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I’m Turning 30—Here’s The Best Career and Finance Advice I’ve Learned

Despite feeling like I’m barely 23, my driver’s license tells a bit of a different story. With the big 3-0 approaching in the near future, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on everything I’ve learned up until now. Some lessons were hard-won (mixing juice with flavored rum? Never again) and some came a bit more gradually with years of accumulated wisdom (using trusty skincare products retinol and sunscreen? Non-negotiable!).

Of all the areas I’ve learned about in my twenties, career and finance skills take the cake. After choosing a career path that was different from anyone else in my family and largely teaching myself about money management, I can assure you that I tried a lot of things and made a lot of mistakes. The good news is that with all of that trial and error, I slowly figured out what worked and what didn’t. So without further ado, here are the top 30 pieces of finance and career advice I’ve learned along the way, in nice bite-sized takeaways and in no particular order.

The Best Finance and Career Advice I Learned Throughout My 20s

  1. Create a budget and check on it regularly. It seems basic, but budgets are like houseplants in that they need regular maintenance to survive and thrive.
  2. Make sure your finances are in a good spot before setting up automatic withdrawals for things like savings and payments. Automation is great, but there’s nothing worse than an insufficient funds notification from your bank for an automatic withdrawal you forgot about.
  3. If you’re someone who loves to treat others, make sure you’re not the one always buying drinks or picking up the tab because it adds up fast.
  4. There are a lot of dupes for high-end items that are so much better for your wallet. Give them a shot before shelling out for the real deal (you might even like the dupe better!)
  5. Negotiate everything, especially your salary. Even an extra two or three thousand dollars on offer compounds over time and helps set you up for more money down the road.
  6. Never burn bridges in your career if you can help it, no matter how toxic of an environment it was. You never know who will pop up down the road, so always keep it professional.
  7. Take the time to nurture your industry connections regularly by letting them know when you think of them or by offering to help if asked. Don’t only reach out when you need something.
  8. On that note, be kind to the random people who ask to pick your brain. It only takes a few minutes to send a quick reply or set up a coffee chat (pro-tip: if you get a lot of people reaching out, create canned responses for the usual questions and schedule calls around times that work for you, like when you walk your dog or fold laundry!).
  9. Ask yourself if there’s a free version or a discount you can use before you buy something. You’d be amazed how many companies give 20% off coupons if you leave your cart for a few hours before checking out.
  10. Don’t hang your self-worth on your salary, the amount in your bank account, or any material objects. It sounds fluffy, but these things can change at any time and you don’t want your self-worth to change with it.
  11. Set boundaries at work early and tell people about them. If you value dinner with your family or a daily lunchtime workout, make that part of your “brand” at the office so that time is automatically protected.
  12. Take your vacation time. Life is too short to let your PTO go unused (RIP to the time I could have spent on vacation instead of at my desk in the early years of my career).
  13. There is a time to hustle and a time to rest. Learning when it makes sense to put in extra hours (like for a promotion) and when it doesn’t (every random Tuesday) will help you build better balance in your life.
  14. When in doubt, always dress a bit nicer than you think you need to for work.
  15. Take time to slow down and consider what you want out of your career. It’s OK if you don’t always know, but it’s important to consider what truly makes you happy.
  16. Figure out what you value spending money on and make sure to budget for it appropriately. Never feel guilty for swapping daily lattes with buying flowers every week if that’s more your jam.
  17. Find a budgeting system that actually works for you. If you live in a city where your necessary expenses are more than 50% (per the 50-30-20 budgeting method), don’t try to make that system work and then feel defeated and give up after a few months. There are so many different budgeting methods and one will definitely work for you!
  18. Set financial goals that excite you and then create a tangible way to track them to keep you motivated. This could be an old-school pen-and-pencil tracker (the kind where you colour in a new section each time you get closer, à la middle school fundraising) or naming your accounts (my “dream Chanel bag” account is slowly getting there!)
  19. Don’t put off investing. It seems scary, but once you get started you’ll realize it just takes a bit of upfront time and then you’ll barely think about it. Just do it!
  20. Know when to ask for help. Whether it’s filing your taxes, finding a career path you love, or even having your boss explain something you’ve never done before, asking for help is a sign of maturity. Pretending you know what you’re doing when you don’t is only going to waste time.
  21. Get in the habit of talking about money in your relationships as early as possible. Having convos about what your SO or friends can afford will make sure no one is ever put in a spot to spend more than they can.
  22. Always check the bill before paying to make sure it’s correct. It’s a literal crime to pay for a third glass of wine you never even got to enjoy.
  23. Find a mentor who you truly click with, ideally in the same industry as you but not at the same company. You’ll be able to get their honest and unbiased opinion whenever you need it!
  24. Reach out to potential colleagues whenever possible before accepting a job offer. It’s better to find out that a workplace isn’t healthy before joining than it is to experience it firsthand.
  25. Take the time to actually read the contracts you’re signing, whether it’s for a new job or a new rental agreement, to make sure everything checks out. Get help with this (see tip 20!) if you need it.
  26. Use all of your work benefits if you have them. Not just the go-to ones like massage therapy or dental, but also ones that might not be obvious, like seeing a podiatrist (basically a free pedicure!) or getting a tailored nutrition plan from a dietician.
  27. At the end of each quarter, carefully review your calendar and your bank statements. Identify anything that wasn’t a great use of time or money and minimize those things going forward.
  28. Take the time to compare financial tools and find the ones that will work for you. That credit card your BFF loves for its cashback might not be right for you if travel points for free flights are your priority.
  29. It’s OK if you have debt, it doesn’t make you a bad person or financially irresponsible. Whether it’s student loans or a consumer line of credit, coming up with a plan to tackle it will help you feel like you’re in control.
  30. Nobody has it all figured out by age 30, with money or career or anything else. If you feel like you do, enjoy that feeling while it lasts because things are always changing! Being adaptable and pivoting where necessary are underrated skills that will always get you far in life.
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