What I wish I had known in my twenties
Are you in debt? Is your only income from your job? Do you have no savings or investments? If you do save, do you withdraw your money after a short space of time and spend it on frivolous things?
If you answered yes to any (or all) of these, you are not alone. Star Mkhize, PR and External Communications Manager at Metropolitan, was guilty of making all these financial mistakes in her twenties.
She believes that the reason was a lack of financial education at home and at school. “While I did accounting and maths, I never learnt any real-life skills for dealing with money day-to-day.”
Now in her early thirties (slightly older and a lot wiser), Mkhize shares some of the lessons that she has had to learn the hard way so that others in their twenties don’t have to:
It is so important to think about the future and not just live for the now. Back in the day, I had no impulse control. If I wanted something, I had to have it, and would often get it at any cost. I was also very spontaneous and didn’t have or want a plan – I was just winging it and this opened up a lot of room for unexpected expenses and spending. These days, I’m a stickler for notes and am always writing down what I want to achieve and what I need to do to get there. By doing so, I can be realistic about what it takes, rather than just hoping that money falls out of the sky while I recklessly spend what could have been used to fund that goal.
Don’t compete with your peers
I used to spend money on silly things while trying to keep up with the Joneses – expensive hair, overpriced drinks at clubs and the latest threads. To be able to afford everything, I would get store and credit cards. I would also take out loans to cover things from simple nights on the town to island holiday getaways – SMH! Today, I have shut down all my store cards and have finally finished paying off my loans. I am still paying off my credit cards, however. I would strongly advise people not to fall into the trap of getting store and credit cards or to take out unnecessary loans.
Get a side hustle
When you begin your career in your twenties, your income is generally not that great. I wish I had supplemented mine. Some side hustle ideas include renting your spare room on Airbnb, driving for Uber, selling Avon products and tutoring people over Skype.
Set up an emergency fund
I did not have an emergency fund so, when an emergency like a flat tyre happened, I would have to go into debt to fix the problem. This is what keeps most people in debt. Nowadays, I don’t want to be sent back into debt anytime an unexpected emergency comes up, so I have an emergency fund. I also recommend having a rainy-day fund with three to six months of your net salary saved just in case you get retrenched or lose your job.
Start now, start small
Little changes can go a long way. Food was one of my biggest expenses as I didn’t cook or pack lunch for work so I was always buying my meals. By bringing a packed breakfast and lunch to work, I can keep better track of my spending. I also partied and went out way too much. On average, I would go out two or three times a week (sometimes more if I’m honest). By not going out as much and by taking advantage of free activities like hiking, spending time at the beach and visiting museums, you can save money too.
Do your research
I didn’t always understand what I was signing up for when taking out credit products and memberships, which ended up with me paying for things I did not need, want or even worse, use - like gym memberships and crappy internet packages. I would also listen to myths and legends from friends and family. Doing your research thoroughly can help you avoid making costly mistakes.
Get expert advice
I wish I had spoken to a financial adviser earlier for guidance and direction I so often lacked. Today, thanks to the advice I have been given by my financial adviser, I have been able to invest in some simple funds to kick-start my savings and hopefully grow my portfolio.
Paying rent really is just giving money away. Rather invest in your own asset. Buying property, even if it isn’t the fanciest, is a good starting point for achieving your financial life goals. Even if you are living at home rent free, you should put that ‘would-be rent money’ away in a fund so that you can one day buy your own home.
“The best advice I can give is enjoy your life, but also think about the future and play the long game because when you think about it, life isn’t actually that short,” concludes Mkhize.