Money Lessons I Wish I'd Learned Sooner: 5 Stories
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Many people associate April with downers like tax bills, closet-cleaning and rain showers. But, as you may be well-aware by now, it’s also Financial Literacy Month, which offers a perfect opportunity to amp up your money know-how.

When it comes to your finances, knowledge really is power. And the more you know—and the sooner you know it—the better equipped you’ll be to handle whatever comes your way. Take it from these five, who range in age from 28 to 45 and hail from around the country, who shared key money lessons that would have made a big difference in their financial lives had they learned them earlier in life.

Fortunately, it’s never too late to bounce back. Here’s how they recast their past money mistakes into golden insights for their financial future—and yours.

Paul“I wish I’d identified money wasters sooner.”

Paul Moyer, 38, blogger at in Greenville, S.C.

“I’m not, by nature, a big spender. But tracking my spending during my college and early adult years could have helped me realize how much money I was wasting on eating out or buying the latest video game when I should have directed more cash toward credit card debt—which I accumulated by making purchases I couldn’t afford, like an entire spring break trip when I was 20.

The catalyst for making a change was getting married at 27. My wife and I wanted to avoid having fights about money, so we took a financial literacy course after coming home from our honeymoon. We were debt-free 14 months later. A decade later, the only debt we have is our mortgage.”

His best advice: “Always have someone you trust hold you financially accountable. Back when I was doing my finances all by myself, it was easy to make excuses for poor choices. Once I had someone to hold me accountable—my wife—those poor decisions went away.”

Danielle Toste 1“I wish I’d understood the long-term consequences of relying on credit.”

Danielle Toste, 28, a marketing director in Chicago, Ill.

“Growing up, money wasn’t something that was talked about in my family—no budgeting advice, savings goals or anything of the sort. So maybe it’s not that surprising that I’ve been struggling with debt for most of my adult life. I applied for my first card at 18, and, while I knew that lower interest rates were ideal, that’s pretty much all I knew.

I wish I’d understood just how easy it is to get into debt. As a college kid, everything I wanted could be mine with the swipe of a card—from new clothes to vacations—and trying to keep up with a lifestyle I couldn’t afford was my biggest downfall. At one point, I had a balance of roughly $10,000, and climbing out has been an uphill battle.

Thankfully, I’ve pared down my lifestyle, and today live much more within my budget. Sinking further into debt is the last thing I want. I don’t carry any cards in my wallet and have even cut up cards before so I wouldn’t be tempted.”

Her best advice: “No matter what, never be late paying your bill. This is what’s kept my credit score intact.”

April 26, 2016

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