Managing money is a skill that you have to master over time—no one is born with it. And it’s one that can haunt the rest of your life if you’re not careful when you’re younger and just starting out. If you’re hoping to avoid some of the issues that can be most painful later on, there are steps you can take now to improve your money mastery.
Let's take a look at 4 common mistakes you should get under control before they derail your financial future.
1. Not saving enough
This can be one of the hardest things to do if you’re just starting your career and making your way through entry-level or low-seniority jobs. Saving is especially tough if you live in a big city or somewhere else with high living expenses. At the end of the month, there just may not be much left for a savings account, and it’s easy to say, “later…I’ll do it later.” But later comes up awfully fast, so save what you can and stick to a regular deposit schedule. These savings can be a lifesaver if you find yourself suddenly jobless, given that the average job hunt takes several months.
2. Not investing
According to a Bankrate survey, only 54% of Americans invest money. Among millennials, the numbers are even more dismal, at 18%. It may seem difficult to afford when you’re living on a ramen noodle budget, but the reality is that the time to start is when you’re young—you’ll have time to build your portfolio and time is on your side, given that you’ll be better able to absorb market changes over time. You don’t even have to dive into the stock market—you can start with other kinds of funds. NerdWallet has a great how-to guide for beginning investors.
3. Not negotiating
Don’t be shy about negotiating pay raises or a higher starting salary. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “you don’t get what you don’t ask for,” and it’s absolutely true. If you go about the negotiating process in a smart and informed way, you really don’t have anything to lose... but you could be making more money (y’know, for investing and feeding that rainy day fund).
4. Not controlling spending
Living within one’s means can be tricky in an age where your debit card can bring delicious takeout to your door with the ease of an app, or where a credit card makes it easy to ignore the actual spending that’s going on. Creating a realistic budget and sticking to it is one of the best things you can to do prepare for your financial future. It can also help you build in ways to support your other healthy financial moves, like saving extra money and investing.
Think of these as healthy habit-building steps. After all, you wouldn’t expect to lose weight without implementing a diet or exercise plan. And again, although it can be very tempting to file financial steps under the “I’ll deal with it later” heading, it increases the chances that you’ll never actually take the steps at all. You can start building your financial future with relatively small steps now, so why not make sure you’re making your best possible effort?