It's never too soon to begin planning for your financial future. While 18 may seem like a young age to start thinking about that, it couldn't be farther from the truth: the sooner you set yourself up for financial success, the better off your future will be. Recently, savvy men and women met in an online discussion to reveal all the strategic moves you can make as a young adult that will pay dividends later in life.
1. Build an Emergency Fund
There's nothing sexy about having an emergency fund, especially if you consider yourself someone who isn't privy to emergencies (and why would you, you're so young and healthy). However, nothing can derail your future faster than an unexpected expenditure that wipes out your life savings in record time, so don't underestimate the importance of a modest emergency fund.
2. Learn How to Budget
I get it: Nobody enjoys figuring out their budget. However, the sooner you develop a budget, the quicker you will achieve true financial freedom. “Know exactly where all of your money needs to go and where it's actually going,” explains one woman. “This will help you stay on top of everything and avoid unnecessarily getting into credit card debt.”
3. Take Your Job Seriously
It doesn't matter what kind of 18-year-old you are; everyone knows the best way to make money is to have a job. Furthermore, the best way to make a lot of money is to be fantastic at your job! Countless people stress that taking your job seriously — and having pride in what you do — is critical to future success.
4. Be Smart About Pets
Pet ownership can bring much joy into your life, but remember; it's an investment. Adopting a pet on a whim can put severe pressure on your financial situation, and you may be unable to keep up with its seemingly neverending costs. If you're struggling financially, don't get a pet. As the old saying goes, “If you can't afford the vet, you can't afford the pet.”
5. Learn How To Say “No”
You'd be surprised how quickly your bank account can be drained when you say “yes” to everything. Although it's sometimes tricky, having self-control over your finances is one of the best skills. “Whether it is in business dealings or just your friends inviting you out for a beer, stay true to your budget and yourself,” advises one man. “If you can't afford it, then don't spend it. They will get over it, and you will be that much closer to being financially free.”
6. Stay Out of Credit Card Debt
This is the number one rule to live by if you want to be financially healthy later in life. Credit card debt can (and will) follow you, and the best course of action is to get ahead of it now. Stay out of credit card debt. A good rule of thumb is never to purchase anything you couldn't buy with cash. Trust me, credit card debt can seem like quicksand that will eventually overcome you.
7. Embrace “Poor” Living
Wealth is accrued over time, not given to you when you're 18. Many people advise young adults to consider where they are in life and their priorities. “You don't need shiny new things to impress people,” confesses one woman. “Don't drink or party all your money away. Thrift store clothing is cool. Cheap dates are more fun. Living with other broke (yet responsible) roommates is a great time and saves a ton of money.”
8. Ask Questions
Your journey toward financial wellness will never end –— so don't be afraid to ask questions along the way. I admit that the road toward financial success is a murky one. Whether it's websites like this, friends, family, or professionals, countless resources are available to help you make the best decisions. Don't be afraid to learn something new — the more knowledge you're armed with, the better situation you'll find yourself in.
9. Start Your 401(k) Today
Successful people have one thing in common: they jump at the opportunity to participate in their employer's 401(k)-matching program. “If you're ever at a job that offers a 401(k) match, take it because it's basically doubling your money right off the bat for future you!” advises one man. “After matching the percentage they offer, throw everything into an index fund.”
10. Prioritize Building Your Credit Score
As someone who carelessly destroyed his credit score the second I went away to college, I can attest to the importance of a high credit score. While you shouldn't obsess over it, every financial decision will impact your credit score — and the sooner you operate with that fact in mind, the brighter your financial future will be. Obtaining an excellent credit score isn't impossible; it just takes some semblance of responsibility.
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