Tips for Saving Money and Focusing on Career in Your Twenties to Set Yourself Up for Success
“Just have fun while you are young, it’ll be over before you know it!” We all hear this while moving from high school, to college and into post-graduate life. “Take advantage of college and your early twenties, they go by in the blink of an eye,” people say. While pointing to the ephemeral nature of this stage of life is right on target, who is going to also remind those of us in our early twenties to slow down and think about the future and building the basis for the rest of our lives? To, in other words, acquire practical life skills like saving for graduate school, a new car, a down payment on a house, or learning to stand up for yourself in the workplace and not being afraid to go after what you want? Being young and having few responsibilities is a luxury we all receive; however, it should be coupled with a reminder your twenties are the foundation for your future.
Getting Past “Pleasure” Spending to Saving for Big Ticket Items
Having a healthy relationship with money and understanding appropriate levels of spending is something often overlooked. I was fortunate enough to have parents who were able to pay for my undergraduate college expenses, so the money I earned was left up to my discretion. The problems was, my “discretion” consisted of clothing, hip new restaurants we just HAD to try, weekend trips with friends, and other fun items deemed necessary. I thought that simply having a job while in college set me aside from other students who were just attending school, but never thought about actually saving money for what comes after college (which was so far away).
Then, a year into postgraduate life and moving from Boulder, Colorado to Seattle, Washington, my eyes were opened to all the expenses I needed to now include in my budget. (You mean it’s more than just rent and food?!) After two years struggling in Seattle with entry-level paying jobs and no upward mobility, I moved back to Colorado and vowed to change my spending habits and get my finances in order.
In short, developing a healthy relationship with money and learning what to budget for beyond next month’s rent isn’t top of mind for many twentysomethings. We all just need to make it to the next payday. But learning the concept of healthy spending has really impacted my financial choices and goals, and taking the time to sit down and map out where I want to see myself in 5-10 years, financially speaking, has helped me focus on what is important to me today.
So I now ask, “Do you really need that pair of shoes, or should you put away that $100?” Allocating money between our needs, wants and savings in corresponding 50%, 30%, 20% portions is an excellent place to start. Shifting our financial models from making it to the next paycheck (or solely just til next month), to focusing on the car loan you want to pay, the house you want to buy (before you are, say, twenty-eight), or tuition for graduate school, are things to be kept top of mind. The sooner you start saving, the less stressed about it you will be. Think about the life you want, and start amassing some funds for it!
8 Tips to Get Spending on Track
- Learn the 50/30/20 rule – This is how you should divide your money between needs, wants and savings.
- Try to save 15% of your monthly income – If the 20% figure seems too high, take 15% of your after-tax money and put it away per month.
- Sit down and create a budget – There are a lot of great options out there, but I just use a template in Excel and adjust it to what works for me and what my expenses are.
- Download the Mint app – This helps to track your spending; you can tie all your accounts to the app and have immediate access to see what you have spent, wherever you are.
- Great read: On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar.
- Open a ROTH IRA (Individual Retirement Arrangement/Account) – This is a retirement plan that is not taxed (after you put money into the account), provided you follow the criteria/rules.
- Balance your spending and set goals for yourself (example: I can only eat out three times this week).
- Seek help from a professional advisor who can help you make investing decisions and plan for the future.
Get Your Career Goals in Order
Aside from our finances, the other prominent thing in our lives is our work. We spend more time at work than anywhere else, and it should be somewhere we look forward to going, and are proud to tell others about our experiences there.
As women in the business world, or any professional realm, learning to stand up for ourselves and be our own advocates is invaluable. Too often, we go from day to day at work thinking that when the time is right and if we work hard enough, we will receive that next promotion, without having to have the difficult talk or highlight our strengths over other people’s. We all assume the right things will happen in due time if we are patient and continue to march forward.
But do things actually ever happen that way? When was the last time you received a promotion, a raise, or a new opportunity without planting the seed or asking for it yourself? How does the management at your company or on another team know who you are, what you do, and your value to your organization? As I have gotten older and worked in different industries at the ripe old age of twenty-five, I have learned I am the only advocate on whom I can truly rely. Your co-workers may love you and talk about all the amazing work you do, but when it comes down to it, you are the only one who has your best interests at heart, and you have to stand up for yourself. If you want the next big project or to be the first person your boss thinks of when a new opportunity presents itself, you have to have had the discussion or already displayed the behaviors they want to see.
Assuming others care about us and will treat everyone fairly is an assumption that can put you behind. I have finally come to terms with that reality. As a woman, we rarely highlight our strengths and advocate for ourselves because it is viewed poorly. Learning to stand on my own two feet and go after what I want will be something I do for the rest of my life. How will we ever get the jobs we desire if we aren’t willing to ask for them?
6 Tips for Owning Your Career
- Set 1, 2 and 5 year career goals
- Set up bi-weekly 1×1 meetings with your direct manager
- Set up quarterly 1×1 meetings with your skip-level manager
- Volunteer for new opportunities, even if they are out of your comfort zone
- Know that it is okay to say “No”
- Ask questions
Learning to balance fun, work, plan for the future and maintain our relationships with others is a task in itself. Just remember to save some money along the way and put yourself first and you will stay one step ahead. Planning for later on doesn’t mean you’re boring or taking life too seriously, it means you’ll be able to enjoy the life of which you dream, once you achieve it. We all want those killer new high heels and flattering sheath dress. Maybe next month?10