Or if you could go back in time, what would you have done differently, what lessons have you learned?
Read up on finance, learn about assets vs. liabilities.
Understand buying vs. renting before doing either.
Keep monthly (recurring) expenses low - understand want vs. need.
Time in the market beats timing the market.
No one has it figured out. Youth will always be wasted by the youth.
I’d give myself a book like Index Card Investing or a blog post like MMM’s The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement with the Bogleheads wiki. Just knowing it’s possible and having some resources for learning more would’ve been valuable. The legal jargon can be intimidating, but budgeting + passively investing to FI is not a difficult set of practices to learn.
If I could do it over then I would try to establish some tangible financial goals/milestones. When it came to finances I only had the vaguest of goals, like “save a lot of money” and “avoid debt” and so on. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood that these are not goals, they are procedures.
Most of the Investment Policy Statements I have seen here do a very good job with this. Having concrete goals helps remind you what you are trying to do, and gives you a sense of accomplishment when you achieve them. For most people “avoiding debt, saving money & LBYM” involves a certain amount of sacrifice. While making these sacrifices you can get distracted by occasional short term frustration, and having concrete goals helps give the process more meaning.
To be balanced you need a spending plan that works in conjunction with your saving plan. The first time I bought a house I had angst about writing a check for the downpayment. I attribute this to the fact that I was very disciplined about saving, but I didn’t have a plan in place for spending. Having a written goal would have helped. “I intend to accumulate $70,000 to buy a $300,000 house with a 20% downpayment (avoiding PMI) and still have some money left for closing costs, moving expenses, and a couple of appliances if necessary.” The next time I bought a house it was easier because I had been down that road before and because my relationship with money had evolved.
Having said all that, I have no desire to go back and do it all over again :)
As I have gotten older I have come to realize that no matter how much good advice you get, you still have to find your own way.
Fewer small extravagances: e.g. buy a newer, higher-end, used car instead of a brand new, low-end car.
Put money into a 401k before sticking it into a savings account, even if you’re not getting a match. I lost out on 3 years of gains from 2009-2012 because I didn’t think it was worth it when I wasn’t getting a match. I didn’t fund an IRA, either. However, I did end up saving enough to buy a house so it worked out in the “end”.
I do wish I’d gone on more small vacations. I didn’t really take vacation much because I traveled for work a lot, although most of it was to one of three destinations, two of which weren’t exactly tourist attractions.
Obvious one less wildly valuable to 25-year-olds today: put my money where my mouth was on Bitcoin. If I’d spent $100/mo on it – which I easily could have and advised friends to do – when I first started hyping it up in 2011, my life might be very different right now. It’s still early in that ecosystem, so 25-year-olds certainly stand to benefit even at $6,490/BTC instead of the $1.50/BTC when I first got into it.
Go read “I will make you rich”. It’s corny and I don’t agree with his take on weddings but it is a very solid starting point.
Also if you are in tech don’t be afraid to job hop.
Invest early - you’ll never fully comprehend the power of compounding sitting on the sidelines.