Here’s my letter to my 16 year old self:
Dear 16 Year old me,
In the coming years, you will see many changes in the financial environment. I can’t share with you anything that would alter the course of history, but I can give you some advice on securing your future.
Your education is the most important factor in your future success. Even so, college debt can be the biggest burden on a young adult. Be sure to be diligent in your studies and do not waste your opportunities in college. With all of the scholarship opportunities that are dependent on maintaining grades, you have to be certain that you are going to maintain your GPA to keep those scholarships. Also, be sure to choose a college that is within your budget so that you don’t start your adult life in massive debt. If your grades prevent you from continuing your education, it may prevent you from completing it.
Do not buy an extravagant vehicle. Find a well maintained pre-owned vehicle and keep it well maintained. Be sure to weigh maintenance costs when purchasing an automobile. What may seem like a good deal may end up turning sour if you have to keep pouring money into a car just to keep it on the road. And weigh the cost of maintaining your current car with the cost of trading in for one that is more reliable. You may want that fancy car now, but a young person needs to focus on the future. Once that is secured, then you can consider a reliable and economic new automobile.
Buying a House
This will be the biggest financial decision of your life. Don’t jump blindly into it. Research home values, the neighborhood, and your own preferences on features you want your home to have. This is a decision that can affect your life for decades. Be sure to weigh every single option. Do your homework on the property and make sure that there are no structural defects. Also, make sure you are not in a floodplain. Examine the trees around the property for signs of rot or disease.
Be sure, above all else, that you pay yourself first. Be sure to take advantage of your retirement options. Contribute to your 401(k) early and often. You may have to sacrifice when you are young, but it will pay off greatly when you are in your 60s and beyond.
Choose your credit options responsibly. Avoid debt at all costs. Just because you have a card doesn’t mean that you have to use it all of the time. The key is, never spend more than you bring home. And always, always, always pay off your balance every month.
Remember all of these things. Hard work will get you through tough times that are to come. Always keep your future in mind. Save when you can, and avoid going into debt at any cost.
Your 36 year old self