Just Starting Out? Learn From Our Mistakes BY LIZ WESTON, CFP
Those of us who write and talk about money for a living tend to have our financial acts together. But that wasn’t always the case. I invited some personal finance experts to share what they wish they could have told their younger selves about money.
INVEST EARLY, EVEN IF IT’S SCARY If the stock market scares you, nationally syndicated Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary can relate. Singletary says she avoided investing for many years because in her first job out of college, an older co-worker — one who was close to retirement age — warned her that stocks were too risky. Singletary later realized that someone in their 20s has decades to ride out stock market swings, and that she could have afforded to take much more risk with her investments. “The lesson I learned was to look at my own individual situation and invest based on my timeline and goals,” Singletary says. STUDENT LOAN DEBT CAN PAY OFF Darian Woods, a reporter and producer for “The Indicator from Planet Money” podcast, says he can no longer remember exactly how much he borrowed to get a master’s in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley — just that his balance was “in the tens of thousands of dollars” by the time he graduated. The debt felt enormous. Woods wishes he could reassure his anxious younger self that the loans were a solid investment in his future. Woods, a New Zealand native, landed a job as an analyst for his country’s treasury department and was able to pay off the loans in a year. “That debt wasn’t as much of an albatross as I’d feared,” Woods says. SAVING, SPENDING EARNING: THEY’RE ALL IMPORTANT Paco de Leon, author of the book “Finance for the People: Getting a Grip On Your Finances,” has two bits of advice for her younger self. The first is to save, no matter what. Saving can feel futile on a small income, but the amount you save is far less important than the habit of saving that you’ll develop, she says. The second piece of advice: Deal with your pain. de Leon graduated with a degree in finance and a minor in economics. But a head full of
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