10. Start saving for retirement ASAP

Hand putting Coins in glass jar for with retro alarm clock  for time to money saving for retirement concept
pinkomelet / Shutterstock

You'll want to open a retirement account and put away as much money as you can. If your boss offers you the chance to save in a 401(k) retirement plan through work, grab it!

You won't even feel it as you put away a portion of your income before taxes are taken out, and your company may match your contributions up to a certain limit.

Your savings will grow through investments, which you choose. You'll be able start taking the money out after you turn age 59 1/2 — which, yeah, is a long way away for young you! But there will be penalties if you make withdrawals too early.

9. Don't treat yourself so much

Picture of a shocked young brunette woman in white summer dress wearing sunglasses posing with shopping bags and looking at camera over pink background.
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

As you earn more money, you might feel tempted to spend more on little presents for yourself. You deserve to have nice things! Right?

But don't give in to those urges to splurge! Making lavish spending a habit can just leave you feeling empty.

Buying stuff doesn't buy you happiness. Younger Self, Cornell University researchers will find that experiences bring more long-term contentment. Save your money for that trip of a lifetime instead of blowing it on something frivolous.

Use our calculator to find out how much you need to save each month to reach your savings goal.

8. Be careful with credit cards

Careful woman sitting on a sofa is going to make a payment on the internet in her apartment
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Credit card companies don't make money from people who keep their cards paid up. Card issuers profit when consumers carry balances and pay interest and late fees.

You'll be offered your first credit card, and it will feel very flattering. Then, having a card in your wallet may make you feel financially empowered.

But use your credit card only for purchases you can pay off within one month. Keep credit card spending to a minimum, even if you can pay the bills in a timely manner.

7. Make paying all bills a priority

Young man paying bills with his laptop
baranq / Shutterstock

Even when you're low on funds, you'll need to make sure you pay all of your bills before anything else. That means stretching every penny to meet your obligations.

Unpaid bills will trigger late fees and damage your credit score. The negative consequences can linger after you're no longer quite so broke.

Sometimes, other valid expenses will have to be sacrificed in order to get bills paid.

6. Turn savings into a source of income

young plant grown to stack silver coin in business growth concept on wood floor.
POPimage / Shutterstock

Make money with the money you put into savings. Grow your money through what's often referred to as the "miracle" of compounding — your interest will earn interest, too!

That's not to say you should park all of your savings in a simple, low-interest savings account. You want some risk. Index funds, bonds and certificates of deposit offer varying degrees of safety and reliable returns.

You can invest successfully without throwing your money at a startup or a cryptocurrency. (Expect the younger version of you to ask, "What's that?") A trusted financial adviser can help you decide which investments are best for you.

5. Don't ignore life insurance

life insurance policy
ssguy / Shutterstock

Younger Self, a 2017 survey will find that more than a third of U.S. adults have no life insurance.

Don't ever fall into that group.

Not only is life insurance important for protecting loved ones you might leave behind, but it's also a good savings tool for yourself.

Some policies have a "cash value" savings portion that grows via interest or investments. You can take out that cash tax-free, up to an amount equal to the premiums you've paid into the policy.

4. Learn to cook for yourself

Daddy and his little daughter cooking bolognese sauce for spaghetti in the kitchen, there is steam escaping from the pan on cooking plate
Jack Frog / Shutterstock

Fast food is no good for your waistline or your wallet. You'll want to save calories and money by cooking cost-effective meals for yourself.

Learn to make healthy, delicious dinners, and pack lunches that are a lot easier on your budget than eating out every midday.

And when you leave for work, take snacks along, too.

If you overdo it with processed foods or restaurant meals, the excessive calories and sodium can lead to costly doctor bills.

3. Always try for a lower price

Young woman asking salesmanager about the amount of discount he can offer
UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock

Most shoppers are far too willing to accept the store's price. Never be afraid to ask for a discount, particularly on a big-ticket item like a new appliance or car.

You'll often find prices are more negotiable than you might think.

For example, you can often get a store clerk to match a lower price advertised by a competing retailer.

Car lots, food stands, second-hand shops and big-box stores are perfect places to negotiate.

2. Tune out the financial noise

Man hand switches TV channels. Remote control in hand and TV. News in prime-time
G_O_S / Shutterstock

The market's up! The market's down! The Dow will hit 30,000 soon! The Dow is headed for a crash!

Younger Self — how about if I just call you Y.S.? — that's the kind of thing you'll be hearing from financial cable channels. They like to keep things exciting because it's good for ratings, and they never have trouble finding analysts eager to make breathless predictions.

One analyst, in fact, did write a book titled Dow 30,000 by 2008! — which wound up being the year of a major market crash.

So, ignore all of the sensational headlines, invest for the long term, and you should do just fine.

1. Never stop learning about money

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Uximetc pavel / Shutterstock

People learn how to read, how to write, how to drive and how to do their jobs. But personal finance is a topic that people often find out very little about.

You're sure to lose if you don't know the rules of the game. So you'll need to spend time looking around here on MoneyWise.com. Read a book. Watch how-to videos on YouTube.

Do whatever you need to do to increase your financial literacy.

Y.S., knowledge about money isn't something you were born with. You'll have to learn.

About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman


Doug Whiteman is the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CNBC.com and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

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