The Financial Times is running a campaign focused on promoting financial literacy and inclusion, an initiative that emphasizes young people, women and the disenfranchised.

One guest essay is by Courtney Love, the famous rock musician. Love has lived a tumultuous life. She writes how she managed to make tons of money and lose even more.

Love says she didn't pay attention to her earnings, mostly because she was dealing with the disease of addiction. These sentences stood out to me in her essay:

"I don't think artists should be expected to be billionaires. We're all now meant to be so smart and have side hustles — have a fund and a rosé business and be a tech bro," she wrote. "But I think artists should get what we call 'right-sized' about what to expect from their careers. I'm a really good poet — that's what I am. I don't need a second home!"

Her remarks are directed at artists, but her insight holds for the rest of us, especially young adults launching their careers.

Most of us are skilled at something and if we're reasonably diligent and lucky we eventually land on an occupation or career that allows our talents to flourish. Yet in many respects popular culture wrongly extols the idea that you should strive for more by aggressively pursuing wealth creation and finding your inner billionaire.


There's wisdom in Love's insight about getting "right-sized" in your career and in your life. The trick or implication of being "right-sized" for personal finances—and this is especially important with young adults— is that it takes only a handful of money habits to embark on the career and life you want to lead.

What are these habits?

Embrace a frugal mindset. In essence, emphasize quality over quantity. Create an opportunity fund that gives you the flexibility to, say, change jobs on your timetable. (Opportunity fund and emergency savings are the same, but I prefer emphasizing the opportunities that savings create.)

Invest for your retirement and other long-term goals by sticking with broad-based low-cost index funds. Own your own home if the finances are right (you don't want to be house poor). Term life insurance is critical if you have children. You need health insurance at any age. Automate these habits as much as possible with technology.

I think Courtney Love would approve of a list like this.

Farrell is senior economics contributor to American Public Media's "Marketplace" and commentator for Minnesota Public Radio.