What I Wish I Told My Younger Self About Career and Money Matters
Admit it, we all wish we’d known how to navigate our way through building our career when we were younger or had a mentor guide us through the challenges of adulting. Despite whatever lessons we’ve learned along the way, and no matter how successful we presently feel in our chosen fields, we all would’ve wanted to have had a manual that would help us through building a thriving professional life. It’s true that every mistake or booboo we’ve made along the way from our first paying (or non-paying) job to where we are at the moment in our career were building blocks to everything we’ve learned now. So whether or not you feel like a success, these lessons learned are valuable in shaping us into the amazing women we are now.
Before we say goodbye to Women’s Month, we asked several successful women from various industries, “What do you wish you can tell your younger self about building a career and handling your finances?” May their insights and learnings inspire us and remind us that what's important is that we are doing the best we can.
Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar, 50
Adviser for Agripreneurship/Programs Head Bangsamoro Region for GoNegosyo; Owner/Producer for The Extra Mile Productions; President of Benguet Corp. Laboratories Inc.
Do what you love and do it well. And do it with kindness. Focus. Work hard. Achieve. Innovate. And most importantly, create value in the communities where you operate your business or where you engage for convergence and inclusivity. Regarding finances, save for the future. Invest wisely. Invest in your business and brand. Build your retirement plan.
Donna May Lina, 41
President, UBE Media
Dear Younger Self, always enjoy the journey. Smile. Set aside money for savings. Invest.
Guinevere Mariano, 40
Sole Proprietor, Lucky Meatshop and Financial Advisor, Sun Life Financial
I wish I had a clearer vision of my retirement and had created concrete ways to get there like I wish I started a conscious budget plan which could have given me a sufficient amount of savings or emergency funds. I just got myself now insurance with a comprehensive health plan, but in my early 20’s when it was so much cheaper, had I aggressively invested in equities and stocks, I could have been a millionaire retiree at 50!
Career wise, I wouldn't significantly alter the choices I made because I was raising my kids and building my family. Putting up a meat shop in 2012 and being a part-time event coordinator since 2007 gave me the time freedom to be a hands-on mom to my kids and to pursue personal goals like training for sports. Summing up everything that I had to go through in the last 16 years developed my resilience and grit which prepared me for where I am today, a financial advisor.
Nicka Hosaka, 33
Public Affairs Manager and Spokesperson, Grab Philippines
You don’t need to have it all figured out right away, so don’t stress unnecessarily. Learn from your mistakes, prioritize, and don’t forget to treat yourself once in a while.
Samantha Ramos-Zaragoza, 33
Culinary & Editorial Consultant, Resultado Co.
I’m quite happy with where my work journey has taken me, and as I celebrate 12 years in the industry I’m in, I’ve realized how every opportunity I was confident enough to grab all lead to and defined the career I nurture today. I would have told myself to not sweat the small stuff and not worry about clearly defining the career path early on, to enjoy and give my best self to every project, and to open myself up to learning anything and everything I’m interested in no matter how disconnected they may be from what I’m doing because opportunities only open up to those who are ready. I would have wanted to learn more about investing in stocks, insurance, and property early on than just entrusting all my savings in the bank. I remember what my business school professor told us, that too much money in the bank is a bad thing because that means your hard-earned money isn’t working for you. If I’ve invested years ago, my savings would have doubled or tripled by now.
Vida Navarra-Lacurom, 31
Dentist/Owner, Smile Guru Dental Studio
To the younger me, grab every opportunity, invest in yourself, and work hard. Time passes quickly and life is short. Stay happy and enjoy the fruits of your labor while saving as much for your future self.
Tasha Santos, 33
Assistant Digital & PR Manager, Benefit Cosmetics Philippines
I wish I had told my younger self to stop putting too much pressure on myself, to stop feeling like there's a deadline for hitting milestones. Trust your gut and take chances—take some time off if needed, take courses that excite you, travel the world. Your experiences will only add to the person you will be in the workplace. Follow your own timeline, and you'll eventually get to where you're meant to be. Don't forget that skills can be learned, but passion and personality will take you even further. Live in the moment without being reckless about the future. Work hard and don't regret treating yourself with the earnings you've worked so hard for. You deserve it! But be responsible and make sure to set some aside for adulting purposes.
Monique Lecaros, 50
Stockbroker and AVP for Sales, SB Equities Inc.
I would have told myself to prioritize making something of myself (finding that job that brings me joy and where I can flourish in) first and prioritizing financial independence (investing in insurance, stocks, and fixed income instruments early on and resisting the urge to shop the trends) first before settling down. I would also advise my younger self to not marry until after I've tried living alone, and maybe, even working abroad. Marriage and kids really tie you down big time. They drastically limit your options, hence, your level of satisfaction. I'm actually being asked these things by my baby cousins right now and I said, "’Wag kayo mag-asawa! Career muna!”
Licelle Cobrador, 40
Founding Attorney Cobrador & Associates, PLLC
It’s never too early to start saving and to learn how to be savvy with handling your finances. Planning ahead will reap rewards. As for building a career, know your strengths and know your worth. Do not hesitate to ask for what you want. Have the gumption to make bold moves!
Ines Bautista-Yao, 42
English teacher, author, and freelance writer and editor
I will tell my younger self to take her finances more seriously. To save and not to spend on frivolous things all the time just because I have a salary. To look for investments even if it seems as if they aren’t important at the moment. I might even recommend she take a finance class—if there is any being offered.
On building a career, I won’t tell her to do anything differently because life changes constantly. What’s important is that she should be able to gain experience and skills. She should keep achieving what it is she wants to achieve—and to learn to adapt and keep growing. Because that is what will help her in any job she chooses to take on in the future.
Mitch Garcia, 36
Cluster Director of Marketing Communications for Marriott Manila, Sheraton and Courtyard
Seek out learning opportunities and listen to understand.
Sheila Catilo, 37
Surround yourself with people who will help you grow not just in your career but as a person. You don't have to say yes to everything and not everyone will say yes to you, so learn to prioritize and know what matters to you at the end of the day. Be grateful for every opportunity, learn and move on from your mistakes. Celebrate little victories. Acknowledge each blessing and honor it by using it wisely and honestly. Find opportunities to pay it forward. It will return tenfold, not necessarily in ways you expect, but more.
Maita de Jesus, 35
Writer and content creator, MMP de Jesus Writing Services
About building a career, I would tell my younger self to remember the bigger picture. I remember during my first job interview, I was asked why I wanted to work there in that particular magazine. I said that I wanted to make a difference--didn't matter whether big or small, as long as someone read it and maybe changed their lives, that's it. The interviewer/big wig EIC said, "So you feel it's your calling?" and I remember shrugging and said, "No, I just want to make a difference." More than a decade later, I never would have dreamed that my career trajectory would lead me to be where I am now, with my own business, and choosing my assignments. In the flurry of things and realities of life have sometimes made me forget that I'm writing to make a difference, and making money is just secondary. So my point about building my career is to let things flow as they should. I was obsessed with climbing the ladder, and when I got there, I realized that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be—I was still making a difference whether I was an editorial assistant or editor in chief. So let your “Why” guide you through your career.
Regarding handling my finances, I would tell my younger self to save and invest. When I was younger and had a ton of disposable income, I had no qualms about buying books and notebooks every week, and dropping P15k on getting my hair curled! I was never much of a spender, I don't crave for branded stuff, but looking back at it, I could have saved so much before I had a child! I could have invested in stocks or put up my own business, because I didn't need much to live on back then—just food and transport. So younger self, spend only on necessities, and find investments.
Maria Rebecca Nieto-Litan, 43
Program Head, Lyceum of the Philippines University Manila
Try to stay at least five to 10 years in a company so I could grow professionally in one home unlike what I did where I hopped from one job to another because I easily treat each engagement as a “project” (because I easily lost interest). I could be reaping retirement benefits, too, if I did that. On the other hand, I am happy with my material and/or financial acquisitions. But I would tell the young me to be more prudent with handling money, not to be too risky (though losing big time when I was much younger enabled me to recover and become smarter on money matters), and to invest time on graduate school much earlier (because I finished my MA at age 40ish). Now I am thinking if I should go another step for doctorate.
Anna Angeles-Patajo, 40
Lawyer and full time mom
Work your ass off before you have kids—no mom guilt in the picture! It's a whole new ball game once the little ones come along; the work-life balance thing becomes a real issue at one point in your professional life. There are no small tasks, whether at the office or at home. Some moms are fantastic at multitasking, while others need to focus on one main thing. So the crossroads will inevitably come for some career women.
As for your finances, allocate your money for all your overhead expenses every payroll, and only spend what's left. Save and tithe. The younger you start with insurance, the more affordable it is, though I would limit my straight up insurance policies, and after getting one policy, put your money somewhere with higher yield.
Sheila Cruz, 45
Regional Sales Director, AXA Philippines
Do what you love, but on hindsight be wise and build your savings early on. When earning already, always keep 20 percent for your retirement (Pareto Principle). Time is your money’s best friend.
Michelle C. Barrera, 35
Columnist and Secretary General, Equestrian Association of the Philippines
I would have told myself, first: Don’t pressure yourself too much with your degree. What you learn is going to be useful, but does not lock you into your future. Second, save a little percentage of your earnings every time those earnings come in. They will make a big difference when you’re older and want to invest it into something special.
Sheila Lina, 37
My younger self was very idealistic and wanted to work in entertainment in Los Angeles. Life had other plans and I found myself moving to Manila, working in e-commerce and business information.
I would tell my younger self that it’s ok to shift gears and work in a completely different field. Dreams and aspirations can change and there’s no shame in choosing a different path. Also, achieving any kind of success is no guarantee that you’ll be content. There’s always some new challenge to contend with. So learn to be happy where you are while striving to improve and move forward.
Tricia Ycasiano, 40
Partner at a law firm
Regarding one’s career, I would tell myself not to undervalue yourself or your time. Regarding finances, the best advice I can give is to use 50 percent of what you earn for your present, and to save 50 percent for your future self.