Out here in the fields…

…I fight for my meals.

I could probably write a book quite effective at helping people prevent making the same mistakes that I have made in the past 8 years or so. This is especially true for financial mistakes. Considering a book deal is pretty much out of the question, I’ll drop a few tips here.

Many of these are common sense. To many you’ll reply “duh, Bryan.” But even if you’ve considered every one previously, it may help to see someone vouch for their validity. These should be especially helpful for those of you just graduating from college. Many of you have student loan debt. Many of you have something worse: leftover debt from the last couple years of college when you said to yourself “Oh, I’ll have a job soon to pay this off.” Many of you now have a job that pays you twice (or more) what your parents made when they graduated. This described me well. And after making plenty of mistakes, I can tell you how to deal with it.

What not to do…

  • Don’t act like you’re rich, think like you’re rich. – You aren’t rich. Your offer letter may seem to be a gold mine relative to your old college retail job, or even your posh internship but the real world is expensive. You’ll soon see that if you don’t consider every dollar you spend, it will be all gone and you’ll rely on Citibank to buy your groceries.
  • Don’t go buy a new car. – Overheard at college graduations everywhere: “Dude, my starting salary will pay for a Boxter!” Dude, no it won’t. It’s all too easy to forget that you have to pay taxes, buy groceries, and have somewhere to live. If you absolutely need a new car, go buy a reputably reliable car off of lease, program, fleet, or whatever else you can find. A year-old car has already taken its near 40% depreciation hit. Buying new basically puts you upside down on your financing instantly.
  • Don’t fully fund your retirement account. – This happens to by my biggest regret. Read carefully: if your employer matches money into a tax deferred savings plan of some sort (401k, etc.) then you’d better be contributing up to that matching amount. It’s free money! However, if you’ve still got debt (I know you do – remember student loans, auto loans, mortgage, credit cards, store cards, etc.) then the measly return on a 401k that you’ll see in thirty-five years is far outweighed by your annual finance charges. Fully funding your retirement is important, but only after you’re debt free.

What to do…

  • Pay for what you need in cash. – If you can’t afford it, then you don’t need it.
  • Eliminate debt, and then save. – Saving and building wealth through assets is very important. However, there are very few invesments that will outgrow your debt, and those are very risky. Pay it off, smallest first. If you maintain a list of your debt (liabilities) it’ll be empowering to check those demons off the list. The old saying “money makes money” is true, but mathematically, if money in the black makes more money in the black, money in the red makes more money in the red.
  • Educate yourself.Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey are two wonderful books that will inspire you to buckle down now, and enjoy a wealthy life later.

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