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(Jaimie D. Travis/Jaimie D. Travis)
(Jaimie D. Travis/Jaimie D. Travis)

Smart Cookies

Financial advice I wish I'd known earlier Add to ...

If I was having coffee with my 15-year-old self, I'd say: Angie, put a percentage of every paycheque away. You won't even miss it and you'll still have plenty to spend at the mall. Oh, and lose the bangs. And if I was having cocktails with my 25-year-old self, I'd say: Angie, put a percentage of every paycheque away. You won't even miss it and you'll still have plenty to spend on the things you love. Oh, and why have you still not learned this lesson!

If you were having a conversation with your 25-year-old self, what would you say about money? What would you do differently? If you're like the majority of people, you'd put away more, pay off your debts and save for retirement, according to a recent TD Gen X/Gen Y poll. The poll, which compared the investment attitudes of these two age groups (Gen X, 31-45, and Gen Y, 18-30), found these to be the top financial decisions Canadians would make differently if they were 25 again. Both age groups agreed on the three best financial tips: avoid debt by waiting until you can pay for purchases with cash, start investing early, and put aside at least 10 per cent of your earnings each month.

Twenty-six per cent of those surveyed say the best financial advice they received was from a financial adviser, with Gen-X twice as likely as Gen Y to say so. It makes sense; most of the people I know under 30 aren't using an adviser. They don't think they have enough money, complications or questions to benefit from an adviser.

But could younger generations benefit from professional advice? I'd say yes, but just how much will depend on each situation. Just to avoid being lumped in with those who have financial regrets in 10 or 15 years is worth the ask. If you don't have an expert in your corner, then click here to find a certified financial planning professional in your area. You might also find the top 10 list of questions to ask a potential planner helpful in your search.

After advisers, those surveyed said "dad," then "mom," were next in line for best sources of financial advice. Do you think your kids or the younger generations in your life will one day agree?

I am making sure that my 16-year-old brother, Alex, won't be making the same mistakes I made when I was younger, like not saving enough, or at all, and not getting paid what you're worth. But I'm also making sure he learns some of the things I've done right along the way.

I've tried to plant the entrepreneurial seed in him since he was little by telling him I'd pay him good money if he came to me with a problem that needed solving. He then began solving problems all through the neighbourhood and started a business shovelling driveways, raking leaves and running errands (with my help, of course). I knew he was getting it when we were at the movies a few years ago and his friend said, "Wouldn't it be cool to work at the movies? You'd get all the free popcorn you wanted," and Alex replied, "It'd be cooler to own the movie theatre. You'd get all the popcorn and the profits."

Yes. He's thinking big picture. I wish I started doing that a lot earlier.

I'm sure we all have an armful of financial regret. Instead of dwelling on our mistakes, we should turn them into advice for the younger ones in our lives. And after we do that, we should turn around and ask someone 5, 10 or 20 years older for some of their best advice - so we don't end up in a survey 25 years from now talking about what we should have, could have, and would have done if we knew better.

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