In honor of my upcoming 30th birthday, I’ve researched countless “things to do before 30” lists. And while there are plenty to choose from, I kept coming back to “Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.”
The List was originally published in Glamour by columnist Pamela Redmond Satran in 1997. Over the next 30 weeks, I’ll be tackling each item on The List and reflecting about it here… publicly (gulp). I hope you enjoy and we can grow together. After all, turning older is a privilege denied to many.
By 30, you should have…
7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age — and some money set aside to help fund it.
Money, money, money. We all love it. We all use it. But we don’t always love to discuss it.
After moving to Manhattan, and eventually San Francisco, I’ve become more comfortable talking about finances. Part of it is my age. Part of it is living in two of America’s most expensive cities, where you find yourself constantly chatting with friends about rising rent rates, cab fare and what you owe each other on Venmo.
Still, it was a relief to see this week’s passage, written by finance guru Suze Orman. She shares her five essential rules for getting on track financially — and feeling all the more empowered and beautiful for it.
- Come clean about money.
From my perspective, it’s been easy enough to nail this one down. It’s not pretty nor fun, but I’ve come to terms with my debts and set a plan in place last year to get as close to debt-free before 30 as I could. Some speed bumps have come along the way since then, but I’m still acutely aware — and realistic — about my bills and what lifestyle I can afford.
- Give to yourself as much as you give of yourself.
This rule is an especially difficult one for women, as Suze notes, “Women… give, give, give — to their friends, their significant other, their spouse, their kids, their pets, their plants — even to stranger on the street.” And while I do my best to donate to my favorite causes and help others in need, I’ve also been burned countless times from failing to see loans repaid, which only puts me in dire straits. Before giving to others, we must put ourselves (and our future) first by removing debts, paying bills on time and saving for our retirement.
- Know how to ask for a raise and get it.
I was speaking this weekend with a longtime friend about job opportunities and compensation packages. She hadn’t ever really had to negotiate for a higher offer, so I shared some advice: The worst they can say is “No.” I learned — sometimes the hard way — that $10,000 to a company is not often a lot on its bottom line. But to an individual, that’s peace of mind and the motivation to do your very best at a place that supports you. Whether it’s with more equity, a signing bonus or agreed-upon (and written-down) biannual merit reviews, do what you have to do to feel secure.
- Live below your means but above your needs.
Ah, the age-old problem of wanting to keep up with the Joneses. Or as our modern society knows it, Facebook Life. Do I envy friends who’ve traveled to Asia and Africa, who’ve purchased new cars or homes? Of course. But I also know 1) I can’t currently afford that lifestyle, and 2) I’ll go bankrupt if I try to live everyone else’s Facebook life. I’m content with my travels for now; I don’t currently have the bankroll to invest in a home or car — then spend $400/month on parking, let alone a car payment, gas, insurance, maintenance and paid parking for anywhere else but my building. Being realistic about what I can afford, treating myself when I can… those are the things that’ll get me closer to debt-free and financially sound.
- Be your own financial advisor.
This is Suze’s final point, and for good reason. She reminds us, “Nobody is going to care about your money more than you do.” She shares a personal example of how she invested hard-earned cash into an advisor, who turned out to be crooked, and the money vanished in a matter of months. How did she become the Suze Orman we know and love today? She took a job with Merrill Lynch and got herself back on track. It wasn’t easy, but it sure was worth it. Believing in ourselves, educating ourselves and trusting ourselves to take care of our money better than anyone else is the way to go.
Let’s make this topic a fun one — or at least one we don’t feel the need to whisper about? What are your best tips for saving money? What’s a money mistake you’ve made (and learned from)?