Financial Planning 101 For 20 Year Olds

March 20, 2023

The financial decisions you make in your twenties are crucial to building a solid financial foundation. In this highlight, Brian and Bo break down what you should focus on in your twenties.

Check out the full episode, “Financial Planning 101 (By Age) 2023 Edition.


Let’s start with folks who are in their 20s. Now, this is an exciting decade because this is where you build the base. This is where you start building some of that foundational knowledge. One of the things we like to continually tell folks in their 20s is that you’re going to spend 10,000 hours becoming an expert in something. You have time, so make sure you choose how you use that time wisely. I also think this is because of the exponential growth opportunity. A lot of you might be feeling pressure because you know you don’t have a lot of resources or make a ton of money. That’s okay. I want you to take a deep breath and realize you have the potential to take just a little bit of incremental decision-making to make huge dramatic differences in your future life if you do this well.

So let’s think about this in sort of a pragmatic approach. When you’re in your 20s, we’re going to work through cash flow management, standpoint from risk management, investing, tax planning, and estate planning. On cash flow, it’s fairly simple because this is the beginning; this is where you start. One of the very first things you want to begin to try to master at this stage is, “How do I make sure that I’m spending less than I make?” Yeah, this one’s a basic one. I’ve shared this. You have to build that discipline that leads to margin, so you actually have money to invest. The goal is to save first, not save what’s left after spending. If you wait to save what’s left after spending, you may find there’s nothing left. That money seems to run away. So you have to practice paying yourself first.

Another thing that you need to recognize in this decade is the dangers of debt. Yeah, this is one where I think a lot of us, because we are poor in our 20s, we think, “Hey, you know, an easy bridge to get me to the other side while I’m waiting for my income to catch up is to use credit card debt, consumer debt, and other things.” That’s a false sense that I want you to understand. Use the time where you’re not having to play catch-up by paying off the debt but also then trying to recapture all the money you should have invested. And you’ll miss out on that exponential growth. Start off understanding how dangerous that is from them getting scared of it to the point that you will make smart incremental decisions. Because realizing your 20s, you can put up with about anything. You just need to know there’s so much pressure on building that great big beautiful tomorrow. So make every dollar count.

You said exactly right, Brian. In your 20s, you can put up with anything. This is one of the few decades where you can really focus on living on the cheap. It’s not incredibly difficult to get by without a whole lot. You’ve not gotten used to some of the creature comforts in life, and that’s okay. If you can master doing that in your 20s, your future 30, 45-year-old self will likely thank you for that skill set. As we close out just this part of it, I know we were having a content meeting, and we found out one of our content creators is going to drive 20 plus hours for a vacation. Whereas now, me and my 40s and in your 30s, you’re like, “There’s no way I’d fly.” But it goes back to the point in your 20s, you can bedazzle your basic life still go make the great memories. It doesn’t have to be super luxurious because you’re still discovering everything.

The first one is fairly simple. You want to make sure you have your deductibles covered. You want to make sure that if you have health insurance deductibles, auto insurance deductibles, or homeowners deductibles, you have enough saved up that you can at least cover those items to make sure you can keep your house out of the ditch. Yeah, I just want to make sure you don’t make desperate decisions because that’s what sometimes people will get themselves into. Situations where they have to use credit card debt or some other payday loan or whatever the bad decision is to get them through the emergency of the day. If you have your deductibles covered, it really will protect you from having to make those desperate decisions that will set your financial life backwards. It’s amazing how many folks screw this up. We know that right now, 57% of Americans have less than a thousand dollars in savings. That says to us that 57% of Americans do not have their deductibles covered. They are not prepared for an unknown tomorrow. If you’re living that way in your 20s, you need to fix it because it’s not going to set you up for long-term success. Yeah, so make sure health insurance, your auto insurance, and all the property type things focus on just making sure you’re protected because you will be much better served if you know that anything that comes your way you’ll be able to handle it.

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You just said this, Brian, you want to make sure you have all the appropriate insurances in place. You want to have your health insurance in place, your property insurance in place because now in your 20s is the time where you have to start acting like an adult. You have to start protecting the things that you own, and so you want to make sure you’re not neglecting this very important part.

After you get through the basics of just having deductibles covered, it makes sense to also start thinking about building up that three to six months of cash reserves just in case you have job layoff or something else that comes your way that’s unexpected. When we think about investing in our 20s, one of the big things we want you to focus on, that we want you to know, is we want you to understand just how powerful your dollars can be. Brian, here at The Money Guy Show, we have this idea that we call “88 times over” as a means and a mechanism to show you just how powerful your dollars can be. Yeah, we even have, we can go beyond that and give you. There’s actually a deliverable you can go to. If you go to moneyguy.com/resources, actually go see what a dollar has the potential to become. I think if you understand this, you’ll not only think about how excited you are for investing every dollar that comes in control, you’ll think about how you spend money because it’s going to be much harder for you to have an $800 car payment if you know what that actually means to you, especially if you’re like a 20-something, early 20-something. I mean, that $800 a month car payment literally could be costing you hundreds of thousands.

Now, look, in your 20s, you think that you are going to be around forever, but I just want to prepare you. This will probably be the first time that you’ll have a 401k or a 403b at work, where you’ll want to make sure you pay attention to the beneficiary designations so that you are set up. And if you do start a family in your 20s, if you have kids, guys, make sure that you’re paying attention to that. But the biggest thing is you don’t have to have a super complex estate plan in your 20s, but you do need to put some time thinking about what your ultimate wishes are. That’s exactly right. We say that a back-of-the-napkin, quote-unquote, plan will likely work in your 20s until you get to that situation, like Brian said, where it makes sense to get a little more sophisticated when you have kids and other assets. This is a fantastic decade that if you can just focus on the things that actually matter, your future self will most certainly thank you for doing that.

If you want to know just how powerful your dollar bills are, check out our Wealth Multiplier deliverable.



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