Advice is only as good as its source, and in this case the advice comes from those who have decades of experience providing financial guidance: executives of National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) member agencies.
When asked to complete the sentence "If I knew then what I know now" with what they'd have done different financially, those who offer financial advice and solutions to consumers each day provided the following fatherly advice -- from the head and the heart -- for people beginning their financial journey:
- Require myself to wait at least 24 hours before making any major purchase; and I'm not sure 48 hours wouldn't be a better suggestion. I still regret the emotional and impulsive decision that I made when I saw that old "Smokey and the Bandit" Trans-Am parked on the car lot many years ago. Despite the puddle of fluids accumulated on the passenger side floor-board, this was my dream car and I went in and signed paperwork without even taking it for a test drive. Worst financial decision ever! Although numerous hikes from a car broken down on the side of the road did provide a lot of exercise, I let my "wants" override my "needs" and paid for it over many years. Now, I find that if I just sleep on it for a day or two and give my mind a chance to consider all of the consequences and possibilities, I make a much more financially responsible decision.
- I have three wonderful sons. They are all big strapping men who are kind, gentle and intelligent. When they were growing up I, like many of my generation, spoiled them. I didn't require them to mow the yard or do any of the chores that my father put me through. (He was a former tech sergeant during WWII.) When I became a dad, I vowed that I would not make my sons do the required labor that my father imposed on me. What I should have done was seek a happy medium. Earning money and understanding the relationship between working hard and financial reward is so important. There's a hunger that comes with wanting something so bad you will work tirelessly to earn the income to achieve it.
- My agency continues to see clients with overwhelming student loan obligations, and this year we're seeing graduates with more debt than any other class before them. Therefore, I would stress the importance of saving for college. This is something I'm working on with my own kids and something I hope they pass along to theirs. A person can start by setting up a 529 plan or even just creating separate savings accounts for each child at an early age. Also, consider having them contribute to it so they are a part of the process. It might even make them study harder.
- Seek professional management of your retirement savings early in your career. I saved a lot relative to my earnings and have been relatively conservative in my spending habits, but I have seen the real benefit of having someone follow my investments and pick the best managers for my retirement savings. It has really made a difference.
- I would have lobbied earlier and harder to have financial education included as part of my school district's curriculum.
- Know that there are two ways of getting everything you want in life: 1) work harder and accumulate more, or 2) desire less. When I accepted number 2, life was much more enjoyable.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation's largest and longest serving national nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC's mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC Members annually help millions of consumers through more than 600 community-based offices nationwide. For free and affordable confidential advice through a reputable NFCC Member, call (800) 388-2227, (en Español (800) 682-9832) or visit www.nfcc.org.