How to Set Yourself Up for Financial Success
Welcome to this post about how to set yourself up for financial success!
This is a guest post written by me, Eli! I’m a teenager who loves to learn about finance and recently started a blog myself!
Most teenagers believe that money and finance is an unimportant, dull topic that only adults need to care about. That’s completely false! Even as a teenager, how you handle money is extremely important because you’ll carry your financial habits – good or bad – into adulthood.
The fact is that even most adults don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to finances. The sickening truth is that 47% of adults say they are living paycheck to paycheck, a number that has increased to a shocking 63% during the pandemic.
Why do we see these statistics in a country with one of the highest median household incomes of over $68,000 per year? Poor financial education leading to many adults having bad financial habits like living above their means and not budgeting, investing, or saving for emergencies.
Realizing that your habits and decisions can create wealth and eventually allow you to become financially independent makes topics like making money and investing it much more interesting. It’s almost like a game of monopoly, where every decision you make affects the rest of the game, but if you make all the right decisions, you’ll win.
Becoming financially literate and disciplined as a teenager will help prevent you from making big mistakes that many adults make. Building strong financial habits like budgeting, saving, making money, and investing from a young age will help you feel comfortable with money as an adult. Follow these ten must-do steps to set yourself up for financial success as an adult!
1. Plan for the future
Planning for the future is a crucial part of financial success. Thinking about what significant expenses you have (like a college education, a car, or even a house) years in advance will allow you to save for it and make sure you’re prepared. Additionally, keeping your goal in mind will help you stay motivated to create and maintain good financial habits.
Try setting a financial goal for a year, five years, ten years, or however long, and don’t forget it! Your goal should be specific and reasonable, like: “buy a car this year” or “pay off my debt within five years.” Keep this goal in mind as you start building your financial habits to stay dedicated and motivated.
2. Create a source of income
Having a source of income is necessary to start saving, investing, and growing your net worth. Although it may not sound too fun to do tedious work for minimum wage, a traditional job is only one of the many ways to make money as a teenager.
Start by thinking about what skills you have and then evaluate how to use them to make money. Whatever you’re good at, whether it’s anything from writing to video editing, there’s almost definitely a way of monetizing it. Here are a few ideas of ways to harness your talents and make money as a teenager:
Fiverr is a site where freelancers can sell their services and easily find clients. Sellers create listings (called gigs in Fiverr lingo) where they describe what service they’re selling and how much it costs.
Freelancing on sites like Fiverr is an amazing way to use your skills to make money from the comfort of your home. Here’s a list of just three of the almost endless services you can sell on Fiverr:
1. Administrative work
Offering a service that’s in high demand like data entry can be an effective way to make money as a teenager. Selling a data entry service requires little skill or brainpower. All you would be doing is manually copying information from a document into a spreadsheet.
Selling this service could make you thousands of dollars a year if you put in the time and effort. Read more about how to make money doing data entry and other administrative work here!
Offering a service where you research and write blog posts, articles, bios, etc. is another way to make significant money on Fiverr. For those talented authors who can quickly write hundreds of words, selling a writing service on Fiverr can work out to a substantial hourly wage. As long as you have good writing, grammar, and a fast response time, you should have no problem getting business.
3. If you have the skills and software, you can make a lot of money editing videos, images, and writing on Fiverr. In the increasingly digital world, the demand for editing is increasing every day. Both companies and individuals can benefit from editing services meaning that if you have these skills, you should use the growing demand to make some money.
Keep in mind these are only a few ways of using your talents to make money freelancing, and that there are many more for people with all kinds of different tablets.
eBay is a website where sellers can list items and connect with buyers. To sell something on eBay, you can create a listing with pictures and a detailed description of your item. Once you receive payment from a buyer, you package and ship the item, and you’re done!
The great thing about eBay is that it’s an easy and flexible way of making money. You decide what to sell and when to create listings, making it perfect for those who have a busy schedule – or who like to have a lot of control over their time. Also, because it doesn’t take up that much time, you can do eBay on the side, in addition to another job.
The hardest part is finding things to sell. Personally, I’ve found success selling games, books, and electronics, but you can be successful selling almost anything.
The hardest part is finding inventory. How I get most of my inventory is by buying stuff from friends and family. When someone mentions they replaced their broken phone, is throwing something away, or decluttering, you can use it as an opportunity to build inventory. After asking more questions, evaluate how much the item(s) would sell for on eBay and ask if you can have it or offer to buy it.
A traditional job
Although it probably doesn’t sound as interesting as the other ways of making money I described, working a traditional job has its benefits. Working for someone else means you’ll have much more consistent pay than if you freelance, start a business, etc. Additionally, getting a minimum wage job requires much less upfront work than most other ways of making money as a teenager.
The main drawback to traditional jobs is that they are often less lucrative than more creative money-making methods.
So now that you have a source of income, what should you do with it? The obvious answer is to spend it! However, spending all your money on whatever you want isn’t a good idea. Start saving a portion of your money so that you can spend it on things that will impact your life in the long run.
“Saving money is incredibly important. It gives you peace of mind, expands your options for decisions that have a major effect on your quality of life, and eventually gives you the option to retire. Most people who are wealthy got there through a combination of their own hard work and smart savings and investment decisions. You can become one of those people, too” – Investopedia.
As a teenager, you should try to save a large portion of your income, considering you likely have few expenses. Keep your money in a different bank account (or place if you have physical cash) so that your long-term savings are in a separate place from your spending money.
As a teenager, you should be saving a minimum of 10% of your income. However, you should actually aim to save at least 50% of your income, considering there are very few necessities you need to spend money on. If you want, you could save even more money, because the more you save, the better!
Once you have to pay expenses like rent, utilities, transportation, and food, as an adult, you will likely have to reduce your savings rate, but you should still try to maintain at least a 10% savings rate.
4. Start an emergency fund
An emergency fund is money set aside to cover a significant unexpected expense. In case of a job loss, medical emergency, car repair, etc., an emergency fund is essential. It will prevent you from having to take out debt or sell investments at a bad time.
According to bankrate.com, only 39% of Americans could comfortably cover a $1,000 expense, the rest having to cut back on spending, take on credit card debt, or get a loan.
Although having an emergency fund isn’t as important as a teenager, starting to slowly build it up will prepare you for when you’re an adult. Consider using 1% to 5% of your income to start building up your emergency fund. To earn a little bit of interest on the money in your fund, you can keep it in a high-yield savings account.
If you put away 1% to 5% of your income, once you’re an adult, you should have a decent amount of money in your emergency fund; however, that doesn’t mean you should stop adding to it. Continue adding to it until it’s enough money to cover 3-6 months of your living expenses, including food, rent, utilities, etc.
Getting in the habit of tracking your expenses and budgeting is another crucial skill to learn, and the early you start, the better. Even though teenagers don’t usually have to worry about expenses like rent, utilities, or food, it’s still an essential financial habit to build
Start by creating a spreadsheet where you’ll track and categorize your spending for 1-3 months. Then create a chart of some sort to visualize your spending. Next, analyze which areas you’re spending too much money in for each category, decide on a reasonable amount to cut back. Then, compile your final monthly budget.
Every month, make adjustments depending on which categories you have money left over in and which you needed more.
However, just because you have a budget doesn’t mean you’ll magically stick to it. It will require discipline to not overspend and might take a few months to adjust to the change.
6. Be frugal
In addition to budgeting, being frugal and not wasting your money on useless things is an extremely important financial habit. You will save so much money that you can instead spend on meaningful things like education, a house, a car, investments, etc.
Here are some ways to be frugal as a teenager:
- Make coffee at home to save time and money.
- Don’t buy status symbols (Expensive electronics, name-brand shoes, designer clothing and accessories, etc.)
- Wait 24 hours before making a purchase and re-evaluate if you still want it.
- Purchase makeup from top-rated drugstore brands for a similar product as name-brands at a fraction of the cost.
- Instead of buying a new car, consider buying a used car that’s a few years old so that it maintains more of its value.
- Make food at home with ingredients that you have instead of eating out.
Investing is one of the most important financial skills to learn for three reasons: it’s passive, scaleable, and compounding.
1. Investing only requires upfront work, which is one of the things that makes it so lucrative. Doing thorough research on a company is extremely important. You should consider its every aspect before investing in it; however, once you’ve purchased a stock, that’s it—no more work. Just sit back and watch your investment grow (hopefully).
2. Investing is also scalable, meaning that you can invest as much money as you want for almost no additional work. Once you’ve decided on a portfolio, you can invest based on its percent allocations. This means that it doesn’t matter whether you have $1,000 invested or $1,000,000 invested; either way requires almost the same amount of work.
3. The third thing that makes investing so important is compound interest.
“Compound interest is interest earned on money that was previously earned as interest.” – thebalance.com
For example, let’s say you invested $100, and each year, you earn consistent interest of 10%. At the end of the first year, your investment would be worth $110. However, at the end of the next year your investment would be worth $121, an increase of $11, or 10% more than it increased by the previous year. This means that at the end of the 10th year, your investment wouldn’t have only increased by 100%, as you might have expected. Because of compound interest, it would actually be worth $259.37, because each year, you would earn 10% more interest than the last year.
How to invest as a teenager
You can start harnessing the power of investing–even as a teenager–by opening a UTMA/UGMA, commonly known as a custodial investment account.
“The term custodial account generally refers to a savings account at a financial institution, mutual fund company, or brokerage firm that an adult controls for a minor (a person under the age of 18 or 21 years, depending on the laws of the state of residence). Approval from the custodian is mandatory for the account to conduct transactions, such as buying or selling securities.” – investapida.com
This means that even though you can’t invest without your parent’s approval, you can still own stocks.
Most banks offer custodial accounts; however, almost all of them are set up so that the custodian (your parent or guardian) decides what stocks to buy.
If you want more control over your money, you can use Stockpile, a brokerage that gives you your own separate login where you can buy, track, and sell stocks with your custodian’s approval.
I won’t dive into how to choose what stocks and funds to invest in this post, but you can read more about that here!
8. Track everything
Creating a spreadsheet to track how much you earn, spend, save, and invest will allow you to precisely analyze your financial habits. You will also be able to track your progress and watch all of your hard work pay off.
Your spreadsheet should have a section for savings, investments, income, debts, net worth, and any other categories you want. On this spreadsheet, keep track of every single transaction that occurred. Then, at the end of every month, add everything together to calculate your net worth.
Having this spreadsheet will allow you to calculate and visualize different aspects of your finances. Seeing your net worth increase will also serve as a great source of inspiration to maintain your financial habits.
9. Learn about finances
Being knowledgeable about personal finances, the stock market, and keeping up with current events is extremely important because it will help you make informed financial decisions.
Reading articles and blog posts is one of the best ways to learn about finance. There are a lot of terrific blogs just like this one that provide information about finance, investing, productivity, organization, and school.
Youtube is another fantastic resource to learn about these topics. YouTubers like Graham Stephan, Andre Jhik, Meet Kevin, and Nate O’Brien provide amazing information about current events in finance and provide wisdom based on many years of experience.
Reading books about finance and investing is another way to deepen your understanding even further. Some of my favorites are: Your Money or Your Life, The Intelligent Investor, and Think and Grow Rich.
10. Stay motivated
Maintaining consistency and staying motivated is another crucial part of becoming financially successful. The truth is there’s no “get-rich-quick scheme” that will magically allow you to sit back and relax the rest of your life.
It usually takes many years of dedicated working, saving, and investing that will allow you to eventually achieve your financial goals and eventually allow you to supplement your earned income with passive income. This is why it’s so important to stay motivated and remember what you’re working towards.
Find a way of reminding yourself with an alarm, post-it note, phone background, or whatever else works for you to ask yourself: “What am I going to do today to work towards my goal?” Then, every evening, reflect on whether or not you worked toward your goal and evaluate how you can do better tomorrow.
To keep yourself motivated, every day, visualize what it will feel like when you achieve your financial goal. Picture in as much detail as possible what emotions you’ll feel when you finally get your first car, graduate college debt-free, buy your dream home, or retire and live a stress-free life.
Becoming financially literate and building good financial habits as a teenager will set you up for financial success as an adult. It will require time, effort, and dedication; however, all the work will be worth it when you achieve life-changing financial goals. To summarize, here are the ten steps you should take to set yourself up for financial success:
- Plan for the future
- Create a source of income
- Start saving at least 10% of your income
- Start an emergency fund
- Track your spending and create a budget
- Be frugal
- Start investing
- Track all of your finances in a spreadsheet
- Become financially literate
- Stay motivated
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Disclaimer: We are not experts or certified financial advisers. Our advice for you based on what has worked and continues to work for us. If financial problems occur we are not responsible for them and advise that you speak to a professional. That being said, we believe wholeheartedly that the advice we give to you will help your financial situation greatly.