Financial Advice to My Younger Self
Credit One Bank has a wealth of smart employees with highly diverse backgrounds—most of whom know a thing or two about credit, finances, and working toward financial goals. So it seemed only natural to tap into that expertise by asking some of the more seasoned (aka mature) staff members to share some of their knowledge.
We agreed to reference them by initials only—mainly to protect them from being ridiculed by fellow employees with opposing advice—and asked them to answer the following question in four parts:
What piece of advice would you give your younger self regarding…
1. …saving for the future/retirement?
“Start as early as you can,” said thirty-something father of three C.D., “and always make saving a priority.”
“Make yourself put a certain percentage away every paycheck no matter what,” added L.J. from our customer service department, supporting C.D.’s make-savings-a-priority strategy.
S.E., who’s unmarried and childless, also emphasized the importance of saving—but not to the point of discomfort. “Put as much away as you comfortably can and still be able to live the life you want to lead,” he stressed.
J.F. from marketing was also on board with making saving for the future as painless as possible, adding, “It’s important to think about the future, but it’s also important to budget so you can enjoy nice vacations to give yourself a break.”
“Remember, no one gets rich from saving money. Make more money.”
Some of the folks we interviewed focused on advice geared toward retirement savings plans such as 401(k), 403(b), and 457 accounts.
“Start saving 6% on the day your company provides you with a 401(k) plan,” said J.M. from the information technology team.
“At a minimum, put enough in your 401(k) to get whatever your company matches—it’s free money,” added product manager B.L. “Also, convert any 401(k) savings into an IRA as soon as you leave your first job. And remember, no one gets rich from saving money. Make more money.”
“Use your brain power, time, and effort to figure out how to make more money rather than how to cut back and clip coupons, and you’ll be much happier,” said A.F., echoing B.L.’s advice.
2. …credit cards?
When it came to credit cards—a subject most everyone here at Credit One Bank is very familiar with—the lion’s share of advice had to do with the importance of putting them to work for you.
“My father taught me not to treat a credit card as instant cash but as a substitute for cash so you don’t have to carry a lot of folding money,” S.E. explained. “He emphasized that, if you don’t have the money in your bank account to pay for something, don’t charge it with your credit card.”
Senior vice president M.C. also quoted credit card advice from a relative—a grandfather who wanted his grandson to grasp the concept of interest at an early age. “When I was young, my grandfather taught me the adage, ‘Those who understand compound interest collect it; those who don’t, pay it.’ I have learned over time that being very careful about every ‘interest’ relationship you get into is critical if you want to see long-term economic success.”
“Get smart and spend some time doing your research,” said assistant vice president A.F. regarding finding the right credit card for your circumstances. “Track your spending so you can figure out which rewards you want based on your spending categories. Maximize signing bonuses, leverage special offers such as no-fee balance transfers, and then make sure you save enough to pay off your balances before getting hit with fees.”
“Those who understand compound interest collect it; those who don’t, pay it.”
“I like to plan the use of a credit card so it helps me consolidate bills at the end of each month,” added J.F. “I recommend finding a credit card that meets your needs, such as opportunities to improve your credit score or earn rewards that matter to you.”
“Make credit cards work for you,” emphasized C.D. “Take advantage of rewards or points, but pay off your balance every month.”
Most all of our interviewees acknowledged the necessity—and the dichotomy—of debt in the advice they imparted.
“Use it with a purpose-driven reason,” M.J. from digital marketing advised, “because it can help you or hurt you.”
“It’s important for establishing a credit identity, but it’s also important to be responsible with it,” said J.F. “Make sure you understand the terms of your debt, track your balances, and pay your bills on time.”
“Always prioritize paying off your debts. Both financial and non-financial ones.”
“Besides financing a house or a car, debt should be short term,” L.J. explained. “It’s all about wants versus needs.”
“Don’t get too comfortable owing money,” S.E. advised. “Take advantage of it, but strive to pay things off ahead of schedule.”
“Always prioritize paying off your debts,” added A.F. “Both financial and non-financial ones.”
4. …spending money on objects versus experiences?
“I’m big on spending money on experiences over things,” said J.F. “You can’t take things with you in the end, but you can always do new things, see new places, and experience different cultures.”
S.E. agreed with J.F., adding: “You’ll quickly forget about all the objects you thought you needed, but you’ll remember great experiences for the rest of your life.”
“Experiences are priceless!” C.D. emphatically stated. “Spend time with those you love.”
But spending money on both was the most popular answer to this question, especially taking into consideration that priorities tend to change with age.
“Depending on where you are in your life, the money you spend will change from objects to experiences,” said L.J.
“You’ll quickly forget about all the objects you thought you needed, but you’ll remember great experiences for the rest of your life.”
“Spend on whatever makes you happy,” A.F. explained. “In my early twenties, it was on shoes. Then, in my late twenties, it was on travel and food experiences. Now it’s on puppy costumes.”
“I balance it out,” said J.M. “I buy one big-ticket item for the house and one or two vacations per year.”
B.L. made the argument that spending money on the right object could actually kill two birds with one stone by also creating great memories. “Sometimes objects get you into experiences. My first German car resulted in too many great experiences to count.”
Finally, we asked our interviewees—regardless of whether they were spend-money-on-objects or spend-money-on-experiences people—this follow-up question:
What’s the one best thing you’ve ever spent money on?
L.J. said it was her first home, while J.M. cast his vote for a Lexus he’d been eyeballing for many years. Family man C.D. cited a memorable family trip to Disneyland.
“A puppy!” was A.F.’s answer, not so surprisingly given she previously confessed to spending money on puppy costumes. “I bought unconditional love wrapped in soft fur.”
“After earning a decent chunk of change as a commercial fisherman in Alaska right out of college, I bought a Eurail Pass and traveled Europe by train for three months,” said SE. “Those may have been the best three months of my life.”
The most romantic answer—and the answer most likely to earn big bonus points with one’s spouse—came from J.F. “I would say my wife’s engagement ring is the best object I’ve ever purchased. It represents the beginning of our adventure together and is something she frequently gets compliments on.”
And then there was B.L., who surprisingly ranked a radar detector higher than his beloved memory-creating German automobile. “It lasted for 17 years,” he said of the device, “and it saved me thousands of dollars in traffic tickets.”
“I bought unconditional love wrapped in soft fur.”
So, there you have it—credit and financial advice Credit One Bank employees would give to themselves, were they able to go back in time. Hopefully their words can be of some value to you as well, or at least get you thinking about what advice you might pass on to a younger version of yourself. For, in the words of Cicero, one of the greatest orators of the late Roman Republic:
“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.”