33 One-Minute Money Lessons It Took Me A Lifetime To Learn

  1. Get a password manager. Just f#cking do it. You’ll sleep better when your shit is secure.
  2. Find a really good accountant. Don’t just go with H&R Block or the dude your parents use. This person will save you so much money you’ll laugh when they hand you their bill.
  3. Plan to pay lots of taxes. If you’re not planning to pay taxes, then you’re not planning to make money either.
  4. A crappy (or non-existent) bookkeeping system will slow your growth. Hire someone who specializes in the type of business you run, and knows how to automate processes without compromising your data.
  5. Register for a tax number. Even if you’re technically below the threshold of what you’re legally allowed to bill without charging tax. If you don’t, you’re unconsciously putting a cap on your income.
  6. Just because you’re an online business doesn’t mean you’re exempt from charging tax. Talk to an accountant and put a system in place. Build it into your pricing so it doesn’t hurt conversions on the checkout page.
  7. Find a bank manager who gets your business. If they don’t ask questions or Google you up before your first meeting, they’re not your bank.
  8. Start saving for retirement way before you think you’re ready. No one else is going to do it for you.
  9. The bank your parents used might not be your bank. So shop around before you decide to stick with the bank you chose when you were 5 years old.
  10. When someone pays you money for your product or service, say thank-you. Just because you’re giving them something in return doesn’t mean you’re exempt from expressing gratitude.
  11. When you pay someone money for their product or service, say thank-you. People provide w-a-y higher quality of service when you praise them for their fine work.
  12. Your marriage depends on you having uncomfortable money conversations with your spouse. Don’t avoid them. They have a way of bubbling up in even more uncomfortable ways.
  13. If someone is undercharging you, tell them. Otherwise, you’ll expect too much and be disappointed in them when they deliver what you paid for.
  14. Don’t bill in full before the job is done, ever. Every so often this happens to me with a contractor. It feels weird. Unless you’ve arranged and approved it with the client, it’ll be weird for them too.
  15. “Charge what you’re worth” is a bunch of B.S. Try charging what the work is worth. Perceived value is important, but ROI is a more reliable yardstick.
  16. Question everything your parents taught you about money. Regardless of their financial position.
  17. You haven’t closed the deal till the money’s in the bank.
  18. Give generously. It always comes back.
  19. Someone should’ve taught you financial literacy, but they didn’t. It’s up to you, kiddo. You can start with a trip to the library.
  20. Be the one who brings up money. When you take control of the money conversation, you take control of your financial future
    When you take control of the money conversation, you take control of your financial future.Click To Tweet
  21. If you don’t take risks you can’t grow. That includes financial risks.
  22. Women earn less because they ask for less. It’ll stop when we stop.
  23. Being debt-free isn’t always the most financially responsible move. Avoiding debt can also keep you broke.
  24. Whenever possible, pay your credit card in full. Then forgive yourself when it’s not possible.
  25. Check your credit score regularly. It’s free. Financial literacy starts with facing your own money stuff, however uncomfortable it may be.
  26. Unless you’ve negotiated a preferred rate, never exchange currency at the bank. Don’t even get me started on Paypal. This can cost you thousands in a single year, and much more over time.
  27. Taking time off will make you money, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
  28. Asking others what they charge isn’t a good way to determine what you should charge. Pricing is tricky, and you don’t figure it out just once. You have to keep figuring it out at every stage of business.
  29. Everyone has money blocks—even the super-wealthy. They’re nothing to be ashamed of. They’re part of the architecture of our daily lives.
  30. When you resist spending money, you’re also resisting earning money. If you don’t invest in the tools and people you need to grow your business, you’ll work much harder and earn much less.
  31. Pick up the check. Your mom deserves a break once in awhile.
  32. At some point you will intentionally try to sabotage yourself. That’s normal. It means you’ve hit your personal glass ceiling. Time to build a new one. Call your coach.
  33. Celebrate! You’re doing great.

YOUR TURN! Leave a message in the comments.

What do you wish your 20-year-old self knew about money? What’s been your biggest lesson this year?

  • Brittany Lynn

    Love this!! I’d add… Pay yourself FIRST, don’t just take the leftovers.

    • Tarzan Kay

      OMG, yessss! Great one, Brittany.

    • James F. Barger

      ^^^ huge ^^^

    • @disqus_QxeGTZ9jjH:disqus It’s a lesson I have to keep teaching myself every day.

  • My 20-year-old self thought money was a construct of the patriarchy and that I could just barter and make crafts to get by. Then I had a baby and started a business and slowly everything changed.

    Thanks for your Barbara Stanny recommendation, I devoured the 6-Figure Woman. Best listicle I’ve read in awhile, Tarzan.

    PS. I STILL can’t imagine being adult enough to buy a house…I’m gonna go tap that shit out.

    • Tarzan Kay

      Stanny is the boss!

      Buying a house feels sooo adult, it’s crazy. My 2-years-ago self nearly fainted!

  • Wow, what an awesome way to start the morning! Thanks Tarzan.

    Especially loves 27 and 31- it makes me sooooooo deliriously happy I can pick up those checks! Really need to get better at the whole taking time off to recharge thing though.

    • Tarzan Kay

      You and every other entrepreneur I know! I’m working on mixing business and pleasure. I have a trip to San Diego coming up next month, and I’m bringing my fam jam with me. We’ll see how it goes…

    • @sofidagnon:disqus Nothing better than treating your ma!

  • Jennifer

    Beautiful! Thank you for being so real with us, Tarzan!

    Oh – and congrats on your new home!

    • Thank-you for being a witness, Jennifer

  • If we could all be as smart as this, we would do well. Funny, I’m listening to “Running Down a Dream” by Tom Petty as writing this. It takes a dream and whole lot of wisdom like the list here Tarzan. Thanks for sharing!

  • James F. Barger

    My favorites were #23 and #24. As someone who’s carried a balance on my CCs for over 2 years, it’s hard to find the line between being intelligent and being aggressive when financing your business.

    Something I’d add to this list… Focus on building assets, not paychecks. Every hour you put into an asset comes back to you multiple times over its life. Every hour you put into a paycheck only comes back to you once.

    I call it “compounding your work” because it’s very similar to compound interest. Take advantage of the miracle of compounding as soon as you can as often as you can.

    Thanks a lot for the great start to my morning!

    • OMG, totally James! That’s the biggest challenge of being a service-based business—finding time to work on assets like courses and products, instead of doing ALL the client work!

  • Susan

    I wish I had learned how to budget, and about credit and investing – I get that the quadratic equation is important to someone, somewhere, but in everyday life? Not so much. Great post. Thank you. I’m stoked to take my mom out to dinner soon 🙂

    • Seriously! Why don’t they teach this in high school? Or better yet, primary school!

  • Rashi Mehra

    love it Tarzan, thanks for posting this!!! Especially the part about not spending (#30). I am pretty restrictive about spending on myself. When I do decided to invest, it’s always with a conscious reminder that more money will be coming my way. Funny how I have to remind myself of that though! Of course, more money will be coming!

    • Pashana once told me “clothes are the best investment you can make in your business.” #lovemymom

  • Rashi Mehra

    Oh, and happy belated Bday! 😀

  • Charmaine Grace

    Wow Tarzan – wonderful lessons. Thank you for sharing

  • Heather Hannigan

    When I was 20… I wish I knew about paying off your credit card each month!

  • Thanks Tarzan! Not sure what you mean by #14: Don’t bill in full before the job is done, ever. I’m a VA and I keep hearing that I need to work on retainer or sell packages in order to create a steady income. That would mean billing up front. Are you recommending 50/50 or some other arrangement?

    • Retainer for sure! That’d be a different situation. If you’ve already agreed on this arrangement with the client, then go for it. When I sell my time (like a day, or a half-day) I always bill upfront and discuss that with the client first. For projects, I do 60 up front and 40 at the end.

  • Bill Laurienti

    Side question– is it a coincidence that your art looks like Daytrotter?

    • @billlaurienti:disqus I don’t know what Daytrotter is, but I’ll have to ask my illustrator Sable Awesome.

  • yeah, young 🙂 to me anyway.

  • Mary O’Brien

    Congrats, Tarzan! Many happy returns!

    I wish 20-year-old Mary would have (1) started saving for retirement when I worked at a company that would match it & (2) shopped around for the right accountant for me. Rather than telling me to save more for taxes after I started my biz, my family accountant told me to have kids for a write off. She was definitely good at saving my fam money, but her approach was too much Malfoy, not enough Dumbledore for it to work for me.

  • Lisa Mullis

    Congratulations on the house stuff! This is a great list. Question about #26, do you mean don’t manage foreign currency exchanges through PayPal (or similar) or don’t use PayPal for credit card processing? What would you recommend?

  • Pia

    awesome tips, especially, finding a good accountant is one of 2018 goals. First, I need to sort out a few things, but then… 2018 will be my year, for me and my money 😀 Thank you for airing this with us.