The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t know a thing about adulting! Other than the fact that it’s hard. And I know I’m not the only one that feels this way about inheriting back pain and going to work for 40 hours a week.
One of the biggest aspects of the adult world that I’ve realized I don’t know very much about—and that a lot of people my age, and even older, don’t know very much about—is finances. The concept of personal finance—credit scores, debt, investments, etc.—is something that affects literally every adult and yet, so many people across the country don’t know the first thing about how to, say, open a retirement account.
The other problem here is that a lot of adults—specifically young adults of the 20-ish age range—don’t care to take a deep dive into the world of finances. Or maybe they want to but don’t know how or get bored of the topic easily—which I would argue is basically the same things as not caring enough about the subject to begin with.
I’m not blaming you if you don’t care about finances—at least the big bad finance-related topics mentioned in the title of this blog post. I get it. Personal finance is hard. And I’m by no means an expert on any of the very broad topics I’m going to cover in this blog post. But I did want to publish a post from the perspective of someone who’s had to research a lot about all of this on her own, and what that journey has looked like for me so far.
So let’s start with credit cards, something not too unfamiliar with the young adult crowd. I don’t know about you guys, but when I was kid, I was always being told how important it was to be careful with credit card debt. It was always, “Credit cards are dangerous” or “Don’t get a credit card because it’ll cause you to fall into debt.”
Yes, you should be careful with the way you handle your credit cards, because yes, it is borrowed money and you do have to pay it back. But it’s also something you need to sort of function in the adult world—you know, so you can eventually buy that house with the white-picket fence.
If you’re worried you’ll end up charging every payment to the card, find a way to discipline your usage. For example, consider only charging your streaming subscriptions to the card. If you’re paying for Netflix anyway, why not build your credit in the process? On top of that, leave the card at home. This way you’re using the card for those subscriptions, but you won’t be tempted to go out for drinks and charge way more than you should.
The other something mentioned in the title of this blog post. I touched a little bit on credit card debt above, but there are many more ways to accrue debt besides swiping plastic. A big one for the 20-somethings is student loan debt.
Now, debt isn’t exactly something you can undo. The only option is to pay it back. The first step to paying off your debt is getting serious about paying off your debt. Commit to plan. Whether it’s a percentage of every paycheck or a set dollar amount every month, create a routine and a habit of paying that debt off.
Debt also has interest. Student loan debt, for example, typically charges a high rate of interest. Which means that sometimes it can feel like you’re not really getting rid of the debt at all because all the money that you’re throwing at it is just going to that interest. This also means that you’re probably not going to get anywhere simply making minimum payments. Even if it means skipping out on Tuesday night drinks with the girls, use that otherwise extra money and put it towards lowering your debt. Because every bit helps.
Your debt payoff plan is going to look different than your best friend’s or your boyfriend’s, and that’s okay. Find a system that works for you and get rid of that debt.
Just kidding. Except not really? There’s so much more you need to know about personal finances than I can cover in one blog post. Things like knowing how to budget, opening a savings account, opening a retirement account, investing—these are all important aspects of personal finance that you should start getting acclimated with in your 20s.
Again, I’m not an expert in anything finance—I’m still trying to figure out the difference between an index fund and a mutual fund. But I want to learn. And I hope this at least taught you a little something or inspired you to go out and learn a little bit more about how to better manage your finances in your adult life.
I’m so passionate about personal finance, I may make more blog posts like this one. Subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on it!
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