The 10 things I would do differently if I started financial planning earlier

November 25, 2015

I don’t need to tell you that a lot happens with age. You don’t recover as well as before after a big night out, your body is a bit different, and you might say “back in my day” a lot more.

With all that – and in my case, a few grey hairs, literally – has come a bit more confidence, responsibility and know-how. It’s not to say I know everything, and it’s not to say I am done learning, but rather that I’ve learnt a significant amount since my 20s, which is the way things go (see how many people publish letters to their younger selves, advising, admonishing and cautioning).

As a journalist in my 20s, going into a field that I knew wasn’t highly paid, financial planning wasn’t something I even considered. I mean, I was just trying to get by and pay for my bond, medical aid, nights out and the occasional piece of clothing from Woolworths.

Liberty was keen to find out the 10 things that I would do differently in terms of financial planning if I was 25 again, and it’s been a fun exercise to try and figure out how I could have lived smarter, or more frugally, and made my life a little easier now and in the future if I was planning more then.

So, if I had to do 25 over financially, this is what I might have done differently:

– Cancelled M-Net

– Started a retirement annuity fund

– Instead of putting a fixed amount of R350 (it wasn’t that little “back in the day”) into a low interest-savings account each month, I would have looked at a better account to save with.

– Instead of being able to access the said savings account (tempting for the bigger things I couldn’t afford), I would have put my savings into an account that I couldn’t easily draw from.

– Banked with a less premium-at-the-time bank, which then had the highest banking fees of the major banks. I would have done a bit more research into monthly costs, and seen which was more affordable.

– Drawn up a budget. This might have prevented me from buying more tequila shots or lipsticks, and therefore being able to afford to save more, not just “get by”.

– Been more aware of where my money went, like bank charges and cellphone contracts

– Started an emergency fund.

– Planned more, instead of just “saving”. In my 20s, I had no financial goals other than being able to pay my bills. There was never a long-term strategy or an action plan on how to one day buy a better car, or go on holiday. Even with my VERY modest salary, I would have consulted with someone who knew more than me, and helped me. At the time I was so intimidated by financial experts, and couldn’t see how anyone could help me – I thought planners were for big earners, which is not the case.

– Chatted to my company at the time and understanding more about provident vs pension funds, tax options and other strategies to get the best package.

What would you have done differently if you could go back?


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