On Your Own

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I'll Get Serious When...

Don't wait for the "right" time to get on track financially.


As I talk to friends and the various people I meet in life who are in the beginning stages of their careers, I naturally ask them what financial planning items they are working on and if they are saving towards their retirement. The overwhelming answer is "Not yet, Ill start that at ____." Fill in the blank answer of age or income level they deem the "right" time to start saving. I then talk with people who are well into their careers and have hit those age or income levels, but have still not started taking their financial future seriously.

For the longest time that struck me as odd. Do they not care? Did they lie to themselves? Or did they just build bad financial habits that became difficult to replace with good ones? I think it's the latter.

As complex as humans can be, most of us are creatures of habit. The habits we build as young adults early in our careers are likely the ones that we will carry through our entire lives. Good or bad. Before you tell me you don't make enough money to seriously save and invest, just listen. In the early stages, it's more about the habits and mindset than the numbers. If you can build good habits and the right mindset even with a few dollars, itwill likely stick with you as your income increases. Trust me.

My first job out of college was as a bank teller making around $11 an hour. My wife made about the same. Not a lot, obviously. Thankfully, we received some solid advice right out of the gate and were smart enough to listen. We saved the 3 percent in our 401(k)s to get the full employer match, and we committed to building an emergency fund, spending less than we made, and reducing debt. That's a lot of moving parts on $11 an hour, and not a lot of progress was made, if you look at from a dollars-and-cents point of view. However a solid foundation was built that has carried with us as our incomes have increased. Trust me when I tell you that life has been so much easier because we built these habits early. The sooner you start, the easier good habits are to build and sustain. Are you ready to start taking your financial life seriously? There's no time like now.

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