I will be the first to admit that Adulthood is kind of a scary place. Everything costs money, your house is always messy, the errands list never gets any shorter, your metabolism slows down, your hangovers get worse, and you're in a perpetual state of needing to get groceries or do laundry or both.
But one of the fun parts of Adulthood is, for the first time in most people's lives, you have money that you can spend. You're likely making more money now than you ever have. You are independent and awesome and look at how well you're adapting to being an Adult! Woohoo! But in reality, now that you're making a steady stream of money, it's important to start thinking about your future and how you can make smarter financial decisions.
Here are a few ways that will make your Future Self pat your Present Self on the back and give a big ol' thumbs up.
1. be financially independent.
Parents are magnificent human beings - always willing to lend you money, help you with groceries, spot you a $20 if you need gas. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting these gifts here and there, the problem lies in your reliance on it.
If your parents still help you pay for your phone bill, your credit card, your rent, your gas, your vacations, your clothing, your groceries - stop. You're an adult now, and there's no going back - this means you need to be self-sufficient by the time you turn 30.
2. get to zero debt.
Chances are, most of your debt is from student loans, having children, or buying a house. If not, it's likely from a string of bad spending decisions in your 20's. And that's (kind of) fine - but there is no reason to bring the baggage of your 20's into your 30's. It's a new decade of your life! Start it off right by cleansing yourself of debt and taking that first step into Adulthood debt-free. You will feel like a new person.
Your 30's will be filled of large purchases (wedding, children, house, new car, vacations, fancy wines, whatever floats your boat), and it's important that you're prepared for these occasions before they happen. Meet with a financial advisor at your bank or sit down yourself and make a plan to pay off your debt (or a large chunk of it, anyway) before you hit the big 30. Try downloading the Mint app to help you along.
3. start saving for retirement.
If you haven't already started saving for retirement, not to scare you or anything, but you're behind the ball. Check out this article, which suggests that you should have $25,000 saved by the time you hit the ripe age of 30 - and shows you how to get there, even if you haven't started yet.
To some people, it seems ridiculous to start saving for retirement, which is 40+ years away - but your future self will thank you. Most importantly, it's crucial to get into the habit of purposeful saving. If you want to take baby steps into saving for your future, try setting up automatic payments of $50 a month into your RRSP account. In a couple months, if you find you still have money left over at the end of the month, increase it a little bit more. Eventually, you'll find a sweet spot of how much you can contribute each month without it hindering you paying your bills and living your life.
4. learn how to spend less than you make.
I know this seems self-explanatory, but hear me out. I don't mean that you have $5.21 left in your bank account at the end of the month. What I mean by "spend less than you make" is you need to tailor your purchases so at the end of the month, you have enough money that you can pay all your bills, live your lifestyle, put a little into savings, and have some still left over. If you struggle to do all of these things, or you aren't putting any money towards your debt/savings, you are living outside of your means.
Re-evaluate your lifestyle. See if you can cut out any luxuries (maybe you need to buy clothes less, or not treat yourself to lattés every day of the week) and redirect that money to where it's needed. Focus on savings over convenience - brew coffee at home, buy groceries instead of going out for dinner. These seemingly insignificant decisions will help you live within your means.
5. enjoy your life, too.
Saving is all well and good, but what about my LIFE, Suzanne? I need to go out for burgers and beers and go on vacation sometimes and buy fancy Whosits and Whatsits.
As an Adult, it's paramount that you understand your financials well enough that you can balance three things: 1) Your Bills, 2) Your Investments, and 3) Your Life. None of them are more important than the other. With careful planning and prioritizing, you can put away $75 a month into your RRSP and also afford to go on a vacation and also buy that new pair of shoes. It just takes a little bit more attention to detail.
Now go forth into Adulthood and spread your financial wisdom!