- My dad tried to teach me the importance of investing at a young age, but I ignored his lessons. This is my biggest financial regret.
- If I’d started investing when he told me to, my net worth would be triple what it is now at age 30.
- Luckily, it’s never too late. I’m working hard to make up for lost time, and if I continue on my current path, I could be a millionaire by my early 40s.
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When I got my first job in my senior year of high school, working at Petco for minimum wage, my dad sent me off to work with a “good luck” and an article about investing. He printed it off and tucked it into my purse.
The headline was something along the lines of, “If you invest just $100 per week starting at age 18, you can retire a millionaire.” It was both a lesson in compound interest and my Dad’s attempt to guide me into adulthood starting off on the right foot.
The only problem is that I didn’t listen. I was 18, and I decided that I’d rather spend my money on milkshakes and Harry Potter books than a future that was 50 years away. While most teens don’t start investing with their first paycheck, I, unfortunately, continued my habit of spending rather than investing my paychecks for the next decade, and that’s easily my biggest money regret from my 20s.
If I’d started investing at a younger age, I’d be worth 3 times as much today
I don’t like to dwell too much on where I’d be now if I’d started investing earlier. I think that money regrets only serve to make us feel guilty and overwhelmed, and I don’t find those emotions to be productive in changing my behavior in the present. Instead of crying over spilled milk, I choose to focus on the steps I can take now to get my finances back on track and prepare for my future.
However, for the sake of impressing my point on 20-somethings who still have the opportunity to reap the rewards of compound interest early on in life, I’ll explain how much money I’ve missed out on by not investing earlier.
My current net worth, at age 30, is nearing $50,000. At age 28, my net worth was negative. I had no assets, no retirement accounts, a $0 savings account balance, and credit card debt. I built up my net worth in the last two years of my 20s, when I got serious about paying off my credit card debt (again) and saving money. Those funds are split between a retirement account and an emergency fund and money for short-term savings goals that I keep in several high-yield savings accounts.
To contrast that, let’s say I’d listened to that article my Dad sent me when I started my first job and put $100 into an investment account every week. This would have been more difficult to do in college when I was covering expenses as a student, but let’s say I managed to do it throughout college as well. Assuming a conservative 6% return rate, I would have already had over $21,000 in my accounts by the time I graduated from college.
My first job out of college only paid $10 per hour, and I was saving up money to move across the country and look for better work, so we’ll assume I continued to invest $100 per week for that first year. After I moved, I got a job that paid $40,000 per year, nearly double what I was making before. If I’d avoided lifestyle inflation, I could have doubled my investments to $200 per week. Let’s say I continued investing at that rate for the following five years. At age 28, I would’ve been worth more than $93,000.
In the last two years of my 20s, I was able to get my savings rate above 50% by paying off debt, doubling my income, and moving abroad to a country with a lower cost of living. This is how I’ve been able to put $3,000 to $5,000 per month into my savings account. Let’s assume I didn’t do any of that in our thought experiment. Instead, I increased my investments from $200 per week to $400 per week for the last two years of my 20s, still significantly less than what I’m currently putting away.
By age 30, I would have a net worth of $146,241. Instead, I’m currently hovering around a third of that total. That’s not even accounting for the fact that my employer would have matched a percentage of my retirement contributions.
Luckily, it’s never too late to start investing
While it’s hard to catch up with compound interest, it’s never too late to get your finances in order. I spend the last years of my 20s paying off credit card debt and building up an emergency fund. Now, I’m finally ready to start investing in retirement accounts and a mutual fund with Vanguard.
I’m working hard to play catch up by increasing my income and cutting my costs. Being self-employed has helped me double my income. I’ve taught myself valuable, in-demand skills that allow me to charge high hourly rates, and I run my own business with multiple streams of income. I’ve also been able to cut down on expenses by working remotely, living in areas with a low cost of living, driving an old car that’s completely paid off, and avoiding lifestyle creep.
If I continue with my current savings rate, I’ll be a millionaire in just 11 years. While it’s taken a lot of work and sacrifice to get to a financial place I could’ve arrived at much easier if I’d started saving at a younger age, it’s always better to implement financial lessons late than to never implement them at all.
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