What I Wish I’d Learned About Financial Planning in My 20s 118

What I Wish I’d Learned About Financial Planning in My 20s

This article was written by Brad Shorr, Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing company in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Forbes, Moz and American Marketing Association.

Very few people in their 20s think about financial planning. I didn’t, and now I wish I had.

Still working (at marketing agency Straight North) and having just turned 60, I have plenty of hindsight at my disposal. That being the case, I thought I’d share a few realities that, if you are a younger reader, may prompt you to start putting together a financial plan.

Believe me, if you do, you’ll be glad you did 20 or 30 years down the road — no matter what road you take on your life journey.

Why You’re Not Planning

Financially speaking, adult life goes through a couple of phases. Wealth accumulation and then, wealth preservation.

Young people are busy accumulating wealth, normally by working very hard and very long. With the cost of living being what it is, hard work and long hours probably get the bills paid with nothing left over to invest.

Why, then, would someone in this situation need a financial plan?

Why Plan Early?

Jason Day is one of the most successful golfers on the PGA Tour. One reason he succeeds is visualization. Before hitting the ball, he closes his eyes and imagines the perfect shot, how it’s going to look. Jason Day has earned more than $37 million playing golf.

In the same way, you can visualize your financial security well ahead of the day you strike it rich. Start thinking about what your savings needs to look like in order to meet your needs 5,10, 20, 30 years down the road. And you will have a more concrete idea of what you need to do 5, 10, 20, 30 months from now to meet those needs.

Similar to Jason Day, with a financial plan put to paper, you will be able to visualize your next financial “shot”. While perhaps not being able to save or invest large sums, you will make better decisions about salary negotiations, making major purchases such as a house or car, and running up substantial credit card debt.

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An early financial plan also gives you peace of mind.

Continually wondering and worrying about paying for the car you just bought or the apartment you just moved into have a way of distracting you and diminishing your quality of life.

If you can visualize your financial future, you won’t worry so much about the financial present.

A danger of waiting to formulate a financial plan — and it is a grave danger — is waiting until it is too late. It’s very easy to drift from job to job, salary to salary to salary, purchase to purchase. Do that long enough and you are liable to wind up in debt, deeply and permanently.

Time is of the essence when it comes to savings and investing. If you invest $100/month at 3 percent interest, in five years you’ll have about $6,500. Do the same thing for 30 years and you’ll have over $58,000. If this doesn’t convince you that setting yourself up to invest and save as early as possible are important, please keep reading.

The Future Is Expensive

I never had any idea how expensive life was going to be as it unfolded. There are a lot of costs you run into along the way that can be frighteningly expensive. Here is a brief sketch of just some of the highlights.

  • Paying student loans. Young people today are in much worse shape on this score than our generation. As college loans today are bigger and more widespread. We started with nothing; you may be starting in the hole.
  • Advanced degrees. To their credit, many people today opt for MBAs and other advanced degrees to further their careers and earning potential. Tuition, as you already know, is substantial.
  • A house. Taking out a six-figure mortgage loan is a 15-30 year commitment. And, if your finances are out of whack, you may have trouble even qualifying for a loan.
  • Children. If you think babies are expensive with diapers and formula and doctor appointments, just wait. The bigger the child, the bigger the expense — day care, baby-sitting, books, bicycles, sports team uniforms, family vacations, summer camp, music lessons, tutors, private school, on and on.
  • Insurance. With a family and property comes a greater need for insurance. While I am not a financial advisor and do not recommend any specific type of investment, most people want to shield their families financially from the consequences of an early death of a parent. And protect themselves against losses to property and from lawsuits or physical injury. Auto insurance goes up as you buy/lease nicer cars; homeowners insurance goes up as you buy nicer homes. All of this is over and above the cost of everybody’s favorite — health care insurance and out-of-pocket costs. Which, as you already know, are expensive, and figure to keep going up and up.
  • College. Paying some or all of your child’s college expenses, as you already know, is an immense undertaking. One estimate I found shows the cost of four-year private college tuition and fees as $323,900.
  • Retirement. You’re probably too young to be thinking about this right now. But trust me, many people my age are surprised to see how much savings it takes to maintain the lifestyle they were used to when they were working. Those that figured on tens of thousands find the reality is hundreds of thousands. Those that figured on hundreds of thousands discover it takes millions.

Work With a Pro

Last but not least, don’t take financial advice from just anybody. Find a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) you like and trust. Such a person can give you guidance, perspective and options on any question you have regarding personal finances.

Talk to several and vet them carefully. A good way to start looking is to seek referrals from family, friends, or professionals with an active savings and investment plan. Having a pro in your corner will help you make better decisions and reduce stress, so you can fully enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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5 Online Degrees That Pay Well and Lead to Great Employment Opportunities 4

5 Online Degrees That Pay Well and Lead to Great Employment Opportunities

Online programs range from diploma mills employers knowingly screen against to brand name universities issuing degrees equally valued by employers and employees. But many online degrees teach you skills employers will readily pay a premium for and will give you great employment opportunities.

Here are the 5 best online degrees for employment.


We still pay people quite a bit of money to keep track of our money, whether as individuals or organizations as a whole. Those with a degree in accounting earn more than the average person with a business degree.

If you upgrade to a master’s degree in accounting, you’re well on your way to a lucrative position as a CPA.

If you specialize in tax accounting, you would work as a tax preparer full time or seasonally, while those working in bookkeeping are well paid whether working full time or part-time.

If you earn a degree in accounting after working as a life coach or personal development, you could become a personal finance advisor. Or simply work in accounting, a field expected to grow 13% over the next ten years despite the increasing use of personal accounting software.

If you are looking for a reputable online accounting degree, there are a number of Kaplan Online Programs you can choose from which are all highly recommended.


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Businesses pay people to find out how to better understand their customers and speak to them. This is why marketing assistants earn thirty to sixty thousand dollars a year, while experienced marketers earn much more.

If you have copywriting skills like determining which keywords should be integrated into a webpage to put it front and center before a target demographic when they’re ready to buy, you’ll make even more.

If you have a track record of success or management skills, you could easily earn a hundred thousand dollars a year running a marketing department. Not only that, but online marketing degrees are highly respected since marketing and other financial degrees transfer very well online.

Human Resources

Human Resources has become far more complex over the past few years as rules and regulations that companies have to abide by exploded in number.

Hiring, firing, promotions, and training have to be done per complex procedures if you want to minimize the risk of a lawsuit. And whether it is required by state law or guidelines set by federal contracts, you have to fill out a number of reports each month, quarter and year on your workforce.

This means that working in HR is no longer something you do when you want a break from ordering office supplies. It requires training in the law, industry-specific software and procedures. If you earn an online degree in Human Resources, you’ll be eagerly sought after by many companies’ personnel departments.

Video Game Design

While Hollywood’s blockbuster seasons get reported on the news, the reality is that people spend several times that much on video games per year. This money is increasingly spent on digital releases over physically purchased game disks, and spending is shifting toward subscription services and apps.

The sheer amount of money means that even free games that make money through advertising or in-game purchases have to look good, while expensive games have to offer rich visuals to keep the audience engaged.

This has led to the appearance of video game design and video game arts as its own degree program, separate from the general graphic arts. If you have this expertise, you’ll find decent paying jobs with a number of companies as well as gaming app startups. And this degree means you don’t have to spend a lot of time learning to code, either.

Not only that, but with an online degree in video game design, you could get the foundation to create your own video game development company, all from the comfort of your home.

Database Administration

IT is a hot degree today, but learning how to code can seem daunting, and staying up to date with the constantly evolving programming languages is a challenge.

Conversely, database software has been relatively stable, and companies are seeing their stored data grow by 10% a year or more. The solution is larger and more complex databases and more database administrators.

If you earn a degree in database administration, you could work in a number of industries. Whether you’re controlling access to product data, managing customer data or mining data from the IoT, you have a good career in IT ahead of you.

And with the advent of Big Data and advanced data analytics, database administration degrees should continue to be in high demand for years to come.

All these careers have great prospects and adapt themselves very well to online education. This will not only mean that employers will be more inclined to consider you but will give you the same full spectrum of skills any traditional degree would.

Online programs range from diploma mills employers knowingly screen against to brand name universities issuing degrees equally valued by employers and employees. But many online degrees teach you skills employers will readily pay a premium for and will give you great employment opportunities.  Here are the 5 best online degrees for employment.