First Person: My Finances Went Over the Cliff in My 20s

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Where was Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey when I was in my 20's? I sure did need them, because I made massive mistakes with money when I was in my 20's. Out of the 9 things listed on Ramsey's blog as ways in which one can go broke, I aced 7 of them. Sure, I worked diligently, having gotten my first job at age 16. I even worked the graveyard shift full-time when I was in college full-time. To me, working was something I did so that I could get more things. It wasn't a strategy for preparing for my future. I played kick the can every time I got a pay day.

Not saving

I did not save for my future. I think it was because my dad was such a "stingy" penny pincher that I over-corrected and went the entire opposite direction. As far as I was concerned a bank was a sloping side of a hollow in the ground, not a place to save or invest money. I didn't even take baby steps toward saving until my 30's.

Not budgeting

As far as I was concerned, I always had another payday coming. I didn't keep up with where the money was going beyond rent and utilities. I whittled away the rest a little at a time and wondered where it had all gone. I often comforted myself with the knowledge that I'd get paid again soon.

Spending wantonly

I spent money like I had a money tree in my living room. I loved pretty clothes, shoes, and furniture. I spent money as fast as I could make it - accumulating lots of "things."

Not seeking advice

I think my dad (who grew up during the Depression) made saving an unattractive obsession. There had to be some other influencer, perhaps a professional, who I could have talked to about money management. Orman refers to them in a 12/18/12 post as The 'Influentials' Who Help Us Watch Our Wallets. In my 20's, I watched my wallet for two reasons: to look at the nice pictures and credit cards inside it or to see if it was time to buy a more updated one.

Not investing

I always felt like I could invest when I got older. I thought up some excuse or reason why I could not join a 401K or get a mutual fund or retirement account. I didn't take much stock in the stock market.

Suze Orman's website indicates that she was snookered by an uncouth broker at age 29. It also mentioned that she decided to turn this experience on its ear and become money savvy. The financial guru is now chiding people to spend wisely, save, and plan for their future.

On the blog for bankrate.com, Marcie Geffner wrote a post which is titled Money Woes Mainly Self-Inflicted. I agree. The financial woes that I experienced were due to my own practices. Because of my actions, I often ended up with what writer J. California Cooper uses to describe dire straits -- "None of something and a whole bunch of nothing."

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