By Gabrielle Katz
[C]ollege. The “best four years of your life.” And don’t get me wrong, as a current college student I can confidently say they are, but there’s so much more to the experience than those six words. Over the span of just four short years, you not only learn more about yourself but also about how life in the real world works. Living on your own, or in my case living 1,800 miles away from home, you have to learn to fend for yourself and make your own decisions. I’ve been taught many valuable life lessons during the past three years I’ve spent away at college, but there is one lesson in particular I wish I had learned earlier: how to save and invest my money.
Growing up, I was fortunate to not really worry about money. My parents provided me with meals, new clothes, a subscription to Netflix, and anything I ever needed. I was, and still am, so grateful for what I was given, but it didn’t help me understand the concept of saving and investing my money. Well, that was until I flew across the country to start college.
At college, I received my own money for the first time in my life. I finally felt like a real adult. My dad told me, “Spend your money wisely.” However, I didn’t listen and spent the first few days of college exploring my new home and going out for delicious dinners in the city. It wasn’t until I got a notification on my phone saying “low checking balance” that I realized my dad was right. I learned the hard way saving money is one of the most important things to do.
Throughout college, I took multiple business courses, including accounting and finance, which taught me about the importance of financial literacy. Although I gained valuable insights from these classes, my newfound knowledge only made me realize how much I didn’t know before I took them. This realization brought me to another conclusion: With basic comprehension of financial literacy, kids could better prepare for the inevitable (and expensive) future.
I recently read through a personal finance blog written by Leif Kristjansen, co-founder of FiveYearFIREescape.com, which details how how kids (and adults) can be smarter with personal finances. Kristjansen explains four methods to teach kids at any age – from toddler to young adult – the fundamentals of financial literacy. As a young adult, I honed in on his advice for my specific demographic and here’s what I discovered:
First, motivation is key.
What motivates young adults? Well, we’re motivated to have real money. As college students, we learn things aren’t cheap. We have to pay for groceries, course textbooks and Uber rides to get from place to place. Having money and knowing how to save it is a vital part of our college experience. The goal here is to prepare us for the not-so-distant future when we have a real income. As Kristjansen wrote, if we, as young adults, “learn saving and investing skills while [we] have no money, [we’ll] be GOLDEN once [we] get a real job and have an income!”
Next, remember delayed gratification.
It’s a tricky concept when all your friends want to go out for dinner and drinks. However, if you put aside, for example, $100 a month to invest and not spend, when you graduate you will be reminded of how much this little investment paid off. Putting aside any amount of money as an investment adds up over time and no matter how minimal the amount, the money saved will help you better prepare for your future ahead.
Compound interest is another key to financial literacy.
If you aren’t familiar with the concept of compound interest, it’s the interest you earn on interest. Here’s an example Kristjansen used in the post: “If you invest $150,000 at age 30 at 10%/yr it turns into $1M by 50 … That’s without any additional payments. Just set it aside and forget it. If you start at 20. How much would you have to invest to get $1M? Just $57,000. Almost 1/3rd! That’s compounding!”
Knowing these simple methods helped me gain deeper insights into the proper management and growth of my personal finances. I’m much more adept at spending and saving my money, although it took me a few years to get the hang of it, but as the saying goes, better late than never!