Financial advice for my younger self

Inspired by a few reader questions a few weeks ago and reflecting upon some older blogposts, I wondered what financial advice would I tell my younger self?  Here are some things that have crossed my mind…

Dear Mark,

  • There is no point saving for your financial future if you don’t take care of your health.  Your health will be your most important asset.
  • Investing is for the long-term.  Trading is for the short-term.  You’re going to have minimal success at timing the market so forget trading.  Make sure you buy and hold indexed products and established companies that pay dividends instead.
  • Avoid tinkering with your portfolio.  See reason above.
  • The biggest barriers to your financial freedom will be, other than your good health:  your investing behaviour, taxes and inflation.
  • You’re going to make some major investing mistakes but hopefully you’ll make fewer of them over time.
  • You’ll learn to appreciate indexing more and more as you get older.
  • You will thoroughly enjoy plotting your own financial course.  If you have enough discipline you will be able to pick and choose when you work later in life. 
  • If you want to get rich you’ll need to be an entrepreneur, a very successful entrepreneur at that.
  • Avoid owning the bank’s high-priced products (like some mutual funds).  Instead, own the banks themselves and collect their dividends.
  • Make sure you run dividend reinvestment plans for your dividend stocks and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). DRIPping will take the emotion out of investing.
  • Spend money on things that value to your life.  You’re going to love travelling.
  • Get into the habit of saving early and often.  Time in the market is your friend.
  • You’ll have to educate yourself about money.
  • Nobody wants you to save money.
  • Unless you can get a great deal in the form of a great lease or you’re able to write-off the expenses for it, avoid buying a new car unless you plan to own it for at least a decade.  New cars will be a wealth-destroyer.

I’m sure there are other things I would tell my younger self about saving and investing for the future, but these things quickly come to mind.

What about you?

Filed in: Investor Behaviour

31 Responses to "Financial advice for my younger self"

  1. Ben says:

    Great idea Mark. Love the thought process. I think younger people should seek out those older than them to ask what they wished they would have done differently financially. Well done.

  2. Brian So says:

    Spend less than you earn. Actually, all of the tips from Preet Banerjee’s new book would be good financial advice for a younger me, but that one tip sticks out to me.

    • Mark says:

      Good point Brian. I figured that one out early in life but it doesn’t mean I’m good at it!

      I couldn’t repeat all of Preet’s tips here, I don’t want to get sued :) Yes, his book is great isn’t it?


  3. Great tips |Mark. I definitely agree with nobody wants to save money. Its a discipline and habit that must be developed. Regards, Chantal

  4. I would say if it sounds too good to be true it probably isn’t and assume interest rates can double when you buy a home.

    when I was 22 ( now 40+ ) our mortgage went from one week my husbands pay to nearly the whole month and property tax doubled at same time. …my maternity leave didn’t last long!

    Kathy fee for service financial planner…only one in Saskatchewan

  5. Vic Reeves says:

    Every point of this is great advice. While I don’t consider myself that young anymore, I think this is a great reminder anyway, it’s never too late to keep improving.
    Thanks for writing

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for the comment Vic.

      I’m now in my 40s, just, so every bit of advice I’m trying to absorb as I get older and mature. It’s never too late to learn and improve.

  6. My advice: nobody cares about your money as much as you do (it gets repeated often but it’s so true)

  7. I guess only you know what would be best to tell your younger self but it looks good to me. It’s odd how we get older and think about what we could have or should have done when we were younger.

    • Mark says:

      I have a few more things I would tell myself, but I need content for another post :)

      There are always wouldas, couldas, shouldas in life… Live and learn and do better next time hopefully!

  8. Avoid spending on unnecessary things is better than spending less. And yes of course health is wealth, we need to make sure that we do take care of our health.

  9. Robb says:

    Great advice, Mark! I had a lot of unrealistic financial goals when I was younger – goals that didn’t factor in the financial needs of a wife and kids, even though that was always in the cards. Learn to compromise with your spouse on financial matters and find a happy balance between saving and spending.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Robb, we sound the same w.r.t. unrealistic goals. Mine, now, are somewhat within reach although many years away :)

      A happy balance between saving and spending is a good thing.

  10. Mark,

    Great advice there.

    I’d simply tell myself to live below my means and invest the excess capital into the highest quality companies I can possibly find. And get paid to wait. :)

    Of course, I’d also tell him if he wastes the inheritance he’s going to get at 21 years old I’m going to kill him. Oh, wait. I can’t do that. Doh!

    Best wishes!

  11. Phil says:

    Fantastic List. I have been slowly putting a list together for my son (now 11). I have been over his lifetime, trying to integrate the items I’ve listed already into his decision making skill set. The top of my list relates to health as well followed on with… For every dream you hold tight, formulate a plan of how to get there and execute. One other that I find is missing from yours that I continually spew to young me’s – the fundamentals of compounding must be understood – tomorrow you may not understand this, but next year it will make sense, trust me. – Cheers.

    • Mark says:

      “For every dream you hold tight, formulate a plan of how to get there and execute.”

      Cool stuff Phil.

      Thanks for the comment,

  12. Your last handful of lessons are all things that I would tell my younger self if I had the opportunity, too. That and “lending money to family/friends is never a good idea if you can’t afford to lose the money” and “cheap clothes neither look good or feel good on your wallet. Save they money”. I am still learning about investing so much that I wouldn’t be able to give myself any advice whatsoever in that regard.

  13. An excellent post. I wish I had told myself when I was younger (depending on what age) to start investigating the world of personal finance.

    I keep thinking that if I had started much sooner at the age of 16 at the latest when I got my first job, I’d be so much farther ahead. I’d have been more frugal, I’d have saved more, etc.

    I am not in a bad spot by any means ($200K @ age 30, haven’t worked since 2011 but not by choice) but I know I could be in a better one had I started sooner.

    • Mark says:

      I could have definitely saved more…but…such is life. Going forward, I know I want to be more selective where I spend my money. I want to retire at 55 and I can’t do it without smart saving and investing.

      Thanks for the comment!

  14. HarveyM says:

    If you want to have a good portfolio and retire earlier then the best advice I received in addition to all your good thoughts was to look after the one across the table! Otherwise, you know what happens to your port.!

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