What Would You Say to the 18-Year-Old You?

For some reason, time travel gets mentioned a lot on this blog.

I partially blame my love for Back to the Future. But it’s mostly because I find myself wondering what life would’ve been like if I’d made different choices as a teenager.

And yes, this is a picture of 18-year-old me…

Don’t get me wrong – I love the person I am today, and all of my life experiences (both good and bad) have made me who I am. But I’ll be damned if it wouldn’t feel good to have avoided those $30,000 in student loans 🙂

I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. So last week I asked Empowered Dollar Facebook fans to respond to the following question:

“What would you say to your 18-year-old self about money?”

Advice ranged from avoiding credit cards at all costs to finding your passion. Check out all twenty responses below!

  • Michelle: Money doesn’t make you happy but it DOES give you flexibility to do what you want!
  • Sandy from Yes, I Am Cheap: Don’t take more student loans than you need! You don’t want to be paying off a pizza 10 years from now.
  • Geof from Lemonade Stand Economics: Live within your means. Spend less than you earn and you will never know the stress of debt.
  • Jeffrey: Don’t buy so many CDs. They’ll be worthless in a few years  No but really, I’d save something about saving $20 from every paycheck and investing. You’ll be very happy you did later.
  • Sarah: You think that saving the little bit of money you make at that age won’t make a difference, but it does!
  • Jenn: I agree with the college and savings posts above. Also, avoid credit cards. They seem like a good idea at the time, but are a headache until you are established enough to understand how to use them properly.
  • Beverly: One of the biggest problems I had in young adulthood was getting sucked into buying a new car – payments sounded manageable but really restricted my options throughout college! If you need a car, go with a reliable used one.
  • Suneeti: EDUCATE yourself on basic financial topics: credit cards, budgeting, mortgages, investments, income vs expenses. Education will provide the foundation you need and the right decisions will follow … [and] sometimes it’s good to have a credit card or other forms of credit to help you establish credit for a later time when you want to buy a home. This does not mean get credit cards and charge them without having money in your bank account to pay off the monthly bills.
  • Emma: When your mom says “apply to any school you want to, we’ll work it out [financially]” don’t believe her and be fully prepared for the stress and gravity of loans
  • Adam from The Magical Penny: You get old FAST
  • Sukriti: You have a choice, REALLY a REAL choice about what direction you take your life! Consider your parents’ and others’ opinions, but ultimately, (and i know this is so cliche, but) really listen to and follow your heart
  • Cathy: Go to a public university and find a job that pays you to live abroad!
  • Jennifer: Ask questions – a lot of them!
  • John: Do not open that credit card account! (And major in math, despite the homework load. At least minor in it!)
  • Kristina: Say no to credit cards! Start saving for retirement now. Set up automatic deposits from checking to savings accounts – it’s free and can jump start savings.
  • Bradley: Just because you don’t know what you want to do, doesn’t mean you should ignore building your skill set. Build some years of customer service, research or sales while you’re young. Just by proving you can hold a job will put you leaps and bounds ahead of a pool of equally qualified candidates. Also save a little bit of EVERYTHING you ever make, even if it’s just a few dollars.
  • Shareeke from The Conscious Spender: Impress yourself not others. I spent a lot of money on clothes to impress others.
  • Mandy: Save, save, save. It’s tempting to spend, but saving pays off years down the road.
  • Tuition.io: Think before you sign for those student loans, especially private loans! We don’t want a decision they make at 18 to dictate the rest of their financial future!
  • Finally, Shannyn from Frugal Beautiful gave the most liked response: Be wise about college. Would you buy a home at 18? Probably not. You can’t afford it … yet kids get $150,000 in loans for college and think they can make it work but end up suffocating in debt. College usually means debt, but be wise about it and cut costs where you can, get a job and pay it down as much as possible!

If you had a time machine, what would you say to the 18-year-old you?

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