Money in My 20s–A Letter to My 18-Year Old Self

I’m proud and honored to be part of Women’s Money Week, a week that’s all about “encouraging women to speak up about money, take control of their finances, and reshape their financial futures.” Each day this week, I’ll be writing about a specific topic that relates to women & finances. Today’s topic is Money in your 20s/30s/40s/50s/Retirement.

For the past 4 days, I’ve cranked out posts as part of Women’s Money Week that have provided a lot of general financial advice that I believe is a crucial part of anyone’s financial education. While I was all set to write in the same information-giving style about money in the 20s & 30s for today’s post, I had a last-minute change of heat and instead decided to write a letter to my former, 18-year old self.

Much like my Confessions of a PF Blogger series has allowed me to analyze, accept and share my financial past, this letter is sort of the icing on the self-exploration/motivation cake…

Dear 18-year old Happy Homeowner,

Congratulations, my love, you’ve just graduated high school, secured college scholarships, been recruited to run collegiate track & cross country, and are moving into your very first college dorm. You worked your arse off this past summer to be able to pay for your entire first year of college by yourself, and you’ve diligently secured on-campus employment to make a few bucks here & there. You’re thrilled to begin your college experience, and you’re prepared to work harder than you ever have before. The world is your oyster and you’re ready to take it by storm.

Be prepared to face challenges that you never knew could exist. On the night before your first day of class when the frat boys dump your drunken roommate (who you never knew before moving in with her 3 days earlier) in the lobby and call you to come take care of her, know that you’re doing the right thing by calling your RA because she would have died had you not. Ignore the taunts and jabs some of the other women on the floor make after they (temporarily) label you a snark.

When the grumpy old woman at the cafeteria makes you butter 2,000 pieces of bread for the day’s grilled cheese sandwiches at 6:30AM, hold your tongue and appreciate that you have a job. And when your coach insists that you run double practices M-F, understand that the strength you draw from those workouts will benefit you in far more than physical ways.

While it’s important to enjoy all that the college experience has to offer, beware of those people who have less than stellar intentions but do not blame yourself for their shortcomings and their treatment of you/others. During that fateful period when all hell breaks loose, know that you did nothing wrong.

And when it seems like mindless spending and hibernating are the only ways to get through it, seek out support from those you trust and tap into your inner strength, tenacity and willpower. Allow yourself the process everything, but be proud and know that you will eventually grow into a ferociously strong, caring and loving woman despite this difficult time of growth.

Rather than allowing yourself to fall into an emotional and financial maelstrom, stand strong and continue to be who you are. Instead of relying on credit cards to validate your shaken self-concept, remember those days you worked so hard to get where you want to be.

Spend only on things that matter to you rather than charging erroneous outfits, dinners and bar tabs. The financial decisions you make today will have a far greater impact on your future than you can ever guess, so take steps to educate yourself about the importance of paying yourself first, budgeting and spending less than you make.

In the end, know that you will indeed have a financial epiphany that will set you straight. Appreciate this experience, learn as much as possible from it, and use it as a basis for a strong, healthy financial future. When faced with more difficult life challenges, don’t be so terrified that you shut down–you will pull yourself out of it.

In fact, you’ll someday look back and will be able to say, “What a wild ride it’s been!” as you are sitting comfortably in your condo you now own while smiling at your $500 graduate degree from Harvard hanging on the wall.

Most of all, you’ll finally appreciate your life experience-based knowledge that while money and emotions can wreak havoc on anyone’s life, there’s always a silver lining and a way to crawl out of whatever abyss you find yourself in. Continue doing what you’re doing and remember that the sky’s the limit for your dreams, goals and ambitions.

~Your 30-year old self

If you could write a letter to your former self, 
what would it say? 
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The Happy Homeowner

We're a team of freelancers who are on a mission to inspire others to live a healthy, balanced life one cent at a time. Work from The Happy Homeowner has been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo! Finance, Wisebread, Lifehacker, The Dr. Oz Show, and many other outlets.

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