If You Had a Time Machine, What Kind of Financial Advice Would You Give Your Teenage Self?

I did a quick survey of my friends about their money habits now and growing up. It’s a small and biased sample size
(I only associate with awesome and ambitious twentysomethings). Regardless, the answers I heard were interesting, especially for this question:

If you had a time machine, what kind of advice would you give your teenage self about money?

  • “Save more!”
  • “Save. Don’t spend frivolously. That sh*t won’t last.”
  • “Save!”
  • “I would advise myself to save more money, and spend less (obviously).”
  • “Go to a public university.”
  • “Go to a state school…”
  • “Keep saving!”
  • “Teenage self, you can find equivalent if not better quality education at a much smaller price tag!”
  • “Perhaps my regret is that I walked into massive student loan debt without understanding it.”

See a pattern?
Notice what isn’t on this list…

  • “I wish I’d taken out more loans to go to college.”
  • “Damn, I should’ve bought more clothes as a teenager.”
  • “That college was really expensive and I couldn’t afford it, but every penny was worth it.”

I do have a few miserly friends that had issues spending money when they were younger. I know as a teen I had problems justifying my purchases, and would normally feel majorly guilty about spending money on nice things. I still do (the deep roots of my financial psychological issues is for another post…). But the responses to this quick survey were overwhelmingly in favor of “I wish I’d saved more” and “I wish I didn’t take on so much student loan debt.”

The take-away: If you’ve got kids, then you’ve also got the gift of time. It’s important to let kids make their own financial decisions (and mistakes), but keep in mind the common regrets above and help your kid save regularly and avoid over-borrowing for college. And if you don’t have kids, keep this in mind: you’re more likely to regret borrowing too much money than you will saving too much. So why not start putting a little extra away today?

Your turn to answer: If you had a time machine, what kind of advice would you give your teenage self about money? Leave a comment below!

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6 thoughts on “If You Had a Time Machine, What Kind of Financial Advice Would You Give Your Teenage Self?

  1. Shawanda

    I’d tell my teenage self to read a book on how to pay for college. So many people talk about the importance of applying for private scholarships, but universities have lots of aid available as well. I suspect my ignorance cost me thousands of dollars in grants and institutional scholarships.

  2. Joe

    I would advise kids to hop in that time machine, and go get their college degree 25 years ago.

    If that is cheating, then save your money during highschool and pick an affordable university. And when you socialize, beer balls are the best bang for your buck.

  3. Stephanie Halligan Post author

    Shawanda, the amount of money I could have saved myself in times of ignorance… I don’t even want to think about it.

    Joe, I suggest you go back in time and buy Gray’s Sports Almanac so I can get rich off sports betting. Seemed to work for Biff in Back to the Future II

  4. Julia

    Self, you can make lots of money in a career which doesn’t require a college degree. Don’t blindly go to college without exploring other opportunities. If you do go to college, go to a state school.

  5. Whitty

    If I could go back in time 10 years and talk to my high-school-freshman self, I’d say, “Buy stock in Green Mountain Coffee.”


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