Sometimes I yearn for the ability to go back and fix the failings of my younger self, knowing that the financial mistakes I made back in the day have cost me dearly. But lacking a time machine, I’ve settled for trying to help others avoid those same financial missteps. So if you have a recent high school or college graduate, teach them these lessons while they’re still young.
Run Your Own Race
Resist the temptation to compare your financial success or career journey with that of your peers. As social beings, it’s only natural that we compare our successes with those of others. When I was younger, I fell into that trap all too often. Anxiety would rise if I didn’t think I was keeping pace with my classmates, fraternity brothers or colleagues. As I grew older, I began to realize that we all have our own race to run, our unique path to follow.
Trying to imitate or keep up with others is a recipe for disaster. True, your college roommate may have just purchased a home, but this may not be the best financial choice for you. A colleague who arrives to work in a new 3-series BMW shouldn’t have you running to check out automobile brochures. It could well be that driving your 10-year-old car while paying down debt and putting money into savings is the better option. Your financial journey is your own. Don’t sabotage it by trying to “keep up” with others.
Likewise, just because your friends or associates are applying to graduate school or business school, doesn’t mean that this is necessarily the best choice for you. To be successful in life, you’ll have to follow your own passions, not submit to the expectations of your parents or blindly mirror the career paths of your friends. Running your own race, will make you happier, and ultimately wealthier.
Don’t Let Your Possessions Define You
When I graduated from college, I thought I had to look the part. A new car and fancy apartment were validations of my hard work and academic success, but they also stifled any ability to start building true wealth. But I’m not alone in making this mistake. Too often our self-esteem is tied up in what we drive, who we wear or where we live. Unfortunately, the validation that material possessions provide is fleeting.
Unlike my younger self, my older self is far more interested in deriving validation, not from material possessions, but from being the best I can be in my profession. My self worth is tied to trying to be the best Christian that I can be and to helping others to the best of my ability.
When we ignore societal messages and resist the urge to let our possessions define us, we free ourselves to make the financial decisions that lead to true wealth creation.
Appreciate All That You Have Already
I often feel ashamed during Sunday service asking God for something when I haven’t thanked him enough for all the amazing blessings he’s bestowed on me. Too often we’re so worried about focusing on what we don’t have that we fail to appreciate all that we do have.
Our consumer-oriented society is always plugging the next best thing, the next “gotta-have” item. Commercials suggest that our current automobile isn’t good enough. Reality television continually portrays the lifestyles we all “should aspire to.” But this constant “quest for more” has left many of us in the poorhouse, struggling with mounting credit card bills and woefully underfunded retirement accounts. Instead of blindly obsessing for more, sometimes it makes sense to sit back and appreciate your current blessings.
We are blessed, for instance, to live in this great country. Don’t believe it? Just flip through the news to understand the horror and oppressive violence in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. But, just as importantly, we are blessed to live in this time period. Watching the recent Roots reboot, I couldn’t help but be reminded that our ancestors worked sunrise to sunset without ever enjoying the fruits of their labor.
In 2016, we have the opportunity to not only enjoy the fruits of our labor but to turn our labor and effort into vast fortunes. Never before has so much knowledge and so many tools for advancement been at our fingertips. Today more than ever, if we can dream it, we can achieve. That’s clearly something to be thankful for.
BMWK, what are some of the financial lessons you learned as you got older? What other financial lessons have you told your grad?