The truth about being broke

Whether you are just leaving school or entering the world of work, your 20s will teach you lessons that will make the rest of your life easier – or make you wish for a redo.

Learning to strike a balance between your earnings and financial obligations can make or break you.

In this 10-year span, most of us start our journey towards financial independence, if done right. If not, further indebtedness will likely follow. We are thrust into the world of adulting with expectations that somehow we will pay bills, manage debt, repay loans and be responsible with credit cards (which many mistakenly take for free money, until the charges start racking up). Being able to navigate this will speak volumes to the life we live in our 30s and beyond. Sadly, not everyone will successfully cope and will carry over financial burdens, unfortunate offshoots of poor decision-making, into their later years.

Trying to live within your means and making the most of every dollar should be emphasised to every young adult. Instead, the visible show of spending power and unrealistic desire to keep up with those more senior, in better paying jobs and with different, oftentimes less taxing financial, obligations sees us  spending more than we earn and always trying to keep our heads above water.

Landing a better-paying job should not mean you run to get the latest model vehicle to keep up appearances.

A new job with slightly better pay and or benefits should not automatically translate to an upgraded car. Consider the larger monthly payments, increased servicing fees, insurance and possible repairs. Things that you were able to get by without prior to making (more) money do not become needs now that you can afford them.

Having more disposable income in your 20s should mean saving and investing more, not ‘flossing’ to keep up appearances. That said, enjoying the fruits of your labour is important. Have a great time, by all means, but also ensure that you are not using credit cards to make ends meet. Have fun, but make it a point of duty to have an emergency fund. Anything can happen to anyone at any given moment. Being prepared will always be trendy.

Every retired person once had youth in their favour. How comfortably they are able to live once no longer employed is largely due to the work put in years earlier.

Repay your debts, quickly and in full; the higher the interest rate, the greater the priority. You never truly understand the impact of a student loan on your credit score and purchasing power until you get a statement with the ballooning debt which stems from the occasional missed payment or repaying the minimum balance. It all adds up, literally.

It may seem like much of your 20s, and even 30s, will be spent living on a shoestring budget but consider that it sets you up for a much smoother ride later on. And who knows, that ride could be the latest model of that dream car you delayed getting in favour of fiscal prudence.