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Six Things I Wish I’d Known About Personal Finance When I Was Twenty

When it came to Personal Finance 101, what little knowledge I had of it when I was twenty years old was warped. I knew from a lifestyle class I took in high school that budgeting one’s money was important. I learned from my mother that coupon-clipping was extremely important.

But what I also learned from my parents was that money was a thing to be feared, because there was always the danger of not having enough of it. The overarching, critically important aspect of personal finance that I didn’t learn from my parents was how to invest money. Because they didn’t.

In fact, I was made to fear the stock market. And it wasn’t just my parents. When I was in college, an uncle told me that to invest in the stock market was akin to gambling. Which is, of course, a sin.

Though once I began teaching I acquired a financial advisor who helped me sort of get a healthier view of money, it wasn’t until I got married in my mid-thirties that the world of finance and investing truly opened up to me.

During the past fifteen years, I have often wondered how my life might have been different had I known then what I know now about money. I know, at the very least, that if I’d been willing to hustles I could have been financially independent (or near that point) by the time I met the man who was to become my husband.

Yes, by age thirty-five; yes, on a teacher’s salary, plus some extra summer/weekend income.

Whether you’re a young adult, or an older adult who needs a bit of direction and encouragement regarding personal finance so you don’t make – or quit making – the mistakes I did, read on. I hereby present to you the six things I wish I’d known about money and personal finance when I was twenty years old…plus a rather tongue-in-cheek bonus at the end.

#1: Investing isn’t gambling.

Pure investing is a commitment to help a business to grow. If a person is anti-investment, they’re anti-business. They should be growing all of their own food, as well as acquiring the materials for their clothing from nature…and making the clothing themselves. They’re only means of transportation is going to be their legs, and their house – not to mention all the furniture therein – must be made by their own hands by materials they find in nature.

Need I go on? I hope not.

Not having a naturally logical mind, and not having been taught logic in school (not even my several philosophy classes in college!), I couldn’t figure this out when I was twenty.

Not only is investing not gambling, but…

#2: Yeshua puts a stamp of approval on investing.

If you’re not a follower of Yeshua, you won’t care about this one. But many people who call themselves Christians have been led to believe that Yeshua was somehow against wealth. They’ve taken out of context one parable and a saying or two that implied that rich people can’t get to heaven, and completely ignored all the other places where Yeshua spoke positively about money and finance.

And, by the way, the parable of the talents is about money, not about people’s gifts and skills!

If you’ve belonged to certain Christian circles, you know that such teachings have been perverted in their own way by certain church leaders in order to manipulate people to pad their pockets. This, of course, goes against Yeshua’s command to love others, and against many other Bible verses that speak against greed.

However, if you are a Believer and you’ve been taught that investing and wealth-building are inherently evil, you’ve been taught wrong.

Speaking of investing…

#3: There is a way to invest that is both profitable and safe.

While mutual fund investors lost money in the spring of 2020, during the COVID-19 freak-out, my husband and I saw our assets skyrocket. Why? We invest using The Permanent Portfolio strategy. The value of gold soared, and because a quarter of our Permanent Portfolio investments are in gold funds, we did well.

The Ivy Portfolio is another investment strategy that is even safer and better-performing than The Permanent Portfolio. The reason we don’t invest this way is that you’re supposed to rebalance it every month, as opposed to every year for The Permanent Portfolio.

They both existed when I was twenty. Wish I’d known about them. Which leads me to…

#4: It’s better to educate yourself about investing than to rely on financial advisors.

Most financial advisors and planners are in it for the money…and, the most that they can get. So they’re not going to necessarily steer you toward investment options that will hurt their bottom line, even if they’re what will be the best for you in the long run.

It was tougher when I was twenty because there was no Internet. But if I’d known someone like my late stepfather who had begun to invest with T. Rowe Price when he was relatively young, and if I’d known about either of the investment strategies named above, I would have been able to accumulate a lot more money than I did as a single teacher.

Today, taking investing into your own hands is a piece of cake. And you can even eat it, too!

#5: Giving should come from the heart, not out of a sense of guilt.

And, I might add, it should be given to people who truly need it. Not to keep the lights on in a huge building or pay the salary of a public motivational-religious speaker.

This is a topic for an entirely different blog post, so I’ll move on.

#6: Money is a tool.

Saving and investing are fantastic habits. But money isn’t meant to be kept under a proverbial mattress out of fear you may not be able to acquire anymore one day. It’s okay to live a little. I didn’t hardly live at all when I was younger. I was a slave to the fear of lack. To me, money was a concept with which to struggle, rather than a tool to improve both my own life and the lives of others.

BONUS: #7: One day, I’ll meet a man who makes twice as much money as I…

…and who has been investing in a 401K – in mutual funds (as opposed to the safe-but-not-very-profitable annuities I invested in until I met him) — ever since he began his career, and my money worries will be over.

Okay, sure. Would’ve been nice to have received that revelation fifteen years before it came to pass. But yes, I’m waxing facetious here, because who of us can predict that kind of future? Or any kind of future? If I had known – and applied – when I was twenty those other six things about money that I know now, I wouldn’t have cared about how much he made.

Dang. I like to think of myself as a non-superficial female, but…dang.

**SIGH.**

I hope these lessons help you on your personal finance journey.

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