CASH to SPEND ON FUN. 

As much as we support your goals to:

  • Get cozy with your numbers
  • Start your retirement account
  • Invest that money asap
  • Create a plan to pay off debt, and
  • Nurture your emergency savings

…we will always support your investment of time and money into things that make you feel good, bring joy, and nourish your soul. 

Laura says it best:

“I wish I knew the grand scheme of things, that I wouldn’t miss the money I spent on those experiences. There are times when it’s more important to splurge than save, as long are you are spending within your means. I didn’t always have to eat $1 sandwiches, I could have gone for the real thing!” – Laura, Penny Member, 30

Knowledge is power. It’s how you get to empower your wallet (and your own confidence) and lead a life that feels awesome financially – regardless of how old you are!

And if you need a hand in creating that financial freedom for yourself? We’re here for that too. 

Start with the free money maker quiz


Learning pants still on? Read more here: 

Investing 101

Life 101 (and debt SOS)


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