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Now that college is over and you’ve started working, you may think you have it all figured out. Chances are, however, there’s still a lot you could learn about finances. From not saving for retirement to overspending, if you’re not careful with your money in your 20s, you could be living with your financial mistakes for a long time. Avoid these common money mistakes while you’re young and you’ll enjoy a much more stable financial future.

Racking up credit card debt

When you get your first credit card, it’s important to be cautious while using it. According to Northwestern Mutual survey from last year, the average American ages 18 to 34 have around $36,000 in debt. While 21% of that figure is student loans, there’s still around 20% from credit cards. If you use your credit card for everything, you may quickly find yourself in debt and unable to get out. Interest rates add up quickly, so don’t put so much on the credit card that you aren’t able to pay it off every month. Paying your balance off monthly is a habit that will stick with you for life.

Not having a financial goal

Not having a financial goal is like going on a road trip without knowing where you’re stopping along the way. You need goals so that you know what you’re saving for and what you’re trying to achieve in life financially. You can have monthly goals, yearly goals or more long term goals. Ideally, you’d have all three. A monthly goal can be to save $100 and pay off your credit card each month. A yearly go could be to save your tax refund or to put it towards your 401(k). A long term goal may be a home purchase or paying off your student loans. Whatever your goals are, write them down and keep them someplace you can see them. If you don’t have check-ins with yourself about the goals, you’re less likely to follow them.

No emergency fund

Having and contributing to an emergency fund is another goal that may not be talked about enough. An emergency fund is essentially your savings account. It’s the place where you’re saving money for an unforeseen emergency. You may use your emergency fund if you lose your job or have a crisis come up at home. Maybe your entire roof needs to be re-done for example. If you didn’t have an emergency fund when something like this happens, you will be forced to use your credit card or take out a bad loan. Don’t be caught unprepared when an emergency comes up.


Just because you may be working full time now doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to spend outside of your means. Overspending means you’re putting too much on your credit card or you aren’t able to pay all of your bills on time. You should always make sure to set a budget so you know know what is coming in and what is coming out. If you’re spending more than you’re making, you’re likely going to be in a lot of financial trouble the more times goes on.

Not saving for retirement

Most Americans don’t have enough money saved for retirement. While there may be some social security to fall back on, this often won’t be enough to keep your lifestyle relatively the same as it was. Saving for retirement is something you can never do too often or too early. The sooner you start saving, the more money you’ll have later in life. If you haven’t done so already, take advantage of your companies 401(k) program if they have one. If they do, chances are you’ll get be eligible for some free money. Most companies will match your 401(k) contribution so you really want to max out your payment each pay period.

Not having great credit

Not having good credit is something that will haunt you for several years to come. In fact, missed payments and accounts that have been sent to collections will stay on your credit report for seven years. It’s crucial to stay on top of your payments each month in your 20s so your credit score stays high as you get older. Your credit score will impact all of your future financial transactions. It’s what lenders will look at when you buy a car or purchase a home. Even some employers will look at your credit score as a factor for hiring you.

Your credit score says a lot about you as a person. It shows your trustworthiness and your responsibility. If you have a lot of missed payments on your report, a lender or employer might see that as being irresponsible. If you don’t know your credit score, that is a problem. You should always know where you’re at with your score. The Federal Trade Commission offers everyone a free copy of their credit report to download annually. It’s important to see what your score is and if there’s any misreporting or fraud on there so you can get it taken care of.

Another big factor that impacts your score is the amount of debt you have. If your credit card balances are too high, paying them down or paying them off completely will improve your score. If you’re maxing out each month, your score will be lowered as well.

Buy cheap to try and save money

You may think buying something cheap will save you money. In the long run, however, you may end up spending more money since you’re having to replace it more often. Whether it’s cars, clothes, or electronics, some things are worth spending a little more money on. While this doesn’t mean you should overspend and go into debt, you should buy some higher quality items if you use them a lot. Spending a little more upfront will save you money in the long run.