One of life’s legitimate superpowers is the ability to learn from your mistakes.
Those who are capable of doing so really are limitless. They grow from one day to the next in a never-ending line. Nothing keeps them down, and every experience serves as a graduation of sorts to another level.
Which can also be one of the crueler twists of life.
Wisdom is often acquired after it was needed.
Sure, you’ll have it going forward in the future, which is great, but you can also wind up with a road littered with missed opportunities.
What are you going to do, right?
Well, you have to move forward with the wisdom you’ve acquired and, in some cases, share some of it on your website.
And if you’re younger?
Listen to those who went before you. That is the young person’s version of wisdom.
So let’s start.
Take advantage of your education
If you are like me, schooling was something you just got through. You didn’t like it, you’d rather be playing basketball, hanging out with your friends, or just generally not having a care in the world.
As I write this, I realize maybe we did have our sights set on what was truly important when we were younger all along, but I digress.
During those years of your life, school is your job, and it is your job for a reason.
Not because it is something you just have to do, but because it really does set you up for the rest of your life.
Even those subjects you think you’ll never use. They all require different forms of thinking: critical, analytical, observational, etc. All these types of thinking come together as an adult to form a well-rounded “superbeing”.
Any form of thinking on its own usually leaves you fairly unable to navigate the world, but all of them together makes you a leader in the world.
So don’t think you’re cute when you tell your algebra teacher “but we’re never going to use this.”
You sure are going to use it, so figure it out. Trust me, those classes will not last forever but the power you gain from them will.
But that’s just schooling in the younger years. What about advanced schooling, like college?
First of all, I am neither for nor against college. It works for some and not for others. If you are interested in a trade, trade schools are great. You can learn many of them quickly and get out in the workforce earning money quickly, at which point you can get to some of my advice later on in this article (you’ll want to keep reading for that).
But if you do go to college, oh boy. This can be a great time to give you a huge jump start, a great time to piss away, or something in between.
The choice truly is yours.
It’s the first opportunity for many to be presented with decisions to make at a fork in the road that will greatly impact the rest of their lives.
Don’t blow it.
And no pressure.
Frankly, I don’t care what school you go to. Whether it’s Harvard or South Middle Western Random State U. You’re in college, being taught by some level of experts.
So take advantage.
You are usually presented with more fields of study to choose from than you knew existed, and way more than are professionally useful.
Step number one? Stay away from the “studies”.
If the major ends in “studies”, run for the hills!
Employers are not looking for them.
Italian-American Studies, Canadian-American Studies, the oh-so-desirable and specific General Studies.
These all may be interesting and even impactful topics to study and familiarize yourself with. So take some classes as electives or educate yourself. It’s important.
But there is no profession after college that ends in “studies”. So unless you want to spend a lifetime teaching the classes you just took, major in something else!
Treat college like your own glorified trade school, there at your disposal to make you an expert and set you up with a profitable career that you won’t have to work very long anyway, if you play your cards right.
(Again, more on that coming.)
Look at majors that are named after actual professions: engineering, accounting, data science, actuarial science, physical therapy, etc.
If it’s named after a job, chance are you’ll get one!
If it’s not, you might end up working at the store or in customer service (I’ve done both by the way), which there is nothing wrong with, but you didn’t need to go to college to get there. So, while you’re in college, use it!
Why is it so important to major in a job?
Couple of reasons.
Number one is they tend to pay more. You may not realize it at this stage, but you really are going to need money. And the more you have, the easier many things are. Also, the more you can contribute to worthy causes and make the world a better place.
Better that you be the one in position to do that than somebody else anyway, right?
Beyond that, though, is you may want or need flexibility.
When you choose a career that is in demand around the country or even the world, you will be much less likely to be beholden to your current job or situation. You will have supplied yourself with some inherent flexibility and that can also be worth its weight in gold.
You not only increase your earning power, but you make yourself more attractive to recruiters. You can work in many or most industries and have the flexibility to live in almost any city.
You have options.
So have all the fun you want in college. Life is meant to be enjoyed, just not stupidly! Be safe, do good things, and remember: you are really there to get a job!
Trust me, unless you have a trust, you’ll need one. And you don’t get a good one by ignoring them.
Now you’re working!
Congratulations to you! You’ve been itching to finish school so you could live like an adult, and here you are!
Probably want to go back now, don’t you?
Or maybe not, but here you are. This is actually an amazing time. It is a time for you to continue making accomplishments, professionally and personally, taking them all to the next level.
What it is not time to do is ignore your retirement.
Retirement?! But I just started!
That’s right. And the right time to plan for your retirement was yesterday.
In college they probably didn’t teach you about saving, investing, and compound interest, did they?
Didn’t think so.
Have you heard of the FIRE movement?
FIRE stands for “Financial Independence Retire Early”.
And let me tell you how much I wish this movement existed when I was starting out!
The movement is one started mainly by millennials that advocates different ways of aggressive saving combined with prudent investing so one can retire as early as their 30s in some cases!
Remember when I said earlier that you may not have to work that job all that long anyway?
This is why.
Let’s do some simple math explaining how compound interest works, for the uninitiated.
First, let’s see what compound interest looks like, visually. Say you invest $1,000 today, and earn a 7% return on that investment.
For comparison’s sake, the S&P 500 typically returns up to 9% yearly, on average.
After 30 years, that one thousand dollars would turn into over $7,600, without you doing anything.
And that’s just a thousand dollars. Imagine if you saved aggressively and could invest more?
Now let’s now take a look at what could happen if you work toward a decent job, live in an inexpensive city, and increase your investments every year.
In this example, let’s start with $10,000 invested in year one (remember, you were a thoughtful college student and got yourself a decent job so you probably have this now). And let’s increase that investment by $2,000 every year, until you reach $24,000 every year in annual investments, which again you are able to do because you got a decent job and are obviously a good worker who gets raises and maybe even promotions!
How long would it take for you to become a millionaire?
So you are now a millionaire in your early-to-mid 40s!
Congratulations! You may have never thought you could be a millionaire, but now you are and you’re not even close to typical retirement age!
Depending on how much cash flow your investments can generate and your expenses, you may even be able to retire or reduce your working hours now.
In your 40s!
But let’s up the ante a little bit, shall we? I mean, your appetite must be whet now, seeing as how you can become a millionaire so passively.
Let’s keep adding $2,000 a year until we are pouring in $30,000 each year in savings.
Remember, with that great job you got because you were a SMART college student who took advantage of your opportunity, along with that wisdom you’ve been taking along the way that has resulted in increasing your income, you can certainly do this!
Now how long until you become a millionaire?
A little change and you become a millionaire TWO YEARS SOONER!
That’s a pretty big deal.
Even if you can’t retire in your 30s, maybe you can in your 40s or 50s.
Any of those options sounds better than retiring in your mid-60s!
But I bet they didn’t teach you any of this in school.
The common denominator among those who have been able to retire in their 30s or 40s is that they had to teach themselves. Which is part of the beauty of these days we live in.
We have countless books on any subject, with several amazing ones in the area of personal finance.
My personal favorite to start with is Tony Robbins’ Money: Master the Game. It is a great read, written in typical Tony Robbins inspirational style, that can be understood whether you have a financial background or not. And the advice laid out is for everyone, whether they have a financial background or not.
And if, like me, that whets your appetite, you can then start digging deeper. Perhaps into some of the classics like Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor. It’s more technical, but can really help you understand your goals and how to most safely reach them.
The more education the better when it comes to this.
Which makes you think it’s almost criminal that colleges don’t teach you this vital skill, but that’s another story altogether.
What’s the moral of the story?
Frankly, what this all comes down to is this:
Don’t squander any opportunity.
And, whether you realize it or not, you are in an opportunity right now.
You are always in the midst of an opportunity!
Those early school days were not throwaways. They were an opportunity to begin the training of your mind.
Those advanced school days? They were an opportunity to set up the future you for personal, professional, and financial success. Successes that could be exponentially more difficult if you did not take advantage of those advanced school days.
Your early professional years? They were an opportunity to build your future career and your future retirement. Remember, taking 21 years to become a millionaire is WAY better when you start at 22 than at 42, so the time to begin preparing your financial future really was yesterday.
And lastly is the wisdom learned. Once you realize that every day, every moment, you are in the midst of an opportunity, your growth across all areas of your life will skyrocket.
You are now truly a superstar.
So now it is time to really enjoy life. And I don’t mean parties, vacations, etc. But to really enjoy life is to get the most out of every opportunity.
And those opportunities include giving attention to your loved ones, because without them, nothing else in this article matters.
*As always, this article is not meant to give financial advice. Past results are not a guarantee of future returns. Everyone must do their own due diligence and determine the money managing and wealth building strategies that work best for them. Information provided here is meant to provoke thoughts, not provide recommendations. This is not personal legal or investment advice and may not be appropriate for all readers. If personal advice is needed, readers should seek the services of a qualified legal, investment or tax professional.
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