The 7 Financial Lessons 40-something Women Learned

Yesterday I did a piece on financial/investment advice from some 40-something financial advisors. today I pulled together 7 lessons that 40-something women around the country have learned to build on the conversation on how to be smarter about money in your 20s. Add your lesson!

1. I would tell every twenty year old to go take a finance class. There are classes offered at any of the schools or universities with continuing/adult education. I took one but I wish I had done it when I was twenty. I was so frivolous. This helped me get a handle on what is entailed in supporting yourself.


It’s so easy to go shopping and buy a new bag and be frivolous. But ask yourself,  “Do I really need that? I want it but do I need it?”  You have to allocate a budget for yourself and follow it. That’s the biggest thing.  You can decide what it is that you do want to spend money on. What is important to you? We all have different likes. Some people care about their shoes and bags. Some people care about how their apartment looks so I think it’s about taking what your desires are and applying it to a budget that works within your means. – 40-something, New York, NY


2. Use debit cards instead of credit cards and educate yourself.

I was clueless about money.  My parents were very bohemian and never taught me anything. I got slammed with credit card debt. I thought,  “Oh it’s free money!”  I had a couple of cards that extended me $500 credit and I used it. I started paying back the interest but it sky-rocketed. Suddenly, I owed $14,000 for an initial debt of $500 because I paid the minimum and skipped a few payments.


That was really traumatic and stressful. It can hurt you for life. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to buy a house until forty something because of it. I had heard that it’s wiped from your credit report after seven years but that is only true in some states. I still feel the impact of it. I’ve managed to get my credit back up. It’s not the best that it can be but it’s not horrible. Advice on that is just steer clear of the loaning thing.


After that I decided I wanted to learn about handling money. Then I got really good at it and I’ve read all these Suzie Orman books and educated myself. – 40-something, Los Angeles, CA


3. Respect the work you do and the money that comes from it.


It’s such a weird transition to go from your parents’ money to your own money. You don’t treat it like it’s real. It’s this weird connection where you do this work and then you get this money for it. You don’t know how these two things connected because you’ve been doing work your whole life and not getting paid for it. You’ve been working at school. You’ve been working for free. Then suddenly you’re getting this money for doing something that you had done as a school exercise in the past.


It’s hard to put those 2 things together and see the value. You treat your money like it’s this alien thing instead owning it. It’s yours. Know where you’re putting it. It is  real money that you earned. Your work is valuable. I guess that’s something I never really thought. I didn’t think my work was valuable enough to be making this money. I didn’t give myself that respect than I should have and then I would’ve respected the money itself more and take better care of it. – 40-something, Los Angeles, CA



4. It’s never too late. When I was in my early twenties I read that if you put $2,000 into an IRA from age 18-25 and you never put another dime in your IRA for the rest of your life, you would be well into a million dollars when you retire. I heard this when I was about 21 and didn’t do it because I thought I was already too late.

It’s hard to get $2,000 to put into savings when you are 18. That’s probably what I made in a year. But I still think, “What was I doing?” I lived with my parents. I could’ve done something. So I think that’s the best financial advice. Do what you can.  I thought, I’ll just make it up later. I’m too old. I missed the 18 year old cut off so it’s already too late for me. I think that was like a real barrier in my twenties, I felt like I’m already too old.

When I look back now I think “Why did I think that?”  Clearly I have many more years.   I mean what if I had just started that IRA when I heard it.  I wouldn’t make decisions like that if I could go back. – 20-somethng, Cleveland, OH


5. Live within your means. I read something in the news about a 20-something living for 24 hours in Manhattan without spending any money. It’s written like it’s a revelation that I can actually get through 24 hours and not spend money and here’s how I did it. I made coffee at home. I walked to work. I packed my lunch. I did not go out and buy a snack in the afternoon. I went home and I cooked my own dinner.


I’m thinking. That wasn’t really hard to figure out! When I was in my twenties, everybody made their dinner. You didn’t just call up and order. You lived within your means. I feel like the voice of a Depression survivor, but if you’re spending $15 a day on fancy coffee and snacks and you don’t have a salary that justifies it, that’s crazy! So really think about budgeting and live within your means. If you need to fly home for something, that’s what credit cards are for but it shouldn’t be a free for all.



6. Have a closet full of experiences. I love shoes but looking back, instead of buying expensive Italian shoes, I would go to Rome.  Accumulate experiences rather than stuff. When I think about what I loved when I was twenty and I saved all my money for and was like, “I love it” and now … not so much. I cared about having nice clothes, nice luggage, designer clothes… and now that I’m 40 and I can afford it, it’s not even fun to buy them anymore. You are basically satisfied for about 10 minutes. It can be hard. If you don’t have a lot and your friends have a lot you think, I need to have that stuff so I can be like them. But that is not true.  – 40-something, executive, Los Angeles, CA


7. Invest in a few quality things for your home if you can afford it. There’s definitely a value in investing in certain items. Don’t invest in a couch in your 20s because the styles and your taste will change over time. But I would buy pieces as you go along like a piece of art. But art exists in many forms. It could be a drawing or a picture but it could also be a chair or a credenza, or some sort of bench. I would always start picking up stuff like that. That actually goes up in value. And it’s something that you love and gives you pleasure that may last longer than an item of clothing. – 40-something, New York, NY



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