4 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Screwed My Finances Up

Today’s post is by our Wednesday contributor, Catherine Alford.

Hindsight is always 20/20. I’m truly amazed at just how much I’ve learned about money just in the last year. I have many of you to thank for that.

Personal finance blogs have been an incredible source of information and inspiration for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kicked myself for some of the money decisions I’ve made. At the same time I’m glad I figured things out so young, as I know it takes other people many, many years to get their finances straight.

So, in the spirit of sharing it all, here are 4 things I wish I knew about money back in the day.

I Wish I Knew To Take Out Less Student Loans

I took out student loans because they were there. I even had people older and wiser than I am completely encourage me to do so. I didn’t do my own research, and I didn’t know any differently.

I just assumed I would get a job when I graduated and pay them back, just like millions of other students across the country do every year. I should have realized that I had taken out way more than I should have, and every day I am plagued with the now $34,000 that I still owe for my education.

I Wish I Knew About Retirement Accounts Earlier

I started saving for retirement at age 25, but there are many people who start at age 22 when they get their first job or even earlier. Without a company match, I feel like I am already behind many of my contemporaries.

I wish I had tons and tons more money saved but with extensive student loan debt, all I am doing at this time is maxing out my IRA. I definitely want to read more about the topic and try other forms of investments over the next year to diversify.

I Wish I Never Got Into Credit Card Debt

I like using my credit card now, since I get airline miles and pay it off in full every month. But there was a period of about 3 years when I carried around the anxiety of credit card debt.

It grew to about $6,000, which a reader told me once was nothing to write home about. However, it felt like a ton of money to me, and working hard over 18 months to get rid of it was one of my biggest money accomplishments.

I Wish I Had Started My Blog Sooner

Okay, it’s not exactly a money regret, but my blog community has had such a positive influence on my finances that had I started it just a year sooner, I could have probably avoided many of the mistakes above. Plus, I would have had side hustle income much sooner, which would have helped with my debt!

Okay, now it’s your turn. What are a few things you wish you knew about money back in the day?

Like What You See?

Join the other readers who have signed up for our email newsletter! No spam, just periodic updates to help improve your finances!

About Catherine Alford

Catherine Alford is a personal finance freelance writer who received a B.A. from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. from Virginia Tech. She enjoys sharing her adventures on her blog, www.BudgetBlonde.com.


  1. When I was still in my early twenties retirement was not a priority. Now that I’ve grown and retirement is a little closer, I’m thinking I should have started sooner. It’s amazing how time seems to speed up as you get older. My advice is start your retirement planning young.

  2. I actually agree with all of those things! I wish I would’ve started saving for retirement in my early 20’s especially because then I would be much further along.

  3. That cash disappears! It took me way too long to realize that cash in my possession just magically disappears whereas card money does not. =).

  4. Having the double whammy of credit card debt and student loan debt is tough and prohibits the retirement saving aspect. All very good points!

  5. As mentioned hindsight is 20/20, but at least you are starting and/or started.

    Often, I think those of us who might be behind the curve regret a lot. Regretting is just depressing if we dwell on it.

    I’m not trying to sound like a debbie-downer. More trying to make sure we all acknowledge mistakes we’ve made, learn from them, and then focus all of our energy on being better today and tomorrow. Trust me, I have made plenty of mistakes on my own, but accepting them and moving forward has been critical to my continued success.

    Definitely can relate to many of the mistakes mentioned though.

    Have a good one!

    The Warrior

  6. Starting at 25 is still totally awesome. I know a whole bunch of 30 year olds who haven’t even started thinking about retirement.

  7. I wish I would have spent more time learning about stock markets, investments, retirement, Roth IRAs, etc. I guess because I graduated at the height of the recession, I stayed away from investments and anything looking like it. Now that I am in my late 20s, I still freak out when I read blogs about investments and people making “passive” or “aggressive” financial decisions. I feel like I’m starting at zero knowledge!

  8. All of those, plus I wish I would have started and stuck with a budget much earlier!

  9. I know this may be unusual, but I have no regrets! I saved and invested before there were retirement accounts. I never had consumer debt or student loans. It helps that I majored in Business and I was always fascinated with money.

  10. I wish I knew not to lend people money – I lent a couple thousand dollars to somebody, when I had very little myself. I never got it back and it was a really rough time for me.

  11. Amen about the student loans….what a nightmare!!!

  12. Bryce @ Save and Conquer says:

    I wish I had saved for retirement sooner, although we didn’t have any sort of tax deferred accounts when I was in my twenties. I did manage to save $6,000 when I was in the Air Force and college. I used that to buy a small truck when I graduated.

  13. Wished I budgeted and saved. If I started doing this at least 5 years ago, I’d be an a way better place.

  14. ugh, don’t we all wish we took out less loans? but at least the journey we had on the way was good, right? 🙂

  15. I agree with all of these! I am at a crossroads now in which I fear credit card debt, yet feel the need to open an account to establish credit. Any tips for how to keep my usage under control?

Share Your Thoughts