What Would You Tell Your 20-year-old Self About Money?

Updated: Apr 5

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What Would You Tell Your 20-year-old Self?

Financial Lessons from Childhood

Five Money Fears from Childhood

CEO of your Own Life

Financial Independence Sooner

Money Habits We Should Break

Money Habits We Should Keep

How Do We Know When We Are Ahead

Debt Reduction Strategies

During the past two years, there's been a lot of talk about how young people are getting interested in investing at a younger age than earlier generations. I have to say, I'm really excited about this.

Yes, there will be downturns in the markets during their lifetime. And yes, they will learn some hard lessons. But think of how much farther ahead they'll be when they reach middle age. Think of the independence they'll have to choose their career path and even family planning choices.

Earlier this season, I shared with you a few life stories of my clients. These are women who have gracefully navigated life and used their wealth as tools for living a beautiful life. In all of their cases, their life lessons were a journey. And in all cases, they have built confidence by going through that journey.

But I'll bet there are some things they wish they had told their younger selves. And if they had shared this wisdom with the younger selves, maybe they would have gotten farther ahead in their goals. Or maybe they just would have done things differently.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self about money?

Here to talk about that subject is Lisa Hannam. Lisa is the Executive Editor of MoneySense Magazine. I'm sure you've heard of this magazine, it started publication in 1999. I always saw it in the grocery store check stand. Like many magazines, it moved to a digital-only format recently.

Lisa has been a leading force in the success of the financial magazine with her effective financial advice and her quick ability to pick up on stories that provide real value to Canadians.

According to a study by FP Canada, 48% of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 are planning to save more money in 2022.

Managing money as a young person with a growing list of responsibilities can be a challenge. Between living expenses, student loan debt, saving for the future, and fear of missing out, young people often feel these pressures to keep up financially.

Lisa is one of those individuals who was ahead of the game. She was an active saver in her 20s. But even she would have done a few things differently. Come and listen in as Lisa and I talk about What I Wish I had told my 20-year-old Self About Money.


So, what would you tell your 20-year-old self about money?


I think what I would tell my 20-year-old self would be you are right to save. I remember being so young and putting away money every paycheque and my friends being like, "What are you doing? Why are you doing that? Calm down." But I think I was just more or less opening up an idea to them that they should be doing something too. So, I would definitely tell her, "You're doing okay. Don't worry about it."


Yeah, it's tough keeping up with the Joneses. When you're young, you want to be considered, you want to be part of everything, you want to be included. You want to feel like you're not an outsider.

What do you think about that? Is there a lot of pressure to keep up with the Joneses when we're younger?


I think keeping up the Joneses is very expensive. And I think it also changes how you value what you spend money on or what you're saving for because it's no longer about you. It's about a group of people - whether that's real people in your friend group or just what the average person is doing or what you will see on TV - I guess nowadays, it would be on social media.

But yeah, it's very expensive, and it's not something I care about.


Kudos to you for recognizing that at such an age, because it is tough.


It is. Yeah. We had friends who were buying houses and we were still renting. And I remember thinking they were like, "Why aren't you buying a house yet?" And I was like, "I don't want to take care of a house."

But now, I'm good. I have a house. I got it when I was ready.


There must have been a point where they began to look towards you and say, "Oh, Lisa's doing it right." Do you remember what that point was?


Yes. I would blindly put away money into my RRSPs.

When I had my first job as a journalist, I went to my bank, and I said, "Set me up with some RRSPs." We put $75 every paycheque away. I can't even remember how old I was, but I remember opening up my bank account, looking in, and being like, "Whoa, that's over a year's salary."


Wow, you've arrived!


I don't know if I arrived. But I was definitely like, "That's more money than anyone would pay me and I'm just paying myself now."


And then that's when your friends started paying attention to what you were doing. Wow!


Yeah, I had one friend say to me, that the only reason she even started saving is that she was so impressed with how much I'd saved.


That's awesome. Then you're a role model.

Do you remember what gave you the idea? You said that you started to save a bit with each paycheque? What gave you the idea to even start that?


I was on the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), and I looked up, and there was an ad.

It said: "Do you have retirement savings?"

And then I thought, "No!".

I had a job that didn't have a pension, and to be honest, I didn't even know how to get a job with a pension. So, I just thought, "I guess I should get an RRSP."

I went to my bank, and I made an appointment, and I said, "Set me up with an RRSP." We took out my contributions on a bi-weekly basis - $75. I've boosted that as I moved forward in my career and made it a little bit more money. The only thing I said to him was, "Just make sure there's some gold in there."


That's great. And did you end up putting gold into it?


He said that I couldn't directly invest in gold, but that it would be a part of it.


You were thinking you'd walk out of there with a couple of gold bars in your pocket? 🤣

Financial Lessons from Childhood

What types of things do we learn as children and young adults that shaped these attitudes that we have with money?


My first Money Memory, if we can call it that ... I remember being at the BiWay Store and wanting a chocolate bar. I asked my mom and I remember thinking, "is this a day where she's going to let me have it? Or is this day that she's not going to let me, have it?"

She would either tell me "Money doesn't grow on trees, Lisa," or "Today's a treat and you can have this chocolate bar." For me, it created the idea in my head of spending money as a treat.


I always like to use the term mindful spending plan as opposed to budget. That's kind of what your mother was teaching you. She was showing you, "Okay, you want this chocolate bar but you also want to go to soccer camp," for example. "And soccer camp costs 200 of these chocolate bars. So, which do you want?"

Do you think that we could help families have these discussions better?


Yeah, I think anytime you show a child a perspective of how money works, within whatever environment they're in, I think that's helpful.

That is the lesson that you were just talking about - understanding the value of money and what you spend it on. Not all things are equal, right?

Now, making that decision between a chocolate bar and a soccer camp? I don't know how many kids would say they would rather have a single chocolate bar. Unless they were scheming – and thinking, "you're going to take me to soccer camp anyway."


Hopefully, it empowers them to feel "okay, I have some control in my life over money" and to help them make those comparisons because it's such a tough concept. You can't relate to it. But if you can make it concrete – by saying, this is a chocolate bar in front of you, and 200 of those are worth a soccer camp, maybe it can help families start to teach their children that money is a concrete thing.

Five Money Fears from Childhood and How to Overcome Them


For sure. We did a story recently, journalist Karen Robach wrote it, and it was it's called "Five Money Fears from Childhood and How to Overcome Them." She outlined the five popular fears that we bring from childhood into adulthood:

1. Being unemployed

2. Not having enough money

3. Being a burden on friends and family

4. Being stuck in debt

5. Just talking about money.

They're cycles - because I don't know that a child worries about being unemployed for themselves. But that fear, they can carry up with them.


That can create a scarcity for their entire life. Are there ways to break these cycles and ourselves?


I think recognizing that money is like any habit we have, like overindulgence, and having a balanced approach to it. But, when it comes to breaking cycles within yourself, it's about creating goals. And to change any habits, it is about building step-by-step strategies for achieving those goals.

Back to the article and how to break those cycles - Karen did a great job of talking about it.

When it came to the fear of being unemployed, setting yourself up with an emergency fund is important. That takes away that fear. Even with myself, just knowing that I had a year's salary, made me feel a bit more confident in working in the journalism field when so many media companies were shutting down or laying people off.

Another fear was not having enough money. A solution is creating long-term savings goals.

And, being a burden on friends and family, the solution is getting a financial planner, really looking at those times when you could be vulnerable, and setting yourself up for success for those times.

Being stuck in debt - it's about having strategies for paying off debt.

And then when it comes to talking about money … the tip I took from that article, was not worrying about the numbers. When we talk about money, let's talk more in generalities. Let's not get too caught up in like the ego of things. For example, if you had a friend who just got a new job, ask them how they negotiated a better salary. You don't have to ask them, "How much do you make now?"


Great. You can talk about the concept of how does the mechanics of negotiation work? Right?


Exactly. Money is in every facet of our lives. There are ways to talk about it, without ever being offended or being too pushy. It is something that we can all relate to each other on.

CEO of Your Own Life


I like the concept that you were explaining that you knew from an early on that you didn't want your employer to be in charge of your financial freedom. So, you created an emergency savings plan.

You knew from early on that you were You Incorporated, Lisa Incorporated. You were going to be spending your life running your own company. That's what it's like when you are in charge of your own money. And we're all in charge of our money. This idea that you knew early on that you were the CEO of your own life and the CFO, I applaud you for that.


Oh, thank you. I love journalism, and I'm altruistic about the whole endeavour. I didn't want to give up the field. I just really wanted to not go into work and worry that if I leave this job, my identity goes along with it.

If someone was to lay me off, or a company would shutter, how would that affect me emotionally? A lot of it is tied to money. The way for me to control how that would affect me emotionally was to be able to have a year or two of salary saved.

There was a point in my career when I wanted to go freelance. Anyone who's ever gone freelance will tell you that it takes a long time for people to pay. So it was important to have that a little bit of leeway, of having enough money for me to pay the bills that I knew I needed to pay, and not give up my lifestyle - If a friend asked me to meet up for dinner or go for drinks or like check out a new gym or something that - I could still do those things.


That's so smart. That kind of reminds me of the whole conversation around financial independence, how it's not necessarily tied to age anymore.

Financial Independence Sooner

Are you seeing a lot of that in your professional and personal life? A lot of people who are financially independent at an earlier age?


Yeah, for sure. We did recently do a story on Quitting your Job during COVID. Can you think of another time in your life when we would have written about quitting during an unstable economy and just going off to do whatever it is that you wanted?


It's an amazing time we live in for sure.


Yeah, for sure. So, people, are living purpose-driven lives, and focusing on what they want out of their life and how their job fits within that. It's quite competitive for employers right now.

Money Habits We Should Break


Yes, we're much more in charge of our own lives and they're taking notice for sure.

What, money habits from our 20s should we break?


I think when you're in your 20s, you go from living at home, having the fridge magically having groceries, and borrowing your parent's car. Then you go out on your own and have to buy those things, have to pay rent, pay off student debt, have your first credit card, all those things.

It's almost like we go from no debt to a ton of debt. And the way we all rationalize that is to break it down into good debt and bad debt.

I think the concept of good debt and bad debt is a disordered way of thinking. Because you're going to owe the money either way. So why create an emotional trigger to it?

Just recognize what needs to be paid down and how to pay it down. Paying attention to those things like interest rates because they give you an annual interest rate, but bills don't come annually, so you are paying that monthly interest.

Another thing I think that we should break is not looking at the long-term impact of financial decisions. When you're in your 20s, it's so easy to think of " Oh, I'll be fine. The life I'm living right now, won't be the same years from now. The impact of it now won't be the same." But as you grow older, you realize everything has a butterfly effect.


And we can't buy time anymore. We can't buy any more time.


We're hoping that's in the metaverse, but I don't think so.

Money Habits We Should Keep


What money habits from our 20s should we keep then?



As I said to you, the little bit of savings that I did have, blindly putting money away and not even recognizing that was coming into my account - and then just one day being like, "Whoa, I can't believe I saved that." That's something that, the earlier the better that you can start – the better off you will be.

So definitely, keep saving. And why not start later in life too, right?


You're right, that the earlier we start, the less we have to put away. It feels like, when we're just starting, we can't make a difference. You think, just wait another 10 years. But no, that small amount can grow and grow over time because time is on your side when you're younger.


Here's another money habit that I think we should keep. We just recently did an interview - Jacqueline Law, our Managing Editor, interviewed Andrew Hallam, author of The Millionaire Teacher, and the takeaway from his interview, for me, was to invest in experiences.

I feel like when you are 20, that's the number one priority when it comes to money - investing in experiences. Take that amazing trip with your best friends and learn to do the new skill.

We can kind of push those things out of the way as we get older, because of other priorities. But we should keep that habit of investing in experiences. And when he said that it just rang so true to me.


I love it. I had a client who said,

I like to spend my money on health, knowledge, and memories.


That's perfect.


And you're right, today's generation, who's just now getting their start in the professional world and earning their own money, they have a whole different view. They're not going out and buying the wedding china and the crystal or the stuff. They're learning that it's more about the memories, and it's a wiser way to spend our money.

How Do we Know When We are Ahead

And so, at what age, should we feel like we're ahead? I mean, do we ever feel ahead?


I was talking about this with a colleague of mine, and she's in her 30s. She was like saying how she was jealous because being my age, I probably feel ahead. And I was like, "I do?"

No, I don't think you ever feel ahead.

She was a little gutted by what I said. But the reason I think that, is because our lives change and our needs for money change. It's hard to be fully prepared for those situations unless you're in those situations or near them. Do you know what I mean?

For example, I'm not thinking about withdrawing from my RRSP yet, so it's not really in my mindset to learn about that. I am, obviously, because I work for MoneySense. But generally speaking, I don't know that that would be on my mind or be something I would look up to until I'm closer to that age.

To feel ahead would mean that you know it all. And I don't think that any of us ever feel comfortable fully with money at any point in our lives.


I think you're right. I think we carry the experiences we've had earlier. And every day that we're above the sod, is a new lesson, a new education. I have retirees' clients and some of them realize, "wait, this isn't what I thought retirement was going to be." And now they're learning how to retire.

Yes, I think you're right. We never really feel ahead.


I also think, if you were to plop yourself out now to whatever age, the rules have changed anyway. So, anything you did learn, it's not of any use to anyone other than you.


You are right. Even the gender roles have changed. If you have a partnership that's male and female, then the experience that they have now, compared to in the 60s is different. Women couldn't even get a credit card without a sign-off from their husbands.


Blows my mind.


Do you have any funny spending or money habits from your youth?


I have this funny one. I remember being in Jacob, do you remember that retail store? I was looking at a sweater. And it was really cute. It was grey, it had beading on it. I pulled it off the top hanger and I looked at the price tag. I quickly did the math of how many hours I would have to work at my fast-food restaurant job and that it was going to be a week and a half work for this sweater. And I was like, "I don't think this sweater is worth all that grease." Literally.


Exactly. This is how many burgers flip for this one little sleeve? Yeah.

Do you think that financial literacy ever stops? That we ever stopped learning?


No. If it stops, it means that you're done learning. And at what point, can you imagine being done learning about money?


I hope we stay curious.


It's a part of every aspect of our lives. It's so complex, and yet so easy at the same time. So, we should be curious.


Thanks so much for being with us on the Women's Wealth Canada podcast today, Lisa!


Debt Reduction

After the microphones were turned off, Lisa and I talked about paying off debt.

When we're in our 20s we go from having no debt to having our first credit cards, student loan debt, and even our first mortgage. It can be overwhelming. If you're feeling overwhelmed with debt, you can attack it in a few ways.

You can use the Snowball Method, or you can use the Avalanche Method.

Debt Snowball

First, create a list of all the people or companies you owe like Visa cards, student loans, and your Uncle Jim. Next to the name, write down how much money you owe them. Then, sort that lists in order from the smallest amount of money you owe to the largest amount of money you owe.

Next, add up all the minimum payments you must pay and decide how much extra (over and above the minimum) you can put towards paying off your debt. Let's say you want to pay $100 more each month towards paying off your debt.

You start by putting that extra $100 towards paying the smallest debt amount first. That's right the smallest amount, not the largest. As you pay off each debt, you take the additional money plus the minimum payment amount you were making and apply this to the next smallest debt.

You're creating a snowball, balling up the smallest balances you owe and paying them off completely, then starting to put that extra money towards paying off the larger balances until your debt snowball is completely paid off.

The advantage to this method is you can get past that feeling of being overwhelmed because you owe so many people money. You may find you even get rid of an entire debt every month for the first few months.

Avalanche Method

In the Avalanche method, you pay off your debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest interest rate regardless of how much you owe to each company. So, if your credit card charges you 20% annually in interest and your student loan charges you 10% annually, you would take that $100 extra each month we talked about earlier and use it to pay extra to the credit card that charges 20% Even if you owe more money on the student loan.

Which is Best?

Now which method is best - the Snowball or the Avalanche? From a purely mathematical perspective, you will pay less money in interest and likely pay off the entire debt faster using the Avalanche method.

However, the difference is negligible. I think it's better just to pick a method that appeals to you, the one you'll stick with, and just do it.

The most important thing is once you pay off credit card debt, never, ever spend more on a credit card than you can pay off every month.

Credit cards charge 19.99% right now in Canada. I've seen the money that people have saved for their entire lives whittled down to nothing in a few short years because they had to spend so much of it just paying back interest on credit cards.


My guest, Lisa Hannam, and I both have a mission to help young people understand their finances and motivate them to stay on their savings journey. I hope you'll share this podcast episode with some of the young people you know. And let them know that they can check out MoneySense magazine at moneysense.ca for great tips on how to manage their finances. They can visit as often as they wish. It's free.

Are you going through a life transition and need to find a financial advisor to manage your investments? You don't have to feel intimidated wondering how to find the right one. Grab my free guide 12 Smart Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Financial Advisor. This GUIDE gives you all the questions and WHY you should ask them. Just to go to glorygray.com, pop in your email address and we'll send it right to your inbox.

Until next time, this is Glory Gray, your trainer for financial fitness, telling you to take charge of your finances plan for the future. But most of all, enjoy today and bye for now.

Show Resources

Our Guest

Lisa Hannam, Executive Editor of MoneySense has been a leading force in the success of the financial magazine with her effective financial advice and her quick ability to pick up on stories that provide real value to Canadians.


Five money fears from childhood—and how to overcome them

Finding Balance: Q&A with author Andrew Hallam Thinking of taking a break from work after COVID? Here’s what to know

Debt Reduction Techniques

This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. It is not an offer to sell or buy or an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any entity or security cited. Mutual funds offered through Portfolio Strategies Corporation. Other products and services provided through Glory Gray Wealth Solutions.

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GET THE GUIDE: "12 Smart Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Financial Advisor" Schedule a free financial consultation with Glory Gray by emailing us at: hello@womenswealth.ca

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