I was earning $500,000 a year at 30: Here are the 10 best pieces of advice I can give you about money

After graduating from college, my career moved quickly up the corporate ladder, including eight years on Wall Street.

I worked at JPMorgan Chase, I was a vice president at Citibank, and then a director at Lord Abbett Investments on the e-marketing and e-commerce side.

Every day a new company was going public, and I lived across the street from the New York Stock Exchange.

Every night before a business day, I would hear them setting up some crazy paraphernalia in the Street. There were giveaways on the Street because there was so much “silly” money. Anything with a dot-com got funded or went public.

For example, Pets.com was launched in 1998. In case you don’t know the story, the Pets.com people spent half of the value of their company on a Super Bowl ad and by 2000 the company was defunct.

I was earning $500,000 a year at age 30, but I felt like I wasn’t making much money because I was in an established industry without big stock options. It was conservative and I was conservative. It didn’t fulfill me. I felt like I wasn’t making a good difference in anyone’s life.

Cary Carbonaro. Photo: supplied.

So I quit that job, moved to Central Florida and started my own financial advisory business. Everyone thought I was crazy. Who walks away from an amazing job like the one I had?

I had to reinvent myself as an entrepreneur. It took me a long time to build my firm, one client at a time, from scratch. I went from $500,000 income a year to almost zero the next. It challenged me personally, professionally and emotionally.

The beautiful side of the hard work is that I have a much better sense of my purpose in the world. I love being a practicing certified financial planner because it equips me to make a difference in my clients’ lives. I get to help them make all the right moves with money. It is rewarding to watch them achieve the goals we set out together, and I even wrote a book so I could reach a wider range of the population, from the young to the seniors who might not be able to afford a certified financial planner.

Now here are some of the best pieces of advice I can give you about money.

1. Beware of FREE money

Credit cards are NOT free money. Use them as you would cash, or don’t use them at all. If you use them to stopgap your life, you will never have financial freedom.

2. Simplify budgeting

It’s simple. Know what you have coming in and going out each month. Do you know this? It doesn’t matter if you do it on a napkin or Mint or an app on your phone. This is so simple, yet so important. It is the building block of all financial planning.

3. Know your worth

Assets (what you own) minus liabilities (what you owe) equal net worth. And your net worth does NOT equal your self-worth.

Always remember that.

4. Don’t be afraid

Personal finance is not just about math, and you don’t have to be good at math to learn it. Simplify, learn the basics, and just get started. It is never too late to learn.

The first step is knowledge. You can’t fix what you don’t know. Learning financial literacy is one piece of education that will be well worth your time.

5. Know your credit score

This is important for your entire adult life, and having a good or excellent score can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

6. Teach your family about money

Financial literacy is a life lesson that should be passed down to your children. Learn it, share it, and your entire family will be better off.

7. Inflation hurts

You have to invest to outpace inflation and get growth on your money — otherwise you’re effectively losing money as time goes by. This means don’t hoard cash, and invest for the long term, which is greater than 10 years.

8. Never lie

Don’t lie about money or spending with your partner. Full financial disclosure is a key to a healthy relationship.

9. Plan for your future

Planning for your financial future is way more important than planning for vacations, parties, etc. Are you spending enough time on your financial future? This is a strategic conversation and you might need to hire a professional financial planner.

10. Just start

There are multitudes of free resources to learn the basics, and you can hire a certified financial planner when your situation gets more complex. Find a planner who suits your needs at LetsMakeAPlan.org.

Cary Carbonaro, MBA, CFP, is a managing director of United Capital of New York and New Jersey. See more about Cary and her bestselling book “The Money Queen’s Guide for Women Who Want to Build Wealth and Banish Fear” at MoneyQueenGuide.com.

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