First things first: I hope everyone read the title of this post and immediately heard Cher's voice singing it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, here you go. Enjoy having that stuck in your head all day.
Okay, now that we know what Cher would do if she could go back in time, let's talk about other kinds of regrets. Money regrets.
Most people have them, and if you don't, well, none of us who do have them want to talk to you. Kidding. Mostly. We're just envious, because financial regrets can be pretty painful. For instance, check out what former Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, now in his 60s, wishes he could tell his 30-year-old self:
“Become financially literate…I chose my financial manager, who I later discovered had no financial training, because a number of other athletes I knew were using him. That's typical athlete mentality in that we're used to trusting each other as a team, so we extend that trust to those associated with teammates. Consequently, I neglected to investigate his background or what qualified him to be a financial manager. He placed us in some real estate investments that went belly up and I came close to losing some serious coin. Hey, Kareem at 30: learn about finances and stay on top of where your money is at all times.”
That mistake put Abdul-Jabbar $9 million in debt. (Luckily, he did become financially literate, and that, plus his pro basketball player income, helped get him back on track.)
But this got me thinking about what money advice I might give my younger self. If I could go back in time, let's say 10 years, what would I tell myself? Here's what I'd say to the “me” of November 2003:
Cut up your credit cards. Listen, you. This business of paying off big chunks of debt only to charge it up “just a little”? It's dumb. Do the math. No really, take out a calculator and figure out what this is really costing you. Now cut up the cards. Now pay off the debt.
New clothes don't make you a new person. I know things haven't been great this year, but spending $200 on new clothes you don't need will not magically transform your life. The rush never lasts as long as the debt. And most of that stuff will get donated to Goodwill, some of it unworn. (Except those J. Crew boots. You know the ones. We're going to wear those babies well past 2013.)
You don't need to buy expensive presents. You won't realize this until 2012 or so, but true friends don't want anything more than your friendship. You don't need to buy them fancy birthday cakes or, and this comes a few years later, expensive wedding and baby shower gifts. This might surprise you, but in 10 years, you'll only be Facebook friends with those people. You don't know what Facebook is because it hasn't been invented yet, but here's another tip: Don't bother with it.
Take all of that money you're going to save by shopping less and paying off debt, and start saving it. You want to go to Italy, but I know there's a part of you that thinks it might not ever happen. It will happen. You will love it. You will wish you went sooner. You'll also quit your job and work for yourself. You'll do a lot of stuff that will feel less scary with more money in the bank.
Read Your Money or Your Life.
Participate in more stuff. Honestly, you won't be great about this even 10 years from now. But join some clubs or volunteer. Start building a network and open yourself up to more opportunities.
Forget your college boyfriend. Yeah, you two just broke up. It's a bad time. But aside from the fact that he was a jerk and your friends hated him, do you remember spring break when he literally gambled away all of his vacation money and had to call his dad for a wire transfer? Or when he took money he owed his ex and spent it on himself instead? Or when he repeatedly got fired from jobs, supposedly because his boss couldn't see the brilliance of his awesome ideas? Yeeeeeah. Your husband is gonna be nothing like that guy.
Truly, I don't kick myself too much over what I “should have” done. You live and you learn, right? But this was fun to think about, so now I'll let you play. If you could go back 10 years, what money advice would you give your younger self? What missteps would you warn yourself about? How might it have changed your present situation?
Author: April Dykman
As a freelance writer, editor, and blogger, April Dykman specialized in personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship topics. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes, MoneyBuilder, Yahoo! Finance, Lifehacker, and The Consumerist. Now she does direct response copywriting but, in her free time, April is a wannabe chef, a diehard Italophile, and a recovering yogi.