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Author’s note: My son will soon turn one. He has been a tremendous joy. His interests to date are eating, sleeping, squealing with delight at the dog while eating Daddy’s laptop cords. As the days go by, I think of all the advice I want to bestow on him.
When I was in high school, a buddy of mine and I were washing cars in his driveway. At the time, he was driving an old Dodge truck, and I was driving my Isuzu Amigo. We took pride in the cars that we drove even though they were not the fanciest cars at school. Another friend then stopped by with a couple of girls in his red Porsche Boxster.
The girls in high school loved this guy and his car. At one point during the conversation, one of the girls admitted one of the reasons she liked hanging out with this guy was due to his car. She did admit though if another guy at school started to drive a black Porsche 911 that she would drop the current guy for that new guy. I remember thinking to myself, we’re in high school, and their parents are clearly buying these cars, who cares what he drives. Clearly, I did not understand the mind of a 16-year-old girl.
This long lead up is to tell you, son, it doesn’t matter what you drive. Hopefully by the time you are 16, I would have taught you that material possessions matter far less than family and friends and most importantly, your relationship with God.
When you drive by a huge mansion or see someone flying in a private jet, just remember, it’s all stuff. It’s not about impressing people. Having a ton of money is great, but the real greatness stems from the positive impact you can make as a result of it.
With that said, I will try to teach you as much about the financial world as possible. Here’s a secret: You can make a lot of money and still be poor. You can make a little bit of money and be rich. Being rich is not that difficult. Here is the basic principle: Save more than you spend, and don’t try to get rich fast. Invest in the S&P 500, and you will do great. If you follow these basic principles, you will not be poor.
The fastest way to become poor is to try to get rich quickly. I remember vividly when everyone’s mom was a day trader in the 1990’s and became real estate experts by flipping houses in the 2000’s. Most failed. I don’t know what the hot investment will be in twenty years, but if a friend says they’re making tons of money using debt as leverage, mark my words, more chances than not, they will be poor within five years.
This is going to blow your mind right now, but it will make sense later on. You will not have the same lifestyle as your mom and I have when you graduate from college. It took your mom and I twenty years to build up to the lifestyle that we live today. Don’t try to keep up with us. Set goals for yourself, and work diligently towards them.
When you are growing up, I will emphasize more about the effort you put forth than the results. This is to instill your work ethic. When you reach the working world, effort and results will matter. By this time, hopefully you will learn how to be successful through your hard work and perseverance.
Once you reach one of your goals, chances are you may not be completely satisfied. Stop before you set new a goals and celebrate the goal you reached. Otherwise, you’ll set a new goal without properly recognizing your accomplishment. Life is fun. Celebrate every chance you get.
You will make mistakes with money. Everyone does. It’s called being a human. You will not be able to do everything perfectly. Whether it’s buying a home at the right time or purchasing the right stock. There will always be something better out there. Don’t get discouraged. Be patient, but don’t let paralysis by analysis ruin your life.
At 18, study things in college that interest you. If you graduate with a degree that leads to a job you don’t like, don’t be afraid to go back to school and learn a new skill-set. Making a decision at 18 should not lock you into a career for the next 50 years.
The most valuable thing in the world is not money, it’s time. Who cares if you make a million dollars if you never see your family and friends? Find a job that you’re excited to go each day that allows you the work-life balance you desire in life. But, understand that there are tradeoffs.
If you’re still reading this, let me conclude with this thought. Remember to always listen to your mother and cherish every word she says. If you do this, you will be a wise man.