A 20-Something’s Money Cheat Sheet

What do I wish someone had told me about money in my 20s?
So much. Mostly, that money is power, independence, and freedom, and living the lives that we want — lives that our mothers and grandmothers couldn’t have imagined.
Want to start your own business? Want to go on that round-the-world trip? Want to get an advanced degree? None of these things can happen if we’re not in control of our money; none of these things can happen if we’re not working toward these goals financially. It’s as simple as that.
That’s the good stuff. The not-so-good stuff: I also wish I had known that 90% of us women are solely responsible for our money at some point in our lives — whether we want to be or not. That’s because we marry later; we live five (or more) years longer than men; and a large chunk of marriages end in divorce.
I learned this the hard way: I loved him so much. And then his brilliant career wasn’t feeling quite so brilliant any longer. And there were the beginning hints that my career was going to take off.
And so we fought more than we had. And he left my sister’s wedding early, because he “had to work.” And he went on more business trips.
You’ve already figured out where this is going. But I was so devastated that I dropped 20 pounds — and not a good 20 pounds. It was many years more before I figured out who “she” was; “she” was a friend of mine. In fact, “she” was the one I confided in through the divorce. I know, right?
So awful. Not at all part of my life plan. But as humiliating as this was, having handed him control over our money added insult to injury. I worked in finance for Christ's sake. I didn’t know how much money we had, or where it was. I had ceded my power, and almost ceded my future.
It’s a story that repeats itself again and again, even today we tend to give that power up in a relationship when we can only imagine a happy future. But have you ever been in a relationship that ended poorly? Yeah, exactly.
Being in financial control is about playing offense. And it’s about playing defense. Money is power; and knowledge about money is power.
So what do I wish someone had told me? Ahead, 10 pieces of financial advice I wish I had known in my 20s.
Sallie Krawcheck’s professional mission is to help women reach their financial and professional goals. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, a soon-to-be-launched digital investment platform for women. She is the Chair of Ellevate Network, a many-thousand-strong global professional woman's network. And she is the Chair of the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund, which invests in the top-rated companies for advancing women. Krawcheck has been named among the top ten of Fast Company's "100 Most Creative People" list. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she was CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and of Smith Barney.

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