Financial advice from personal finance bloggers

Be forewarned: this is a LONG post.

When I started reaching out to other bloggers, I kind of expected to get a response from a third of them, maybe even half if I was lucky. Of those, I figured I'd probably get an average of two-ish answers out of the eight I sent to each person.

Welp, I was wrong.

At the end of it all, I ended up receiving 95 answers, which ended up being more than 8000 words of wisdom. Pretty overwhelming, I'd say.

Don't worry, I didn't include them all here. If I did, you'd spend all day reading this one post instead of the works of all of the incredibly smart people who contributed to the list!

Instead, I've decided to split this into a two part series. So make sure to come back next week to check out the next set of responses! In the meantime, I would highly recommend using the links in the post to look through the sites of those who contributed. They wouldn't be on the list if I didn't think they had some good stuff to say!

Without further ado, onto the main attraction.

If there is one thing you wish you would have done differently in your financial life, what would it be?

Early on I let my wants get in the way of planning for my future. I wasn't very good about saving when I was younger but I was sure good at spending! I finally got to a point I was sick of feeling scared about money so I decided to change things. There isn't anything about my past I would change because I believe that all the lessons I've learned (good & bad) have lead me to exactly where I need to be today. If I didn't have those lessons from the past, I wouldn't have been able to teach other women about money and allow them to learn from my mistakes.
-Jenny @ The Jenny Pincher

I wish I had been more open to real estate investing earlier on, particularly out of state. I lived in Boston and San Francisco where it was quite expensive to buy stuff so I had always written off real estate as infeasible but didn't realize I could have bought in Jacksonville, FL where I grew up and gotten great yields at an affordable price. Here's an example of someone who took this to an extreme, living in Hong Kong but managing a large real estate portfolio in Atlanta: click here!
-Han @ Investment Zen

Start tracking my net worth from age 18. I didn't start until I was 27 and it has been one of the biggest game changers for me. Even if you're in the negative from student loan debt it's so important to know. You're able to figure out spending habits, see trends and set goals for the future. Here's my post on why you should start tracking your net worth.
-Michael @ Super Millennial

I have no regrets with my financial life since all my past mistakes have been immensely important. Each stumble (or downright faceplant) leads to me learning something new. Sadly, the pain and emotional stress means the lesson is ingrained in my mind.

Now, I'm taking a proactive approach by trying to learn from the mistakes of others!
-Matt @ Distilled Dollar

I wish I would have never started out with a brand new car with a brand new payment. What I later realized is new cars lose 60% – 70% of their value in the first 4 years with 11% of that dropping in the first day!

If you go out and buy brand new $32k car, in 4 years the car is only worth $12k, which means every week your car dropped over $100 in value for four straight years! This is in addition to your car payment and your higher insurance and registration costs.

If I would have known this at age 18 instead of age 28, I could have avoided paying thousands of dollars I never had in the first place.
-Chris @ The Money Peach

I wish I had started caring about my finances sooner. For a long time my attitude was, "what's the point of learning about personal finance when I'm not making much money?" Then I got a full-time job with a salary and I realized I needed to learn as much as possible to be able to build the future I wanted. It would've been helpful to have taken the initiative to have learned the information earlier, and start practicing it.
-Matt @ Spills Spot

I definitely wish that I'd started learning about personal finance and investing sooner. It's not to say I was clueless. I understood how to use credit wisely and things like that, and I had read a few books on personal finance when I was in high school. My problem was that even though I had read some stuff about personal finance, I didn't really take the time to understand it all. The biggest waste is that I ended up making some money in college from jobs, but when it was all said and done, I had absolutely nothing to show for it.
-FP @ Financial Panther

I wish I had invested more aggressively when I was young. Specifically, investing in stocks for the long term historically has been the best investment return available. The longer you have until you want to use the money (e.g., retirement), the less important temporary stock market declines become, just so long as you stay in the market and don't panic sell during the downturns. I give some tips on my website on how to avoid panic selling. If I had invested more aggressively early in life, I'd have a larger retirement nest egg now.
-Karl @ Mindfully Investing

STARTED EARLIER!! I waited until I was 25 years old to pay attention to my $$, ugh...
-J. Money @ Budgets Are Sexy & Rockstar Finance

What is one thing that a lot of millennials are getting wrong financially?

Not getting started investing! These are some of the best years to be investing in our lifetimes, thanks to the magic that is compound interest. Even $50 a month is enough to get started with new technologies like robo-advisors, and you can do it all from the comfort of your house on your laptop. (I actually made a free five-day email course to help people figure out the very basics, and to get started investing, because I think it's so important!)
-Desirae @ Half Banked

I think there is a lot of hype nowadays about finances and investing, and most of that hype is not really in the best interest of young (or old) investors. I think too many young people tend to chase the latest and hottest sounding thing. In actual fact, personal investing is probably at its best when it is simple and boring. I recommend a global stock market index ETF or mutual fund approach. Outside of investing, I get the sense that many millennials, not unlike generations before them, don't put enough focus on reducing consumption and saving. Again, it's more boring than having the latest iPhone or whatever, but saving more early in life can payoff big time later in life, particularly if you invest your early savings in stocks.
-Karl @ Mindfully Investing

Patience is a virtue. Some Millennials would benefit from understanding that they don't have to have it all before age 30.
-MMM @ Mystery Money Man

Waiting too long to take control of their financial situation, and equating success with how many possessions they have. I think a lot of millennials want to "live it up" in their 20's, instead of instilling positive habits early that help build a better financial future. Spending money doesn't equal more happiness. There are plenty of ways to live life to the fullest without having to spend your whole paycheck. The more money you can save, the more opportunities are opened up to you.
-Matt @ Spills Spot

The biggest thing we millennials are messing up is living way too fancy early on in life and then playing around with our debt as a result. I saw this constantly when I was working in a big law firm. Everyone had debt. Everyone also just had to live in a luxury apartment with a gym, pool, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, whatever. It's like, a tiny percent of the world lives like that. You do not need to live like that when you're in your 20s. Your rent is probably the biggest bill you pay each month. You can really do a lot of great things if you just cut that down to a reasonable amount.
-FP @ Financial Panther

They just don't CARE. And I get it as I didn't either for a long while, but until you care enough to make a change it doesn't really matter as they won't listen. (And *any* age group for that matter – not millennial-specific at all)
-J. Money @ Budgets Are Sexy & Rockstar Finance

The mistake I see many millennials making is making "getting rid of debt," as a higher priority as maximizing wealth. I'm passionate on this specific topic and I've dubbed it my unconventional approach to student loans.

The result is millennials pay down tax efficient debt in a tax inefficient manner.

Here's a quick example using loans at 5% interest: An extra $1,000 to pay off student loans means we'll save $50 on interest. If we put that same income into our 401(k) then it is pretax, so $1000 is actually ~$1,300 (25% tax rate). Adding in $40 net interest (thank you US Tax Code) and we're saving $260.

With my unconventional approach, we're saving an extra $210 on your $1,000 decision for an immediate 21% return. If our employer offers a match, then that return could even double to 42%, depending on the match.

The true benefit to this approach is not actually the numbers, but the habit being formed early on to invest. Over the long haul, investing is what will secure that financial freedom down the road.

Applied on a personal level, this strategy saved me an extra $7,000 in 2015 alone. More importantly, It removed the stress of student loan debt in my relationship & given my fiancee and myself confidence that we're ready for the next steps in life (ie. home ownership, family, taking care of our parents, etc.).
-Matt @ Distilled Dollar

Millennials are obsessed with living life to the fullest. That's something I think our generation is getting right but in the wrong way. We interpret fullness as world travels, dinners around town, and Pinterest-worthy weddings. The things that make life full don't cost money. They're, learning more about the world and its cultures, close relationships with friends, and reaching goals you set with your partner. I think this lie that fullness is found in experiences is hurting us financially.
-Jen @ Saving With Spunk

Anecdotally it seems Millennials are too shy of the stock market. The stock market (AKA investing in the U.S. entrepreneur) is our best hope to keep up with inflation and grow our money exponentially over a long period of time. The sooner you start the better off you'll be. Just because our parents might have had a bad decade close to their retirement doesn't mean we should avoid it all together. Be aggressive now and worry about avoiding risk closer to your own retirement date.
-Pt @ PT Money

Millennials tend to believe that they "deserve" some of the nicer things in life because they hold higher paying jobs. As a result, they buy more expensive things that they believe bring them happiness, like big homes, European cars and always, without fail, possess in their hands the very latest and most expensive cell phone technology. These spending habits hold millennials back and set them up for a long, long career working stressful jobs in order to pay for expensive stuff.
-Steve @ Think Save Retire

I don't think millennials are investing enough and taking advantage of all the time they have to build a solid nest egg. It's hard to start focusing on investing when you have student loan payments and other debt along with an entry-level job. I think the key is to resist lifestyle inflation and focus on establishing a strong financial foundation in order to become more financially independent. You can start small too like by contributing to your employer-sponsored 401(k) or opening a Roth IRA and contributing something even if you can't reach the maximum annual contribution limit of $5,550. It's best to start saving when you're young and have less responsibilities. It also doesn't mean you can't enjoy the present either. It's all about balance.
-Chonce @ My Debt Epiphany

Viewing credit as evil, something to stay far, far away from. Credit is a tool – depending on how it's used, it can be good or bad!
-Han @ Investment Zen

Millennials aren't investing in the stock market. I recently wrote a post on common mistakes by decade. It is a catastrophic error in my mind. I understand many millennials are still scarred from their experience with the 2008/2009 recession, but that can't be our crutch. I was impacted too, it wasn't fun. But given the long investment time horizon that millennials have before retirement, stocks provide the best long term returns.
-JW @ The Green Swan

I don't want to pick on millennials, so this is for everyone. Not caring. Or not paying attention. If you are 55, 32, or 17, if you aren't planning, intentional and moving with purpose, you are just treading water. Track your spending. Make a plan for your investing. Pay off your debt. Basically show up for your finances. And if you keep showing up, you will figure out the details as you go.
-Ms. Montana @ Montana Money Adventures

Making only minimum payments on debt and not saving much, if at all. I know that isn't one thing but both are equally bad from a financial perspective. Student loans are a huge problem and I think a lot of millennials are resigned to have that debt hang over their head for the rest of their life. It seems so big that they don't think they can do anything about it so they just make the minimum payment and forget about it. There are several options available for consolidation and forgiveness, but honestly, the best thing is to figure out to make extra payments on the principle.

With savings, it's almost the same thing. It seems difficult to sock away $1,000 for an emergency fund, let alone the hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions?) needed for retirement. Where compound interest is your enemy when dealing with student loans, it's your best friend in saving. Anything you save now will help you in the future-whether it's an emergency, you need a new car, you want to be able to quit a soul sucking job, or you want to retire eventually. The key is to start now while time is on your side.
-Jax @ Project Beach Life

What is the best thing that people can do to get started on the right foot for their future?

Figure out their *why* (i.e. the main purpose for wanting money??? What do you want out of life? Your career? Your future? It's all about the money, and it's also not at ALL about the money. It's about a better life)
-J. Money @ Budgets Are Sexy & Rockstar Finance

Pay off your student loan debt! There's just so much instability out there when it comes to life and you never know what's around the corner. Paying off your debt gives you so much more freedom to be able to do the things you want to do. It's so much easier to just pay the bills for things that you've purchased now, rather than also having to pay bills for things you purchased long ago.
-FP @ Financial Panther

Begin investing early. With your very first "real" job, participate in the company's 401k plan and AT LEAST contribute the company match. At the very least, open a brokerage account through a financial company like Vanguard and keep throwing bits of money into that account. Over the years, those contributions will add up to a sizable chunk of change.
-Steve @ Think Save Retire

Track your expenses! It's so important to know how much money you're making and how much you're spending. You need to know where your money is going before you can effectively make progress in improving your finances. For help on tracking your expenses, you can check out my post about how we use Mint for our monthly budget.
-Matt @ Spills Spot

I think the obvious answer is to eliminate debt as soon as possible. The one caveat of course is that taking on debt to buy appreciating assets (like property) can be a good idea, particularly when interest rates are as low as they are now. Once you are debt free, aggressively saving and investing is the next step.
-Karl @ Mindfully Investing

Make an unwavering commitment! The knowledge required to master personal finances is abundant, but it's the willingness to commit that's the hard part. Master that and the rest will follow. Also, track your net worth so you can see your progress. It might be disheartening, but it's crucial to face reality rather than to hide from it.
-Han @ Investment Zen

Early on, buying a starter home that can be converted to an investment property within a few years can set someone on the path to wealth.
-MMM @ Mystery Money Man

The best thing that a person can do is to be realistic with their financial situation. Too many people don't truly know how much money they spend, how much debt they have, how much they earn, and so on. By being realistic with your financial situation, you are one step closer to reaching financial freedom.
-Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents

I almost want to say budget, but I hate budgets. Instead, the best thing to get started on the right foot is to begin tracking expenses. We are all shocked once we gain that honest clarity. Once we know where our money is going, then we can begin to plug the holes in our leaky bucket and optimize our, "budget."
-Matt @ Distilled Dollar

Should paying off debt or building up savings be the first priority? Why?

The first priority is to get your financial house in order. By that I mean figure out all debts, the full amount, not just the payment amounts. Then figure out all your regular bills, and where both regular bills and debt payments fall in relation to your paychecks. Then start paying them on time in order to avoid monthly fees and overdraft fees. Only when you are making all your payments on time should you start funneling extra money into an emergency fund. If you're paying $35 for over-drafting and do that a couple times a month, THAT is an emergency! As your debt balances go down, your emergency fund contributions should start going up.
-Jax @ Project Beach Life

Ideally, both – but if I had to choose one, I would pay down debt as quickly as possible. Once all debts are paid off, true wealth building can begin. There is no such thing as a "good debt".
-Steve @ Think Save Retire

I think they should both be a priority. Despite advice from some financial guru's like Dave Ramsey, who says you should stop saving after you've built up a "mini" emergency fund of $1,000, I decided to continue saving a small amount of money in my emergency fund every month while mostly focusing on paying off debt. I think continuing to save, even in a small amount, while paying off debt helps build a good savings habit so you don't have to start from scratch on building that habit once your debt is paid off.
-Kayla @ Shoeaholic No More

I really think you need to balance both. Paying off debt is important, especially if it's high interest debt, but if you have no savings to fall back on in case on an emergency, you'll be right back at square one when you pay for that emergency on your line of credit or your credit card.
-Desirae @ Half Banked

I always go with the route that EXCITES ME the most. Especially when both paths lead to increased net worth. If I'm not excited about something there's no point in starting as I'll just give up after the first month.
-J. Money @ Budgets Are Sexy & Rockstar Finance

We prioritize credit card payments first. There's no sense to having an emergency fund if we're paying 18%+ in monthly interest.

Our second priority is investing in tax efficient accounts. Once we maximize these accounts, then and only then do we make EXTRA student loan payments.

We do this because we believe the habit of investing is critical to success. We've also seen many of our friends rush to pay off student loan debts without learning how to invest. Once they're done with the payments, they continue to put off investing and they even begin to slip into credit card debt. By building the habit early, you can continue to increase your investment prowess.
-Matt @ Distilled Dollar

It's necessary to have some savings while paying off debt but it's a means to an end rather than the priority. The numbers don't lie, the interest accruing on debt is higher than the even the best savings account so focus on what gives you the best return on your money.
-Jen @ Saving With Spunk

Both, at the same time. It will be twice as hard and that is why it's so powerful. It will stretch you and grow your income producing/ cost cutting skills twice as fast!
-Ms. Montana @ Montana Money Adventures

You should always be in the act of saving money. Even if it's a minuscule amount. The habits you form when times are tough are the habits you'll keep. There's absolutely no harm in opening up a savings account and creating a small (even like $5) automatic contribution to it. The act of doing this now will pay off down the line. Over time (and after you get rid of your high-interest consumer debt) you can worry about increasing the dollar amount going to saving.
-PT @ PT Money

Most financial advisors recommend building up an emergency fund of $1,000 before turning your attention towards paying off debt. I would agree with this advice, and it has been effective for my own situation. Having that savings helps give you peace of mind and also prevents you from going into more debt if an unexpected expenses occurs. For more tips on effectively paying off debt quickly, you can check out my post about how my wife and I have paid off over half our $27,000 of student loan debt in the last 10 months.
-Matt @ Spills Spot

My recommendation is that all depreciating debt (e.g., cars, credit cards, student loans etc) should be paid off as soon as possible. Once that is done, aggressive saving is the next step. I have seen differing opinions on this, but my personal view is that I like to see money coming in, not going out of my personal accounts. As long as you have interest to pay on deprecating debt, you are kind of fooling yourself when you look at that savings account. Is it really savings if you are simply writing a check from another account that goes to someone else? I think not..
-Karl @ Mindfully Investing

I don't believe that debt repayment and building up savings need to be mutually exclusive. It's important for everyone to establish an automated savings plan regardless of their debt level, even if it's only $25/month. It provides an important psychological benefit. If you have high interest consumer debt though, you really need to prioritize getting rid of it. Once the debt is eliminated, convert the income that was used for debt repayment directly into your savings, accelerating your savings rate! Carrying consumer debt is like trying to run a race while carrying a heavy weight over your shoulders.
-MMM @ Mystery Money Man

I think if you're a millennial, paying off debt should be the priority. When you're a 20-something, emergencies are not as big a deal as you think. My guess is that most millennials don't have kids yet or have anyone relying on them for support. And if you get fired, you'll probably be able to get a job again. Even if you couldn't get a job, you could make do with doing something like Uber or Postmates until you could get back on your feet. You probably also have parents that you could lean on if something happens. My guess is that most millennials can move back home and pay zero rent if they absolutely had too.
-FP @ Financial Panther

It depends. No two situations are the same and I don't really think that can be answered in a blanket statement.

If someone asks me how to deal with the debt they have, my go to answer in the past would have been to pay off the debt as quickly as possible and not accumulate any more debt. While I don't necessarily disagree with that advice, I've come to realize there is more to the story we need to consider.

My first question would be "How do you feel about that debt?" If your only debt is a home that you absolutely love and you are making extra payments on it to get it paid off quickly, I'd give you an internet high five and say you are on the right track. Or if your debt is a modest car loan that gets you to and from your dream job so you are able to pay your bills and work towards your personal goals, again I'd say great work! Do what you can to get your debt paid off as fast as you can, but don't feel bad about using debt in a reasonable way to go after what makes you happy.

However, if your debt brings up a lot of guilt, shame & fear because you feel like you have too much of it (since you bought things you didn't really need and later didn't end up wanting) and you're worried how you are going to pay that debt off, I'd say it's time to take a look at your behavior and begin making changes to the way you do things.

My first piece of advice would be to stop accumulating debt that you don't feel good about. Stop buying things you don't need, create a budget to direct where your money will go each month and get to work doing what you can to pay off your debt quickly. This may mean selling things, taking on extra jobs or whatever creative ideas you can come up with to get yourself to a better place as fast as possible.

While most of us don't want to carry or accumulate any debt, we also don't want to work for 30-40 years and deprive ourselves of everything. Sometimes it's necessary to go into debt in order to move to the next steps in life. Sometimes it's necessary to cut back and get rid of the debt we've accumulated for the wrong reasons. There is a fine balance between the two and your mission is to find that balance that works best for you. This definitely won't be the same for everyone!
-Jenny @ The Jenny Pincher

You need to have a small safety net in place before you start paying off your debt. I recommend $1,000 – $2,000 set aside strictly for emergencies only.

This money is not for a new couch, a vacation, or a sudden desire to get a bigger T.V. It's a safety net to protect you from 99% of financial emergencies.

Once you have this in place, then you're in a good position to pay down debt. If you skip this step, you're going to further into debt when a little financial hiccup pops up you didn't plan for.
-Chris @ The Money Peach


In all honesty, I'm not really sure how to follow up this much useful information. However, I would like to give a HUGE thanks to everyone who contributed!

This project has taught me quite a bit. Obviously, I've learned a ton from the responses and the people I've been fortunate enough to "meet." It's more than that, though. I've realized that, in the world of personal finance blogging, people are willing to help out the little guy.

I don't want to speak for other bloggers, but I'm sure that even if you don't have a blog of your own, most people from this community would be willing to do their best to share their experiences and help you through yours. You just need to ask.

Hopefully you've gained some insights from this post. I know that I have.

I'm happy to be a (newish) part of this community!

The post Financial Advice from Personal Finance Bloggers – Part 1 appeared first on Financial Fanny Pack.

RELATED: Personal finance books for everyone

Personal finance books for everyone
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Personal finance books for everyone
The Millionaire Next Door

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I Will Teach You to be Rich
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Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much
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The Simple Path to Wealth

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Rich Dad Poor Dad
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The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class 
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The Total Money Makeover

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The Richest Man in Babylon
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Money Talks: When To Say Yes And How To Say No
"This book would make for a great gift, because it’s not your run-of-the-mill, dry finance book. It focuses on real-life experiences with practical solutions to get out of sticky money situations. I devoured this book and it’s my go-to recommendation whenever a friend or family member asks me for one." -Jessica Moorhouse
The Wealthy Barber Returns
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99 Minute Millionaire
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Awaken the Giant Within
"If you're going to make any money or be successful in this world, you need to understand yourself and get clear on what you want.  There is no better book out there for accomplishing your goals." -Jiu-Jitsu Finance

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