I am about to turn 29 this fall. I’m also about to buy my 3rd house. I am happily married and the father of 2 children. My wife stays at home to take care of the family while I work 4 days a week and generate a 6 figure income. I am quite happy about how things have turned out so far. Both my personal and financial situations look to be heading in the right direction according to my Microsoft Money software ;-). On the other hand, I can only tell you how much I think I suck sometimes.
When I think of what I know now and what could have been accomplished if I known all this nine years ago. There are tons of opportunities that I hadn’t seized in my early 20s. This is why I suck. While I know it’s not too late for me to wake up, I just can’t stop thinking about what could have been achieved over the 9 years that I just wasted (partially). If I could enter a time machine and meet me the day I turned 20, I would tell myself:
Stop playing tetris and start writing!
While completing my bachelor degree, I found nothing more enjoyable than playing Tetrinet; an online Tetris game where you could battle against 5 others players (that were your classmates during a very boring economics class). I have always loved to write. Back then, instead of thinking that I could:
A) sleep during the whole class
B) play Tetrinet and have fun
I should have added:
C) start a blog since I love writing!
Starting a blog in the year 2000 would have been the biggest step in my career.
You are young, take risks!
When I first finished my bachelor degree, I had a few options in front of me:
#1 Get a decent job in a big finance firm
#2 Continue in my father’s company and deliver bread
#3 Start working online with a few friends of mine.
Since I had debts and I was looking for the classic corporate ladder climbing process, I decided to take the decent job in a big firm. I had left 2 very lucrative entrepreneurial projects aside for the sake of security.
Aim for an income source that depends on your performance
I understood this concept only at 26 where I made the switch to become a financial planner. This is when I learned that if you are really good at something, try to find a job that will pay a variable bonus based on your achievement (not your department’s or the company’s). This is sometimes hard to find depending on which field you work. But in general my advice: I would tell anyone to stay away from the cost centers of a company. Those are the first to get cut during a recession.
Leverage what you have, you are young only once in your life!
I learned this lesson at 25 and yet I could have made so much more if I had started by leveraging student scholarships when I was 20! When you are young, you should never borrow money to buy consumables or go on vacation. However, you should definitely take a look at all your borrowing options to buy or create assets. By assets, I mean something (like an investment or small projects) that will generate a positive cash flow in a near future. The earlier you start, the richer you will be.
Don’t lease a new car!
At the age of 22, I got my first new car. Since I was afraid of having a car loan and the payments were smaller with a lease, I took the latter. This was a huge mistake as I paid much more for the car in the long run. I should have bought it right away and concentrated my payments toward this debt instead. However, I don’t regret buying new. I kept my car for 7 years and saved a lot of money (and mechanical problems!) this way.
Work on the 20% and skip the rest
I have mastered the Pareto Principle by the age of 26 when I started my MBA (I have written a complete article on the Pareto Principle over at The Financial Blogger). There is a universal law where about 20% of anything will be responsible of about 80% of the result. In business you will make 80% of your revenue from 20% of your clients. At school, you will get 80% of your grades due to 20% of your effort. So focus on the key 20% and forget about the details… they aren’t worth your time ;-).
Last advice but not the least: Marry this girl!
Oh wait, this is exactly what I did at 22… I wasn’t too far off 😉 I have been with my wife since the age of 16 and I certainly don’t regret a minute spent with her 😀