I didn’t think much about money – in terms of long range goals, spending habits, investment opportunities, etc. – until my mid-30s. I was not particularly reckless with my finances before then – paying bills on time, spending less than I earned, executing what felt like responsible choices (i.e., buying used as opposed to new cars, purchasing a condo rather than renting an apartment), and maintaining a healthy credit score were at the heart of my under-developed, 20s financial philosophy. As long as I was getting by day-to-day, I thought I was sufficiently managing my money and I mistakenly believed that was enough.
When I was 35, a male colleague, 15 years my senior, assured me, “55 year-old Nita will thank 35 year-old Nita if you start investing now.” Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner, I wondered. Or perhaps I had known earlier, but it felt out of reach – after all, I lived off a student budget from 18 to 25 and have been swimming in six figures of suffocating student loan debt since. Just making three monthly payments to Sallie Mae (to the tune of $800) on top of covering the rising cost of living in Portland didn’t leave much of a margin most months. Nonetheless, I opened an E-Trade account and made my first trade in Apple stocks – a few shares for a few hundred dollars. Then I went onto purchase Starbucks, Google, and eventually Amazon and more.
Today, I manage my E-Trade account, a Robinhood account, and an Acorns account (a total value of approximately $14,000, which doesn’t sound like much but is a lot more than the $0 I had just a few years ago). I also make automatic contributions to a Roth IRA and an employer-sponsored 401k each month.
In the spirit of increasing my financial literacy (which feels like an endless journey), I watch the Nightly Business Report daily on PBS, which compelled me to pursue a re-finance on our mortgage a few months ago when I learned interest rates were at a three-year low. We managed to reduce our payment in excess of $240 per month – over the life of the loan that amounts to a savings of over $86,000 in interest. It feels like we struck a small pot of gold!