Financial tips for your younger self

Written by Peter Wouters


Do you ever wish you could talk to your younger self about lessons you’ve learned, more than a few of them the hard way? There are the mishaps you could have avoided, the errors in judgement you could have missed and the regrets you wouldn’t hold. How much better would you feel now if you could turn the clock back? And that includes the extra money you would have to fund the better lifestyle you could look forward to in the decades ahead. Let’s consider some financial tips.

In the Gen-X unprepared for retirement; survey (December 2016), journalist and editor Tessi Sanci summarized the plight of Generation X, most of whom are unprepared for retirement.

More than three-quarters of the Canadians aged 35-54 who were surveyed for a recent study have a key message for those who are younger than they are: start saving earlier1.

Back then, living in the now seemed the way to go, enjoying each of life’s moments. Instant gratification felt great, whether you were taking a break from your studies to buy that gadget “everyone had,” or treat yourself to a night out with some friends. You didn’t need cash; you had a new credit card. You could make minimum payments over time. They were easy to budget. You deserved it, right?

In a few years that $1,000 credit card limit would be raised to $10,000 and the interest payments alone would be more than the total balance back in school. No worries; you were now working. You could pay off the credit card and the school debt. You could even start to save some money.

You were trading instant gratification for deferred pain. The pain later on would be much more intense and the sour taste of “a good deal or money better spent” would linger on longer than the sweet taste you savoured during that “now” moment. You know that now, all too painfully.

My dad lived by the following principle. When you’re tempted to buy something you don’t have the cash for, don’t buy it! If you added the cost of financing to the purchase price, that purchase doesn’t look like such a deal. In fact, some of the things you bought went down in price or got flushed through your system while you continued to pay for it for years. That’s where want turns to waste.

Debt should still be a four letter word, instead of just a word.

As you move from your first job to your next, your income goes up. You think you will be in a better position to pay down your debt. However, rather than deal with your existing debt and spending practices, you get distracted by the next big purchase; some new furniture, a new car, and a house. Then a child comes along, perhaps two or more. The house needs fixing, the furnace blows, and you want your home to look like the makeovers on television. You’re paying everyone else. When do you pay yourself? When does your money start to work for you? Here are some tips.

1. Pay yourself first

2. Start early

3. Start your long term savings plan early in life

4. Accumulate money by focusing on deposits and time, not rate of return

Time seems to be something you have less and less of as you get older. And it moves faster and faster. Even if you have some financial smarts, use that to find a better financial professional. Engage the services of an accredited financial advisor who can help you with life’s financial challenges today so that you will have fewer of them tomorrow.

You can’t go back to your younger self. You can still get a better handle on your financial affairs today. You can pay it forward to others younger than you. You will feel better about it and so will they.


Source: Gen-X unprepared for retirement; survey, 2016