There are two biggies for me. If I could go back and give my younger self some advice, I would have told myself to buy a modest home/unit before I left on my OE aged 22. I had enough in the bank by then to put down a decent deposit on a low maintenance property. Sadly, it wasn’t even within my conception at that age that I could have bought a property, left it rented out and reaped capital gain. It was eight long years before I got on the property ladder.

The second thing I would have told myself was how to get ahead in my chosen career. Looking back, I could have earned and, as a result, saved far more in my first 10 years as a journalist if I’d had a plan as well as comprehending that careers aren’t linear.

Some people get ahead an awful lot faster than I did because they have a plan, tick off milestones and put themselves forward for roles they can grow into.

Extra income would have translated into greater savings at an age when those investments have decades of growth ahead of them. Oh, to have had a mentor who could have spelled out these concepts in black and white.

Sam Stubbs, the boss of New Zealand’s newest KiwiSaver manager, Simplicity, has plenty of advice for his younger self. He wishes he could have told himself that “real wealth” is health. “Invest in that and you will get the best possible returns,” he says.

Stubbs learned some of his financial lessons the hard way rather than listening to his elders, which would have made it easier.

Lesson No2 would be to buy fewer, better-quality things. “You will be surprised at how little you need, and you will remember quality long after price is forgotten.” And he would have told his younger self to take more risks. “What seems terrifying at the time usually pays off. Most things are actually not that risky when young. At worst, you will learn a lot and move on.” But that doesn’t extend to investing in things you don’t 100 per cent understand.

Sue Chetwin, chief executive of Consumer, was young in the late 80s when it was all the rage to dabble in shares.

Chetwin wishes she could have told herself: “Think way more carefully before investing in wildly speculative but exciting companies listed on the stock exchange. If you are going to invest like that, you have to take an active and daily interest.”

She didn’t. “I lost my savings when the companies collapsed.”

She learned the lesson and was a lot wiser when the “next lot of cowboys” – the finance companies – came along.

Another message to her younger self would have been to be more determined about paying off her mortgage. “It’s a hard concept to get when you first start working and you’re looking at seemingly endless years of income,” Chetwin says.

My colleague Mary Holm’s financial advice to herself also starts like me, with a note about a trade-off in her career. She says, “Dear younger self: If you want to be richer, don’t fall in love with journalism, and therefore turn down offers to move to much more lucrative jobs such as public relations.” The other piece of financial “advice” to her younger self would be “think hard about whether wealth makes you happier, and concentrate on what really matters, such as friendship, learning, giving, and being in nature.”

Donna Nicolof, head of the BNZ’s private bank, has a long list of advice to her younger self. The one that I hope younger readers of this article will take away is that sometimes Dad (and Mum) are right.

“Dad said I could travel wherever and whenever I wanted, but he insisted I buy something first and get on the property ladder. I was freaked out at the thought of having a mortgage at 19 years of age but I bought a small apartment. Dad was right and it’s been one of the best pieces of financial advice I’ve received.”

Nicolof, whose original ambition was to be a doctor, wishes she could have told herself that she would hate blood, and would love finance. It’s so hard at the age of 19 to choose a career.

And like most of us when we’re young, Nicolof probably thought she knew everything and nearly lost a lot trading options and futures. After early gains, she deviated from the plan as first-time investors often do, and only just broke even, which was probably lucky.

“Moral of the story is maintain a disciplined approach to investing, stay the course (and) listen to the experts.”

Consumer champion and Fair Go presenter Pippa Wetzell wishes she could warn her younger self not to fritter away small sums of money.

“My spending weakness is often the little things, not the big things. So it’s the cheap top or the extra coffees etcetera. Small things that add up at the end of the day,” says Wetzell.

A better strategy she learned along the way was to take out an amount of cash every fortnight and only spend that.

“It was a good little challenge because it made you think about every single purchase and whether or not you really needed it.”

Wetzell is grateful that she listened to advice from a friend of her father before buying a first home in 2003. “He told us to extend ourselves as much as we could – so we did. We were a bit out of our comfort zone but that first home set us up really well on the property ladder.”

Financial commentator Bernard Hickey also has plenty of lessons for his younger self. One piece of advice, which I often think about, is to avoid unnecessary spending on tertiary education that doesn’t have a “specific and very lucrative” career outcome attached. He would tell himself to work in a trade and get saving early to avoid student loans.

The final word goes to Nicolof who says: “If I could only give my kids one piece of financial advice it would be save more, spend less and listen to your Mum.”

Source: New Zealand Herald


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