Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to be awesome at college and finances

It might be weird (ok, I know it’s weird) – but I really like reading books about how to succeed at college.  Yes, I know that it’s too late, but it’s so fascinating. Even if all I can do is look back and re-frame my college experiences, I now know something more, something that will be useful at some point in my life.  I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that hasn’t proven useful in some way.  There are conversations or nights out that I’d totally time-travel back and avoid altogether.  Some people that my life would’ve been better without.  Even class sequences I probably should have avoided (I’m look at you, Real Analysis).  But I’m having a love affair with reading, and there’s no end in sight.

I picked up Cal Newport’s ‘How to Win at College’ (because winning is awesome), where he’s assembled 75 things to do in college in order to succeed and be awesome.  I have rule 14 (never take a nap) in the bag – for once not being able to fall asleep if it’s light out has alleged value. I fail so hard at rule 24 (dress nicely for class).  Puh-lease, the best part about school was that I could be un-showered, wearing sweatpants AND a sweatshirt, and there would still be someone who looked worse than me.  (The professor, of course. ;))

In the spirit of rules for succeeding at college, I wanted to come up with a list of things I would have done, were I an omniscient being, with regards to personal finance, to end up in a position of total comfort & confidence in my current advanced age.  And because I just joined twitter & am learning to be pithy (so hard), there is only one.

1) Opened up a Roth IRA when I first started working in high school.  You can contribute to a Roth if you make any income (where contribution < min(5K,your earnings)).  If I had just put in $50 a month, I would have had by now … not that much money, but I would already have a retirement account!  Figuring out where to start is the worst.  My parents could have contributed money as well, and as a college graduate, I wouldn’t be pee-in-my-pants terrified of investing, like some of my peers.  (Seriously, I’ve read articles about Millennials who keep their 100K+ assets in cash/CDs only – I don’t want to be the person to tell y’all about inflation and break your hearts.)

Looking back at my attitudes towards money as a teenager, the super hilarious/ironic thing is how lame I thought my parents were for not wanting to spend money, buy me things, and go out for dinners.  Seriously, my parents were never down to grab dinner out if we spent the day shopping, opting always to wait half an hour until we got home to eat (while I always claimed to be dying of hunger on the way home & tried unsuccessfully to manipulate my parents to get what I wanted).  Now, I’m excited to have a foldable water bottle so I never have to pay for water.  I regularly wait 19 minutes for the metro because paying $10 for a cab seems so unnecessary.  I generally think that people who don’t spend money are pretty badass.

Fess up: are you pee-your-pants afraid of investing?  And can I get an amen for how awesome jobs/careers that allow you to wear sweatpants (or no pants) are?

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