3 Wealth Hacks I Wish I Used In My Early 20's

Matt Lane

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4FXOG6_0XxE2AXE00Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

I’m a positive person by nature. But today, I want to talk about regrets.

I’ve spent the majority of my 20’s chasing entrepreneurial dreams, most of which have failed. I’ve invented a tool for bunk beds that only sort of works, hit two million followers on an Instagram account I’ve yet to monetize, and burned out trying to bring a cartoon character called Sunny the Golden Retriever to life.

I don’t regret any of these attempts. But looking back, I do regret not doing three basic things while I pursued these ideas: investing in index funds, developing my writing skills, and building an audience. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not in a bad place financially, but I’d also be much wealthier right now if I’d acted on that list.

Generally, dwelling on regrets causes depression. Ancient wisdom says happiness is found in the present. But I also believe there’s value in being honest about the things I wish I did — ultimately not for me, but for you. Because understanding my regrets just might help you avoid my mistakes.

So without further ado, here are three wealth hacks I wish I used in my early 20's.

1. Index Funds Are Your Best Friend

A few months ago, I peeked at a retirement account I hadn’t thought about in years. What I saw shocked me. The $26,500 I’d contributed throughout the last eight years had turned into $60,000. That’s a $33,500 gain, all for clicking “Confirm Trade” a few times on a brokerage website.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for my parents urging me to put money in index funds, I may never have learned what they were. The truth is I’ve been financially illiterate for most of my life, either because I’m right-brained and naturally apathetic towards numbers or because I grew up in a middle-class home and never felt the threat of poverty.

Why put your money in index funds? Simple. Contribute $350/month to an index fund, and thanks to compounding interest, you’ll be a millionaire in 40 years.

The concept behind this is straightforward. Individual stocks can go to zero, but over time, the stock market as a whole always goes up. Rather than tracking individual stocks, index funds go up and down according to the entire stock market. So some years it may go down, and some years it may go up, but in the long term, it always goes up. That makes them a safe and potentially very lucrative investment.

In contrast, you’re getting poorer every second you let your money sit in the bank. The average annual inflation rate since 1913 is roughly 3%, but the average interest rate for checking accounts is just 0.06%.

I’ve taken drastic steps this year to improve my financial education. Recently, I moved a significant portion of my savings into $VTI, an index fund that tracks the total market. I only wish I’d done this earlier. If I had, the $60,000 in my retirement account might be worth $100,000 by now. So put your money in index funds as early and often as possible.

2. Just Do What You’re Good At

I fell in love with the concept of entrepreneurship in college. The prospect of being my own boss while also striking it rich was irresistible. But there was one problem. My entrepreneurship classes only featured the kinds of start-ups you see on Forbes: revolutionary e-commerce brands, up-and-coming social media platform, energy companies destined to save the environment.

In the years after I graduated, I spent a lot of energy trying — unsuccessfully — to build similar ventures. It turns out that wasn’t my calling. I just didn’t have the business instinct it demanded. As a result, I wasted a lot of time chasing what resulted in a dead-end.

What I should’ve been doing instead was doubling down on what I’ve always been good at: writing. This year I got serious about my freelance career and have already made more money through it than I’ve made in the last eight years combined. If I’d focused on my strengths from the get-go instead of pursuing the latest, hottest thing, I have no doubt I’d be a full-time freelance copywriter by now.

Ironically, writing is entrepreneurship these days. Just look at the email newsletter niche — there’s no shortage of writers running thriving businesses.

3. Build Your Brand

One recent accomplishment I can point to is growing @goldenretrievers to two million followers on Instagram. But while I’m happy with the progress I’ve made, I’d give it all up in exchange for 100,000 followers under my own brand. That’s because @goldenretrievers is a curation account built on other creators’ content, which means its monetization potential is limited.

Personal brands are where true power lies. Just look at creators like Graham Stephan, who’s currently making over $1 million on YouTube, and Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, who also makes more than $1 million through her blog makingsenseofcents.com.

The internet provides endless ways to build an audience. Social media is a great way to start, and it’s not just Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Michal Eisikowitz recently built an impressive copywriting agency by posting writing tips on LinkedIn. Of course, the best strategy is still to build an email list, something I’m currently pursuing.

Growing a personal brand is a slow, painstaking process, and it may take months or even years before you get anywhere. But gradually, your presence will begin to compound. And when you hit 10,000 followers and start making six figures, you’ll realize that all the work was well worth it.

It’s Not Too Late

The bottom line is that I wish I would’ve started earlier. Each of these tools compounds your income as time goes on, so the earlier you start, the better your financial life gets.

But no matter which stage you’re at in life, it’s never too late to start. Index funds aren’t going away. You’ll always be able to find companies that need your freelance services. And the world is always looking for people with interesting things to say. Whether you’re 30, 40, or 80, there’s still time to reap the benefits.

Nevertheless, if you’re under the age of 25, you’re especially lucky. Learn from my regrets, then take advantage of these opportunities. You’ll end up in a better place financially in the long run, and I guarantee you’ll be grateful for it.

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