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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Five money mistakes to avoid in your 20s

Issues include not watching your expenditure and assuming saving happens later in life

By getting a grip on your finances now, you will reap the rewards throughout your life. Photo: Getty Images
By getting a grip on your finances now, you will reap the rewards throughout your life. Photo: Getty Images

You're not supposed to know everything. Those of us who survived our 20s tend to forget that when we anxiously peddle advice to young adults. Growing up is mostly about learning, and, yes, sometimes making mistakes along the way.

It's good to be aware of some of the more egregious errors, though - especially in an area like finance, where a few solid habits and strategies will pay off again and again. These are the five most common mistakes 20-somethings make; post them on your fridge and do your best to sidestep them.

1. Ignoring your financial flow

At your first job, and whenever you get a new one, it will take a few paycheques to notice how much money actually hits your bank account after taxes and deductions like health insurance. And your earnings can easily evaporate if you don't pay attention.

"It's not what you make; it's what you get to keep that counts," says John Gajkowski, co-founder of Money Managers Financial Group in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Use a budgeting app or choose one way to make all your purchases - a debit card or a credit card that you pay off each month - so you can easily track spending. Say you notice you are over using on Careem and Uber. Designate one weekend a month when you can hail a cab to your heart's content, and use public transportation or car sharing the rest of the time.

2. Letting friends set the agenda

You need serious willpower to avoid trying to keep up with friends who make more money than you, and who want to go out to places you cannot afford. When you make plans, get in the habit of being the one to suggest where you to meet, and be honest; a brief, "I'm on a budget, so let's check out that free Friday night event" will suffice.

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3. Assuming time is on your side to save

Yes, you will probably make more money in the future but that does not mean you should wait until then to set aside some money for your future. Do it now and you'll build a habit; wait too long and saving will feel like cutting back.

"It's a lot easier to start right at the beginning, because it only hurts for the first couple of weeks, and then you're used to it," Mr Gajkowski says.

You will also be richer if you start now. Save $200 a month starting from the age of 23, and at a 6 per cent rate of return you could have about $425,000 at 65; start at 33 and you would have about half that.

4. Not managing your student debt

Pausing or delaying monthly payments on any student loans will never work out in your favour. In the first quarter of this year in the United States, for example, 2.6 million federal student loan borrowers paused their monthly payments through forbearance, according to government data.

In forbearance, payments are halted, but interest accrues. You're in the hole a little deeper every day. This is why it should be a last-ditch option for borrowers who have hit rough times. Instead make sure to meet your repayments each month to avoid accruing debts you cannot repay.

Similarly if you taken out a loan to pay off student debts in the UAE, standard rules apply when it comes to making repayments. Miss a payment and you will be slung with a late payment charge and keep up that kind of behaviour and your bank will report you to the Al Etihad Credit Bureau. The last thing you want as you start out your financial life is a poor credit score, so make sure to stay on top of your payments.

5. Digging deeper into debt with further studies

Taking your higher education is becoming more common. In 2015, 12 per cent of adults in the US age 25 and older had a graduate degree, compared with 8 per cent in 1995, according to the Urban Institute. But doing a doctorate, an MBA or other graduate studies is not always a sure way to have more financial flexibility in the future, especially if you need to take out more loans to go.

Exhaust other ways to pay first, such as attending part time and taking advantage of tuition assistance from work. Adding to existing student loan debt is not something you should do lightly; use a student loan calculator to see what you will pay after you have settled into your shiny new job after graduation. It may shock you.