10 Financial Moves I Made in My Youth That Secured My Financial Future

college campus

My neighbors’ oldest child just left for college this fall. Watching him load his car with electronics, clothes, and “stuff,” headed for his new apartment, I started reminiscing about when I was just starting out. When I was younger, I lived a life that made others think I was poverty stricken. I didn’t live that way by choice, but my first jobs didn’t pay enough to live any other way and I barely got by. Now that I’m older, I can appreciate that lifestyle for what it was: a smart (if painful) way to get ahead financially. At the time, I thought my lifestyle was punishment for some major past life transgression, but now I see that my choices then left me


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6 Responses to 10 Financial Moves I Made in My Youth That Secured My Financial Future

  1. Hilary says:

    As a college student, I feel the need to defend myself and my generation from a few of the things you claimed in your post.

    First, I think that getting credit cards young is vital to establishing good credit. Of course, this implies that you are using them responsibly. But, I have heard before that to qualify for top-notch rates when you are older, you need to have had lines of credit open since the age of 21. Plus, you miss out on the opportunities that credit cards have, like 1% cash back rewards. I just opened my first rewards card and it feels pretty good. Paying for grad school applications (hardly a frivolous expense) gets me a bit of cash back.

    Second, while I don’t want to start a private school vs. public school debate, I have often heard the “you get just as good an education at a state school as a private school” debate often, since I am at a small private college whereas almost everyone else from my high school opted for the state school. However, I would never trade this experience up for stronger financial footing in the future. I have been blissfully happy in college, whereas many of my friends who opted for the state school have not been. I needed to get away and be in a community of like-minded people. Basically, I think college is one of those things worth going into debt for.

    Third, I am well aware that much of the older generation is disgusted by the level of consumerism that us young folks have. I think that many people forget, however, that we live in a generation of cheap, dispensible goods. Sure, most students have a fridge, couch, rugs, TV, etc. in their dorm rooms. But, each of those items probably cost them less than $50. If it gives you any hope, I am spearheading an effort at my college to start an on-campus resale shop of these items, and many of my peers across the nation are doing the same thing. We need to adapt and respond to the times, but we can’t continue to live like things are the way they were 25 years ago.

    I just don’t think people give us enough credit as a generation. Things are different, sure, but time will tell if we are all really going to be worse off. And rest assured, there are still plenty of very, very cheap college students out there, who sacrifice on a regular basis. Don’t let stereotypes about who we are blind you from the wonderful, though different, things we do on a regular basis.

  2. Nicholas Aretakis says:

    Jennifer, I loved your article. It preaches to the core of what I have studied and have written about in my first book, No More Ramen: the 20-something’s real world survival guide. Your article made it’s way to me in my daily Google alert.

    Feel free to email me directly.

    Nicholas Aretakis

  3. Megan says:

    And, today at major public universities, living in a dorm costs way more than living in an apartment. And, the meals plans cost more than my rent for 3 months in my OWN apartment. But, I must digress, because this is a general article. Although, most public universities I know have very expensive dorms– even the cheapest dorms are expensive.

    I guess it’s all about living in a college town.

  4. michelle says:

    “I didn’t eat out, go to clubs or bars, engage in recreational shopping, travel, have cable, or see many movies”

    I think this is truly sad. I had a tiny flat (I would not even call it an apartment), came from a single parent family, no car, worked 2 jobs, earned a scholarship and still found it important to engage in certain activities when I could.

    I didn’t have cable but I loved when the film festival took place. I was more than happy to support the artist by paying to see their independent film. I love a good book and sometimes I wanted my own copy, not just what I could borrow from the library. Eating out for me is reserved for those places that leave me feeling satisfied and glad that I had the experience. I never ate crap, substandard cafeteria food to save a buck. How did you feel after those meals? Were you satisfied? Did you feel well? I never ate Ramen, not even once. I bought my food at farmer’s markets and always cooked a fresh, healthy meal, every single day of my college life. As for going out – it was FUN! I’d be a different person today without many of the experiences I had socially in college. Travel always has and always will be one of my major passions. A certain awareness of other cultures and peoples can be obtained from a book or a movie, sure .. but there is nothing more enriching that immersing oneself in a culture other than your own. How sad that you missed all these fantastic pursuits when in your 20’s – when you were young, with your whole adult life ahead of you! You say that you have expanded your life over time – well, we all do. The building blocks that you refer to in terms of finance also applied & still apply for me in terms of personal experience.

    I watched my money but I wasn’t always looking for freebies. Some of the money I spent on those activities enriched my life significantly.

    It is important to focus on one’s financial future – that goes without saying. But I agree with a lot of what Hilary has to say – this is a different generation. I do not encourage the level of consumerism that exists now but the life that you describe has little relevance in today’s world. It’s like listening to your grandfather talk about walking to school barefoot, in the snow – it just doesn’t apply anymore.

    What will you do with your 5 million? You don’t mention kids. You don’t talk about the life that you have now other than what you have accumulated. You can’t take it with you when you go. When someone asks you what your life was like in college, what do you say? I don’t have 5 million but I have a great home, a family & a wealth of memories from my days as a student. I feel I’ve lived! And I look forward to what’s to come.

  5. Odalys says:

    I have to agree with you here, I am in college (public) and I am living on the bare minimum because I have long term goals. My expenses are rent (living on campus is RIDICULOUSLY expensive) gas (in Tampa, you need one) and food. That’s it, no cable, phone, subscriptions, etc.
    In turn, I have a couple thousand in a high yield savings account and I’ve saved up to go to Italy for 6 months… I think its ridiculous to think that because I am being stingy with my money that I will not have fun in my college years. I just have different priorities.

  6. Reader says:

    It sounds like the author had fun, just doing cheap stuff with like-minded friends.

    I do like the question about 5 million dollars though. Wouldn’t 3 million be enough, if it meant that in college you got to have a round of drinks at the local pub a few times a year, laughing your asses off and waking up with crazy stories?

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