**This post may contain affiliate links. I may be compensated if you use them.

**This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Borrowell. All opinions are my own.

Growing up I was fortunate that my parents taught me some of the basics when it came to personal finance. I was encouraged by them to open a bank account when I was young and they told me to set aside some money for retirement as soon as I earned my first paycheque (which was mind-boggling for a 16-year-old).

For some reason, I listened to all of their money advice. I’m not sure why considering I often ignored some of their other advice (like practicing my Cantonese). What’s interesting is that a lot of that advice still stands, but as times and technology have changed, I realized that there are some other money tips I wish I had picked up in my early 20s’. Here are 5 pieces of financial advice that I would give my younger self given what I know today. 

If someone offers you free money, take it!

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my younger days was not joining my company’s defined benefit pension plan as soon as I could. No one ever explained to me how valuable a DB pension was and since I was already putting aside money in my RRSP, I never really researched it.

A few years later, a co-worker explained to me that the pension was guaranteed money. After doing the math, I calculated I had probably missed out on about $70,000 dollars which I could not get back. If your company offers you a pension, RRSP matching or a company stock plan, join it and max out the benefits. Even if you don’t think you’ll be with that company for a long time, it’s almost always still worth it to join.

Shop around for credit cards

The first credit card I ever had was a student credit card from my bank. This wasn’t really an issue, but it was a basic credit card that I held onto for about a decade. Since I always paid my bills on time, it would have been better for me to get a card that earned me cash back or points. The thing is, the idea of getting a better credit card never even crossed my mind. Heck, I didn’t even know I could get a credit card from someone I didn’t bank with. 

Getting a credit card these days can be intimidating since there are so many to choose from, but Borrowell can help you compare and pick the best credit card that’s right for you based on your credit score, income, and interests. As a frequent traveller, I prefer travel credit cards but a cash back card might be the better fit for someone who wants to keep things simple. Having products recommended to you based on your interests makes things easy as you’ll only need to research a few cards instead of dozens before making your decision.

Minimize your fees

I’m ashamed to say that there was a time where I would pay $2 to withdraw $20 from an ATM because I didn’t want to walk 5 minutes to my bank’s ATM. That amount seemed minimal to me but I’ve learned over the years that fees can add up quite a bit. Think about it, there seem to be fees for everything these days. My bank charges me a monthly fee just to have an account. I have to pay to pick a seat and check my bags when I fly. And, I have to pay management fees on my investments.

Investments fees are the ones you need to pay the most attention to. Mutual funds typically have a fee of 2.50% which doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re investing for 30+ years, that could add up to tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds. Wouldn’t you rather keep that money for yourself? To bring down your fees, you could use a robo-advisor or an all-in-one ETF. Keeping your fees down can make a huge difference in your wallet and portfolio.

Monitor your credit

I had no idea what a credit score was until I started reading and writing about personal finance in my early 30’s. Fortunately, I never made any mistakes that affected my credit score in a negative way. That said, if you want to ensure that your financial health is in good standing, you should sign up for a free monthly credit report from Borrowell. It takes just a few minutes to sign up, but once you’re set-up, you’ll get an AI-powered credit coach that will give you tips on how to improve your credit score.

Even if your credit score is in good shape, monitoring your credit is a good idea. If all of a sudden, your credit score drops and there have been no major changes to your spending habits, it could be a sign that someone is attempting to compromise your identity by opening new credit products. As soon as you see a dip, you can investigate further with Equifax and TransUnion (the credit reporting agencies) to see if there’s anything suspicious going on.

Maximize your earning potential

When I graduated from college, I was lucky enough to land a decent job in an industry that was still thriving at the time. However, over the years, automation and a changing media landscape meant there were a lot of layoffs. I focused on increasing my skills within the industry which made me invaluable, but I always knew there would be an “end date” to my career in television.

I started this blog for fun, but it became a side hustle and then a full-time job. By changing my priorities, I was able to increase my earning potential while giving myself more job stability (if you want to even call it that since I’m a freelancer). There’s nothing wrong with climbing up the corporate ladder if you want a higher income, but sometimes it makes sense to switch careers or companies even if you’re taking a short time hit to your salary since it’ll pay off in the long run.


About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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