Well, I’m 37 now and 25 seems like a lifetime ago. Twelve years ago, I started a job as a PR girl in my dream company. It paid me peanuts, worked me to the bone, but I climbed the ranks to become a magazine editor and left a decade later ready to dream new dreams and make them come true.
I can’t say I regret the path that led me to where I am now, but when I look back at that ambitious and insecure 25-year-old me, I want to sit her down and tell her a few things about success and money. First of all, I’d tell her that she should work for experience and not for a bigger paycheck. Chasing after a higher salary just makes the climb bitter and difficult because not only did I have the wrong prize in sight, I also failed to enjoy the journey.
Here are four more things I’d tell myself:
Don’t pretend to be what you’re not. Perhaps because I worked in the glamorous magazine industry and I was young and eager to fit in, I wanted to be like the It Girls. I shopped for too many shoes, too trendy clothes, and too many bags. In truth, I am the girl who loved nothing more than to focus her myopic eyes on books all weekend long. For a while, I didn’t want to be that nerdy girl because I believed the girl who became a success was the one who had fab hair, dressed well, and wore the gorgeous heels.
Funnily enough, on the day I was called to the big boss’s office for a little chat, I was wearing a tank top, ratty jeans and flip flops. My boss wanted to pick my brain on my dream editorial lineup for a celebrity magazine and how I plan to push a Hollywood title on a population obsessed with local celebs. I got so excited that I forgot I wasn’t wearing makeup! The boss must’ve noticed my excitement because the next day, my dream job as a magazine editor was offered to me. In the end, what mattered was my brain, not my looks!
Everything I needed to advance in life and in my career, I already had. I didn’t need all those clothes, shoes, and bags! So I feel that I wasted so much of my hard-earned money on a wardrobe that didn’t even reflect who I really was!
Spend on the real stuff. It’s okay to blow your paycheck once in a while if it will mean a better you or if it will create more experiences. My biggest splurge in my 20s was rent. I got my own place when I was 24, and I learned so much about taking care of myself, budgeting, and street smarts—things that I would never have learned if I had stayed at my parents’ house. Looking back, I’d have also told my 25-year-old self to take those online journalism courses from a British university so that I can offer writing workshops from my home. I had more time then. Now that I’m a mom of little kids, I have no time for anything else!
So invest on things that pay you back. Instead of buying lots of bags, choose just one classic bag in a really good material that you can use forever (and, nope, it doesn’t need to be a designer bag). Take a crafts class or a cooking class, and start a sideline business. Buy that nice laptop if you want to start a freelance career. Get a really good haircut, the kind that grows out nicely so you won’t have to visit the salon too often.
Saving up isn’t difficult at all. I was 26 years old when I bought my first life insurance policy from Sun Life. I was really young so the proposed plan was so cheap that I told the agent to add all the bells and whistles to my plan. Even then, the whole package still cost me a mere P1,000 a month. As my salary grew, I spent more on trivial things than on my future.
When we became parents in our mid-30s, my husband and I decided to get more insurance policies and invest in retirement plans. This time, our premiums weren’t so cheap. Looking back, I’d have told my 25-year-old self to add a policy to my portfolio every year and to start investing. As I approach my 40s, I’m happy to say that we’re putting away good money for our future, but I still keep thinking what if we had started earlier?
Make memories—that’s what money is for. I was so intent on advancing my career that I forgot that there was such a thing called life. For the first 10 years of my publishing career, I didn’t go on vacation leaves. I was afraid that if I stepped away from the office, I would miss an opportunity. Friends and co-workers planned trips to the beach, dinners at newly opened restaurants, ladies’ lunches, salon dates. I was single and in my 20s but instead of enjoying my youth and my money on myself, I shunned friendships and experiences just to spend more hours at the office. I was fixing HR problems on my wedding day, attending a conference on my honeymoon, reported to work as soon as my mother was buried, and was dictating memos and correspondence while I was in labor with my first child.
All that for nothing really. While I did become successful in my field, I don’t have a lot of friends or fun memories of the decade past. Looking back, I’d have told my 25-year-old self, “Congratulations for not getting wasted but loosen up a bit sometimes. Make friends. See the world. Live a little!”
Image used under Creative Commons from Leather Fashion