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6 Successful CEOs Share Money Advice They Would Give Their 20-Year-Old Self

When you’re 20-something and fresh out of college, it’s really hard to get money right. Once you get your first “adult job” with stable income, it’s easier to pretend you have it all together than to actually budget and practice wise money management. Even some of today’s great CEOs have struggled with money management at this demanding time in their own lives.

CNBC’s Make It asked multiple entrepreneurs and CEOs what money advice they wish they could give their 20-year-old selves. They offered up some pretty solid insight.

1. Pay yourself first

Pay yourself first. Take 10 to 15 percent of your paycheck and invest it in a passive investment portfolio before you spend anything else. And don’t try to outsmart the market. Unless your name is Warren Buffett, chances are you are a bad stock picker.

— Chris O’Neill, CEO of productivity platform Evernote

2. Go where the jobs are

“Move! Go where the jobs are—where the new industries are emerging. When you are willing to move for a job, you have leverage. I’ve seen peers who felt locked into a city for whatever reason and for many, it limited their options and limited their earning potential. Moving can obviously be hard on families and not everyone can do it, but if you can, it can be the greatest way to land the best jobs that pay the most.”

— Chris Terrill, CEO of digital marketplace ANGI Homeservices

3. Cut back on the small stuff

While long-term financial planning is incredibly important, I find that the best place to start is to find small ways to minimize spending on a daily basis. Limit Uber rides for when necessary. Ride-sharing makes hailing a car easy, but you’ll eventually spend more than you realize. And keep an eye on your latte habit. Those $6 drinks add up quickly, so if you can, caffeinate at the office.

— Rahul Gandhi, CEO and co-founder of storage solution company MakeSpace

4. Prioritize paying off debt

It wasn’t until later in my 20s, living paycheck-to-paycheck working as a waitress in New York City that I really realized how dramatically money could impact my career trajectory. I realized that until I paid off my debt, necessity would continue to limit my current and future career options. So I buckled down and focused all of my energy on saving until I was finally debt-free.

— Katelyn Gleason, CEO and founder of healthcare billing platform Eligible

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5. Take advantage of compound interest

“I wish I knew the way money can compound and grow over time. I didn’t have any sense of how to invest when I was younger.”

— Katia Beauchamp, CEO and co-founder of subscription service Birchbox

6. Invest in yourself first

Although it’s true that money invested in your 20s can pay huge dividends in your 60s, your 20s are also a time to take a chance on yourself. Investing in your own ideas is so much easier in your 20s than it is in your 40s, when you are likely to have children, a mortgage and other expenses. So, yes, invest and save money, but also take risks and put your money and time behind your own business ideas. No one achieves their dreams simply by maxing out their 401(k).

— CEO and co-founder of retail company CoEdition

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