Money Lessons for a Younger Me

My office window overlooks one edge of the university campus in my city, which means that in the month of September, I have a front row seat to all of the students returning to campus and new students arriving.

(It also means it takes me 45 minutes to get out of my building because OMG all these students have cars for some reason and seem to enjoy sitting in traffic outside my office when they should be getting off my lawn).

Every year, when I see the students come back, I think of my own university experience and the things I know now that would have helped me then.

So, university-aged me, here’s your financial lesson plan for the future from older-and-wiser-you.

  1. Compound interest is not just something you learned about in grade 10 that you can forget in the real world. If you do nothing else, use this knowledge to your advantage.
  2. BUILD A BUDGET.
  3. Stop buying new “going out” clothes. Drunk people at bars do not care if you are an outfit repeater.
  4. Open a TFSA as soon as it becomes a thing. Save your money now while you have no debt.
  5. Don’t believe that banks have your best interests in mind. They need to make money too. Do your research.
  6. For example, don’t open that RRSP with the 2.5% MER. There are better rates. Find them.
  7. An emergency fund is a great idea. You will need it when you drop your laptop in 3rd year right before exams.
  8. For God’s sake, learn to cook some basic recipes instead of going out all the time.
  9. Buying things on credit without paying it off entirely does not protect your savings. You’re going into debt for no reason. DON’T.
  10. You don’t understand it yet, but retirement savings are a big deal. Start now.
  11. Your friends are awesome, but for the most part, equally money-stupid. Don’t listen to them.
  12. You can still have a fun social life while being frugal. Really. No lie.
  13. Take better care of your stuff; replacing it costs money you don’t need to spend. (See: that laptop in #7)
  14. You also don’t need to single handedly fund American Eagle. But you do need to invest in a decent winter coat, because Ottawa is cold.
  15. Those people who go on all those exotic reading week trips and buy fancy cars and have all the trendiest clothes – they’re probably broke. Don’t try to keep up.
  16. Consider how lucky you are to have no student loans in undergrad. Show your gratitude by saving for future-you who will have a student loan.
  17. When that time comes, recognize that your student loan actually is a big deal and you do need to pay it back as soon as possible.
  18. You don’t realize it right now, but you will have more disposable income in these years of few bills than you will in the next decade. Save it.
  19. TRACK YOUR SPENDING.
  20. Set up a travel fund and start putting your extra money into it. You will regret not seeing (any of) the world during these years.
  21. You will decide to buy a new car. You will save for it, put 40% down, and you will love it like your own child. But… you could have the same result with a used car for thousands of dollars less.
  22. Talk your boyfriend out of buying that awful sieve he’ll call a boat. It’s a financial decision that will haunt you both for years. You’ll marry him anyway.
  23. Investing is not that scary and you can understand it. Take the time to learn.
  24. Being frugal won’t make you look like a poor loser to your friends. It’s hard now but will be worth it when you’re debt-free and stress-free 10 years from now and they’re regretting those designer purses.
  25. But for real. Save your money.

What would you tell your younger self?

One thought on “Money Lessons for a Younger Me

  1. Kate,

    I can vouch for the power of compounding interest.

    As someone who has several years on you (I’m a 30 something), I started putting some money away for retirement, in a 401(k) and a Roth IRA, as soon as I started working. For my first two years working, I only saved 5% in the 401(k), enough to receive the employer match, but I saved nearly the maximum for the Roth IRA. Over a decade later, and after increasing my 401(k) contributions significantly and maxing out the Roth IRA, my investments have put me well on my way to financial independence.

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