As a young person, you exhibit the single most desirable component of the investing universe: time.
Time is the magic ingredient when it comes to making your money grow. If you haven't yet hit the big 3-0, the financial world is your oyster. A little sacrifice now can reap you big rewards down the road.
Make the most of your time and money during this phase of your life with these three strategies. Your future self will be happy you did.
1. Live within your means
Young people face a lot of competing demands for their dollars. Buying a car, getting married, and securing a house are just a few. But don't let the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality tempt you. Sure, the Audi coupe, $30,000 wedding, and 4-bed/3-bath townhouse look amazing, but they're the biggest obstacles on the road from here to destination financial-peace-of-mind. Getting your spending under control now will let you be in control of your financial future.
2. Pay down debt
Every dollar that's tied up in paying down debt is one less that you can use to save for retirement. By devising a plan for reducing your debts, you can pay them off faster, allowing you to allocate more money toward retirement savings. Simply put, by paying down loans earlier you maximize future savings.
This could not be truer than for credit card liabilities. As soon as humanly possible, transfer balances from high-interest cards to those with lower rates. Ideally, find a card with a 0% introductory APR, and pay the balance off in full before the zero-percent interest clock stops.
3. Fund retirement accounts
Laying down a solid foundation for retirement right now is critically important. With compound interest accumulating over many decades until you retire, you don't have to save nearly as much money by starting now versus if you don't start saving for another five, 10, or 15 years. Not only do you have time on your side, but also the advantage of tax-deferred (heck, even tax-free) growth that comes with retirement accounts.
Sock away as much as you can into your retirement plan at work and at least enough to get the maximum match your employer offers. If you can squeeze out even more money from your budget, contribute to a Roth IRA as long as you qualify for doing so.
Make sure the money you're saving for retirement won't be touched until then. Yes, you can get money out of a 401(k) or IRA before you retire if you absolutely must, but there's generally a penalty -- and taxes, too -- for doing so.
To the victor go the spoils
Retirement might seem very far down the road. And, lucky for you, it is. By adopting sensible money habits, conquering your debts, and saving for retirement early in life, you'll reap the reward of a secure retirement later.
Fool contributor Nicole Seghetti welcomes you to follow her on Twitter @NicoleSeghetti. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.