Your 20's and Money: What to Expect
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
If you talk to anyone in their late 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s what’re some of the common phrases they use when asked what they’d do differently, as it pertains to money?
I wish I’d saved more.
I should’ve started investing earlier.
I wasted so much money on useless things.
I would’ve tried to make more money.
I should’ve started that business.
… and so on, and so forth.
Although I’m not a fan of looking in the rear-view mirror, I’m fortunate to have so many amazing clients, friends, business partners, and connections alike that are in the age brackets that can pass down their experiences to me, as a 27-year-old.
I’ve worked with over a thousand clients directly, interviewed hundreds of individuals separately, and have money conversations, regularly. I’m also in my late 20’s, so I’m living the reality of a “20-something” year old who looks back on the earlier part of his 20’s and says, “what the heck were you even doing?”
After all, Henry Ford said, “the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
So, if we are to learn from thousands (more likely millions) of people who came before us 20 somethings, let’s lay the groundwork for our 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.
1. Start a budget
More importantly, stick to that budget and adjust that budget as your income grows and/or falls throughout your 20’s. It’s no secret that a sound budget is the foundation of every financial plan. That being said, it’s often skipped when creating a financial plan.
In most cases, the financial guidance you get is either from your parents or from an entry level financial advisor’s assistant studying for their Series 63, just looking to access any penny you have for their mentor. (you'll get contacted by these people while you're still in college-- trust me, you're better off saving your money)
Nonetheless, budgeting generally isn’t at the core of either conversation thus, most people spin their wheels for years before they feel like they start to get it right. In reality, this is the most important concept to consider when setting yourself up for success.
As a financial professional, it’s only natural that the most common question I get is, “where should I be investing?” Specifically, this question comes from all of the 20-somethings assuming that wealth is built from investing in the right areas—I assure you, it’s not.
Think about budgeting as it relates to investing as needing to be able to make a lay-up before you shoot a 3-pointer. The basics are required in literally every aspect of any skill, practice or habit to achieve greatness. So, it’s no surprise that in order to increase your wealth, it all starts with the basics, like budgeting, not investing.
Your lifestyle changes—living below your means, minimizing impulsive spending, assigning a job to your dollars—will allow you the freedom to then go invest or create experiences or buy a home. Mastery comes from first mastering the easiest form of a said craft.
A 7% return on a $50,000 investment is only $3,500. All the while, the average American spends $18,000 a year on non-essentials. Eye-opening to say the least.
Don’t skip this step, it’ll cost you later. Walk before you run!
2. Set goals
We set performance goals for our jobs, sales goals for our business, and even goals to drink more water and hit the gym regularly. However, often times it can be difficult to set financial goals. Maybe we want to save more or eliminate debt faster or start investing in real estate. But, just like setting a weight loss goal, you’ll need to layout the specific steps, lifestyle changes, and waypoints within the entire outset of the goal to actually reach it.
With that in mind, here’s a few tips to take into consideration when making financial goals.
You’ve heard of SMART goals, right? SMART goals cover the five most important steps in setting and achieving goals. They provide the legitimate road map needed to put actionable steps towards your desired objective, regardless of what it is.
Specificity—your goal is direct, detailed, and meaningful.
In your financial planning, specificity provides the clarity you need to move forward. This is probably the most important step to take when creating any goal. When you have clarity, you allow yourself to begin to move. When you begin to move, you gain momentum and when you gain momentum you move toward your end goal much faster.
Specificity means if your goal is to make $100,000 this year, you’d have to make $8,333.33 per month, $2,083.33 a week, and $273.97 per day. If we are getting more “specific,” you’d have to find a way to make $34.25 per hour of work, assuming you are working 40 hours a week.
Again, specificity provides clarity.
Measurability—your goal is quantifiable to track progress or success.
If you don’t track your calories on a diet, how do you expect to be in a calorie deficit in order to lose weight? Similarly, in order to measure our financial goals, we must have systems in place, tools to measure our progress towards our goal, and even waypoints along the way to strive for in order to stay on course.
I highly recommend using a banking and budgeting tool in order to measure where you’re and where you’re going. At Lyv Financial specifically, we suggest Qube Money as your tool to track and measure not only your budget but what you’re saving each month by having a legitimate budgeting tool at your disposal.
Attainable—your goal is realistic, and you have the tools and/or resources to attain it.
You can’t expect to store $60,000 a year if you’re bringing in $40,000 of income—that’d be impossible. However, if your goal is to store money for a down payment on a house that will be $6,000, you now know that there are lifestyle changes you’ll have to make in order to store $500 per month into your savings account.
Note that this doesn’t mean you can’t make more money at some point, it just means you’re coming from a real place of where you’re actually at. Keep dreaming and planning-- but go from where you are, that’s the only way you’ll get to where you want to be.
Relevant—your goal(s) aligns with your mission.
If your mission is to save for the down payment on a house and your range to buy is $175,000-200,000 and you need 3% upfront, you’ll need to have $5,250-$6,000 stored away for your down payment. In order to achieve that, you’ll have to set goals to align with that mission such as making lifestyle changes, setting a monthly savings goal, staying on course by not overspending, etc.
Think of keeping your goal relevant as the goals within the goal. These are the steps that will help you get closer to what you’re wanting to achieve.
Time-based—your goal has a deadline.
Diana Scharf said, “goals are dreams with deadlines.” It’s easy to say, “I want to invest more this year,” or “I’d love to take a trip at the end of year to celebrate,” but in reality, this is just daydreaming. In order to achieve your goals, attach a timeline to them—make them real.
By December 21st of 2021, I [insert name here], will have $10,000 in my savings account (as an example). This will provide urgency to your daily actions in achieving that goal, help you plan for it, and give you clarity—all of which will make the goal seem either way too much, a stretch (but doable), or too easy to accomplish.
I spend a lot of time on setting goals because not many people set money goals in general. It’s easy to talk about wanting something or dreaming about it, it’s a whole other story when discussing actually achieving it-- setting goals will help you take that first step.
3. Mess up. Then learn… then mess up again. Learn. Then mess…
Having gone through most of my 20’s already, I can assure you that there will be times in your 20’s that seem pretty hopeless. Aside from all of the psychological and emotional ups and downs you’ll go through, your 20’s will also be filled with many financial decisions as well. Your 20’s are filled with super high “highs” and incredibly low “lows.” It’ll be filled with great experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime. It’ll also be filled with moments you’d love to forget.
You’ll have times where there is $17.83 in your account and there’s two weeks until pay day.
There will be times you’re checking out and your card declines.
You’ll waste money on something stupid, then have a big expense come up and think, “oh my gosh, how will I get by?”
You’ll be on a date and check your bank account balance and there won’t be enough to cover the full meal… and you’ll have to ask if your lovely date you’re trying to impress is willing to split it.
... okay maybe these are just stories from MY early 20’s!
Embarrassment and total transparency aside, you’ll also have a lot of really great moments in your 20’s financially.
Most of us will get our first check with commas and extra digits in it.
Maybe you’ll purchase your first home.
You’ll go on a trip, with your own money.
Maybe you’ll start investing.
All in all, you’ll have your embarrassing moments, but you’ll also have triumphant moments remind you that it’ll all be okay. As long as you learn from your mistakes and apply what you’ve learned to better yourself, you’ll be okay!
Keep in mind that you’ll never have it all figured out. This life is a crazy, wild, amazing life that will constantly surprise you for better or worse. I think the ole saying is, “grow through what you go through,” and nothing could wrap up this article better.
Make the mistakes. Take the job across the country. Give opportunities a real chance. Keep good friends close to you. Develop a budget and a system for money. Set high goals and aspirations—then go chase them. Learn from your mistakes (also your wins) and apply what you now know to the next thing.
You can do it, you wonderful 20-something!
For more, go to www.lyvfin.com to get advice catered to you!