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Stop Worrying About Regret in Your Twenties & Start Thinking About the Future

Hey everyone, today’s post is from the talented J from Millennial Boss. I had the pleasure to meet her and get to know her at FinCon17. It’s always neat to meet another person in the FIRE community that works in high tech. She definitely knows the struggles of working in high tech and finding time to work on the blog and other side hustles. I hope you enjoy her post. Take it away J!

 

My mother kept her wedding album in a drawer in our living room growing up.

I remember flipping through the pages at an early age and marvelling at how pretty my mother looked, and how handsome my dad looked.

I thought towards my future wedding and what I wanted it to look like and be like someday.

As I got older, I had more concrete plans for my wedding. I attended other people’s weddings and took mental notes of what I liked and wanted to include in my own celebration.

White flowers, check. Lush, green centerpieces, check.

Something happened in my mid-twenties though that changed my plans.

I discovered Mr. Money Mustache and the concept of financial independence.

Suddenly, it seemed absolutely pointless to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on a wedding.

I had more important goals for myself and my future husband.

I made a few difficult choices in my twenties that have distinctively altered my path and put me years ahead of my peers in savings.

By 27, I hit a $200,000 net worth and paid off nearly $100,000 in debt.

I’m now just a few months shy of 29 and my numbers have grown significantly.

I’m looking at a future of financial security and abundance and it feels amazing.

It feels way better than the feeling of having those tall, lush green centerpieces at my wedding.

I want that feeling for as many twenty-somethings as possible and think I know how they can get it.

Here are the four major life decisions that twenty-somethings make out of fear of regret and what I did differently to get where I am today.

Decision #1: Staying put when you’re comfortable instead of taking risks

I struggled with career indecision in my early twenties.

Should I be a doctor or a lawyer? Should I work in finance?

Finally, I decided at 23 on working in technology.

I had worked my way into my first tech job and I was thrilled to find that I loved it.

I got my Masters at night, reimbursed by my employer, which opened up my career opportunities.

I was promoted and hit a comfortable stride.

My personal life was going well too.

My boyfriend (now husband) and I owned a beautiful home in a state that we loved.

I loved my job and we were surrounded by good friends and things to do.

We were comfortable – but we really weren’t.

I learned about financial independence and realized we could be doing so much better.

We started paying off the $100,000 of debt between the two of us and put a little into savings.

Progress was slow though.

We could have cut our expenses down to the bone but what we really needed was a bump in income and a lifestyle change.

I decided to look for jobs in the mecca of the technology world – Silicon Valley.

If I wanted to work in tech and make money quickly, I needed to be in the heart of it all.

I applied for a scholarship and attended a networking event for women in technology.

I ended up landing a job at one of the top companies in the world.

We made the move from our comfortable 3,600 square foot house in the Rocky Mountains to a tiny, studio apartment in Silicon Valley in the spring.

Honestly, my husband and I were terrified to move.

We were happy with our life as it was and moving was scary.

We had no idea what he would do when we moved out there too. We knew no one.

We committed to moving out there for a year at-least.

To see if we liked it.

It ended up being one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

We no longer live in Silicon Valley (it wasn’t for us) but that move was instrumental to the financial security we have today (and our fearless attitude that enables us to be willing to move again for work!)

In my opinion, twenty and thirty-somethings worry too much about regrets when making the decision to move for work.

You can always move back.

Tawcan: I certainly did a few weird things in my 20’s to save money. 

Decision #2: Proposing to a partner with a diamond ring

According to the Knot, the average cost of an engagement ring is over $6,000.

Somehow, we let the advertising industry hoodwink us over the last 100 years into believing that diamonds are a symbol of love.

I just overheard a girl in my office who got engaged the other day have to sadly explain to a curious coworker why she wasn’t wearing a ring. The other person said something reassuring like “don’t worry. You’ll get one eventually” in which she replied excitedly “it’s coming. I already have it picked out!”

I wanted to shout out, “You don’t have to do this!” but it was none of my business, so I just put my head down and continued to type.

When I got engaged, the first thing that people did was grab my hand to take a look at the ring. The act felt ridiculous, especially to someone who is well versed in the concept of financial independence.

I told my husband before proposal that I did not want a diamond engagement ring. I had done some research and wanted a moissanite engagement ring instead.

Moissanite looks almost identical to a diamond and comes without the financial and the ethical baggage of the diamond industry.

Instead of paying thousands for a diamond ring stone, he paid $300 for my stone.

We took those extra thousands of dollars “saved” and paid off debt.

As I look at my hand right now, I see zero debt and hundreds of thousands of dollars saved.

Other twenty-somethings look down and just see a diamond.

Do I regret not having a diamond? No.

Our love for each other and a diamond have nothing to do with each other.

Decision #3: Having an expensive wedding & honeymoon because that’s what you’re supposed to do

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I was pro wedding planning the majority of my life.

As a kid, I drew sketches of my wedding dress.

As an adult, I pinned beautiful wedding images to my Pinterest boards.

When it came time to plan my wedding though, I just couldn’t do it like everyone else.

Weddings are one of the largest expenses people have in their twenties and thirties.

According to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding is up over $35,000.

There is absolutely no way I could justify spending that much money on a wedding personally.

There is also no way I could justify my parents spending that money on my wedding.

Our wedding was $15,000, we paid for it ourselves, and it was beautiful.

We had a 95 person winter-wedding with a Game of Thones inspired theme.

Here is the exact breakdown of how we budgeted for everything.

Now, $15,000 is more than we wanted to spend truthfully.

Tawcan: That’s cool, we spent a total of $8,812 for our 3 weddings (1 real wedding, one wedding party in Vancouver, one wedding party in Denmark).

I ran into some hiccups convincing my parents that a smaller, less-traditional wedding is better.

For example, the rehearsal dinner was actually ugly Christmas sweater themed and at a pub, which horrified my mother.

She had imagined a traditional elegant affair that she could talk about with her friends.

I also didn’t invite her friends to the wedding and kept the guest list tiny (in her eyes).

There were many tears shed over this wedding.

I had to make some concessions that added thousands of dollars of cost to the wedding.

She hated my idea of a 20-person wedding on a mountain in the rocky mountains.

We settled on a nearly 100-person non-traditional wedding in the state where I grew up.

It was a great day that I look back on fondly.

At times during the planning process, I wondered whether I would regret not having a big, traditional wedding.

We also didn’t plan a fancy honeymoon and chose to take a week-long road trip instead.

I worried whether I would regret not going to St. Lucia or the Maldives or wherever else I see honeymooners go on Facebook.

Well, we just passed our one-year anniversary and we don’t regret anything.

We did almost the entire wedding differently than most and came out ahead because of it.

 

Decision #4: Upgrading your lifestyle when you’re able to do so

This last one we didn’t do right from the beginning at all.

It’s proof though that you can reverse the course fairly quickly if you start down any of these false paths.

Once we started making over 6 figures combined, we bought a big house and a new car, and furniture to fill up the big house financed with 0% interest credit cards.

We could “pay” for the monthly payments every month but we certainly weren’t paying down debt and getting ahead.

If we lost our jobs, we would have been in a tight spot.

That pressure came out in little squabbles over finances and tension.

When we learned about Mr. Money Mustache, we started to reverse all of these decisions.

We sold $4,500 worth of furniture on Craigslist, paying off the remaining balance on the credit card.

We sold my car, eliminating the remaining balance on the car loan and saving a calculated $750 in monthly expenses.

We also moved and rented out the house, eliminating the big monthly payment.

We downsized into a smaller, way less nice arrangement but it was enough for us.

Some days we regret not having the space and the convenience of two cars and a big house, but we also know that our twenties and thirties are a perfect time to sacrifice to get ahead.

The money we save now is worth more due to compound interest over time.

We’re also in a better place to skimp on housing comforts that we may want when we’re older.

We still struggle with lifestyle inflation with every income bump we receive but we’re more aware of the impact that it has on our finances.

We also truly understand the phrase of “keeping up with the Joneses” after we regrettably tried to be them for a few years.

These are the top 4 decisions that millennials worry about regretting that in my opinion, could mean the difference between a strong financial future or a weak one.

  

Bio: J is a twenty-something blogger living in the Pacific Northwest part of the United States. She built a $200,000 net worth and paid off $100,000 debt by 27 years old. She hosts a money podcast, FIRE Drill podcast (https://firedrillpodcast.com), and blogs about millennial finances at millennialboss.com.

Dear readers, are there other decision that you made younger out of fear or regret? 

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Jason@WinningPersonalFinance
    January 17, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Wonderful post J. It’s amazing how reading a MMM can change your life. The engagement ring hack is amazing (just read your post on that). I did something similar. My wedding ring is Titanium instead of a more traditional metal (as a guy it’s a little less impressive).

    My regret from when I was younger was not going into financial advising. The jobs I interviewed for at 22 seemed horrible (very sales focused) and not what I wanted. Instead, I took a more focused corporate career. Now, 12 years later I’m trying to figure out a way to leave my high paying corporate job to help people with their money. I should have bit the bullet with the sales job to get my foot in the door. If I had, I’d probably have my own planning business today.

    Take risks when you are young. It’s much harder when you have more responsibilities.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 17, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      I did something similar with Mrs. T’s engagement ring too. 🙂

      Take risk when you are young is definitely a good tip.

    • Reply
      Sally
      January 19, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      Hi, just wanted to say that there are different ways to help people with their money without working in the financial advising industry or changing your career. Through community volunteer work, there may be financial literacy workshops that you can help present to local non-profits. Or even though the employee engagement network at your work. I work for a bank and we have a better money habits program where bank volunteers go out and teach financial literacy sessions to students and different organizations. Some non-profit organizations may have their own curriculum that you can take part in.

  • Reply
    Steveark
    January 17, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    My wife didn’t want an engagement ring at all, just a plain gold band the same as mine, cost was $71 each. I guess they worked as we are well over 30 years married. I lost my first one at firefighting school outdoors on a February day where my tiny hands got even tinier in the freezing wind and spray and it fell off somewhere. The replacement cost $100. Ironically my wife has tens of thousands of dollars worth of diamonds she really has no use for now as she inherited half of my mom’s collection. My parents weren’t rich but my mom sure had a lot of jewelry! My wife still wears fake diamonds if she wears any because the inherited stuff is too flashy and expensive.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 17, 2018 at 2:47 pm

      Our society has a mentality that an engagement ring should be expensive to show the love. That’s one of the dumbest things ever. Why buying a piece of jewellery with x times of your monthly salary to put yourself in a huge financial hole?

  • Reply
    Lady Dividend
    January 17, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    I hear you, J. The flashy things just done make the same sense when you know the future value of a dollar.

    My first wedding cost $40,000. That was more than my salary at the time and somehow we saved for it!! This year will be my second wedding. Our budget is $10,000. We are willing to spend on entertainment and food and alcohol and the rest will be frugal. No regrets!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 18, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      $40k for a wedding is definitely a lot. I can see how that could have created a lot of tensions in marriage.

  • Reply
    Tom @ Dividends Diversify
    January 18, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Tawcan, I wish I would have maxed out my 401k, but I try to live in the present, plan for the future and forget the past. Easier said than done. Tom

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 18, 2018 at 12:13 pm

      Definitely easier said than done, but finding your personal balance between saving for the future and enjoying your life now is very important.

  • Reply
    Whymances
    January 18, 2018 at 10:40 am

    I’ve always thought the rule of thumb to spend 2 months salary on the engagement ring was ludicrous. Though I don’t think anyone pays attention to that anymore.

    I really like the point about paying attention to lifestyle inflation and taking calculated risks. Complacency (feeling comfortable) can lead you to miss out on so much. As does focusing on regret and spending your time looking backwards. Time is passing and the future happening the whole time you’re doing that and nothing is improving.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 18, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      2-month salary on the engagement ring rule is ludicrous! I wonder if there’s a “rule” for how much you should spend for the actual wedding. Either way, I think it’s ridiculous that people put them into a huge financial hole by blowing tons of money at their weddings. Way to start your marriage on the right foot…. not!

  • Reply
    Income Master
    January 19, 2018 at 4:48 am

    I agree that it’s insane how people have this idea in their head that they need to spend a few months salary on a ring. The funny thing is, spending more doesn’t show more sign of love, and if anything, if you’re getting yourself in further debt to make the purchase, it will end up causing issues in the relationship and increase the chances of it failing.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 19, 2018 at 12:52 pm

      I knew someone that spent like $25k on an engagement ring. I was like “WTF, are you serious?” The person isn’t even making anywhere close to 6 figure salary.

  • Reply
    Joe
    January 19, 2018 at 9:50 am

    You’re right. Don’t worry about the past too much. Learn from your mistakes and move on. I made plenty of mistakes in my 20s too. You just have to get a few basic things right and keep at it. Save and invest is a big one that I got mostly right. Whew!
    I got an affordable ring for my wife too. We didn’t have any money at that point so anything was fine.

  • Reply
    Bob
    January 20, 2018 at 7:39 am

    The Moissanite ring is a great idea. I will have to see if I can plant a seed in my daughters heads about this as being a fantastic substitute for a diamond and then to invest the difference.
    And yes I have made many of those mistakes, but after making a few changes and a few good decisions have more that made up for lost time.
    Great article!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 22, 2018 at 11:22 am

      That’s a great idea for sure. I know a couple that got tattoos instead of rings, that’s pretty neat too.

  • Reply
    lisa
    January 21, 2018 at 1:55 am

    My husband was still in college when we got married. I was making a decent living. My ring cost him 8000 and I gave him diamonds from my mother’s wedding band to create my band. As for the wedding, we both lived at home before getting married and saved up our $ for the wedding. We had enough left over for furniture, the apartment and we purchased stocks & bonds ( It was something I read about in a Consumer reports newsletter).

    Jewelry can be an asset so I don’t worry too much about its cost. Weddings are what you want and can afford at the time, depending on who is paying for it. I don’t feel that is something to regret as it will be in many photos and you can look at those times of joy. I don’t regret happiness. Our priorities change throughout the years. When we’re young, a big wedding, ring and house may be the priority. Later on, it’s downsizing and paying bills and thinking about retirement. We’re always evolving.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      January 22, 2018 at 11:24 am

      When we got married, I asked Mrs. T if she wanted a wedding band. She said “No, why would we want to spend money on that?” She was completely happy with the engagement ring.

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