Letter to Me: 12 Things I Would Tell Myself About Life & Money

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In the 32 years on this Earth, there have been wins, losses, and a lot of tweeners where I am still trying to figure out the results. I can’t go back in time and change the past, nor do I really want to. There is a reason I am where I am today – because of the choices I made in the past. But, how much easier could I have had it if someone would have told me these things sooner? Here are 12 things I wish someone would have told me when I was 22 that I now know at 32.


Dear Chris,

 

Do these 12 things now and I will buy you a beer on our trip to the Galapagos Islands when you are 32.

1. Get on a Budget

There is a sobering fact that 70% of households are now living paycheck to paycheck. Don’t fall into the majority and live hand to mouth. Instead, start learning to live on a budget and go as far as to live on less than you make. How dare me for even saying that, right?
You are growing up in a world where you no longer have to be patient, you don’t have to earn anything, and you should have it right now because you’re special. Well, keep believing this and your are going to find yourself working for those who chose the old fashion way of living below their means and following a monthly budget. Try going on a road trip without a fuel gauge and see how that works out. Oh yeah, you’ve already been there and have the scars to prove it! Get on a budget right away. You can even have the same budget you made a few years back 🙂 Here you go…

Spreadsheet Budget     or the     Pencil & Paper Budget

 

2. Take a Few More (Calculated) Risks

I don’t mean try skydiving without a parachute. I am talking about the idea, the dream, or some crazy goal that you know is just about impossible. Stop thinking about it and go after it. Don’t play it safe. I had some pretty wild ideas in my head when I was 23 and chose not to go after them. I became a firefighter because of the job stability, the steady paycheck, the pension, and because riding on a fire truck is just plain cool!

There is the obvious risk with “What if I don’t come home” because of the dangers of the job, however, I often think about the what ifs prior to starting my career. What if I went after that crazy goal and failed? What if I tried and went well beyond those impossible goals I once had? The point is you have to take a few risks in life or you’re going to constantly wonder what if. You know what happens when you fail in your 20s? Not a damn thing because you have a ton of time to get back up on your feet, readjust, and try again. What if the Wright Brothers (they invented flying) didn’t take the risk? What if Walt Disney packed it in after he went bankrupt the first time? What if Jeff Bezos (Amazon) didn’t start selling books out of his garage? What if?

“The Biggest Risk is Not Taking any Risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is Guaranteed to Fail is Not Taking Risks”

-Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook

 

While you’re taking a few risks, you may need some extra money. Here are 68 Side Hustles you can do to help you get through until one of your crazy ideas takes off!

3. Build Wealth Now

You’re young and you keep telling yourself that retirement is so far away so you will invest later. Guess what? Retirement is no longer an age for people. Pensions are drying up and Social Security is becoming a joke. Since both of these things are age dependent, then you can see why I am telling you retirement is not an age, it’s a number. Start investing in yourself now and put retirement on your terms – not the government’s or your employer’s. That is a stupid plan. Also, do you know how much easier it is to build wealth when you start NOW versus starting later? I sure wish I would have seen the Ben vs Arthur example when I was 18 instead of 28. Open up a ROTH, max it out every year, and your older self will be traveling the world, swimming with dolphins, and doing whatever you want. It’s almost cheating if you start early – almost.

4. Travel Everywhere

Save up some cash and go somewhere. I don’t care where, but book a plane ticket and travel somewhere you saw on the Travel Channel. Don’t keep putting it off. Someday when you have a career, a wife, and two beautiful kids, you’ll still get to travel. You’ll travel to Disneyland and ride the teacups 23 times in one day and then hit up the Build-a-Bear Workshop. Go stand on the equator, snowboard in Alaska, drink beer in Germany, and get a tan in Cancun while you aren’t strapped down to more important things.

5. Don’t Pay $7,000 for a T-Shirt

You went to Arizona State University and you were offered a free Sun Devil T-Shirt on your first day. The only thing you had to do was sign up for this sweet new ASU Credit Card. The card even had the Sun Devil logo on it so when you used it, people would know your heart belonged to the maroon and gold (ASU’s colors)! Remember that ah-mazing feeling?! Ah yes…stupidity at it’s finest.

Fast forward 10 years and you’re going to be the owner of $7k credit card balance at 22.99%. Also, the free shirt ended up becoming a rag for your roommate’s girlfriend who threw up in your car. The point is, stay away from credit cards and stay away from debt. Yes, you’re going to have to give up those precious points and airline miles. But, until you meet a millionaire that says, “The secret of my success was those free points and airline miles” you may as well pay with this green paper stuff they call……money.

6. Get Life Insurnace ASAP

If someone tells you to hold off on purchasing life insurance because you’re only in your twenties, then that person is an idiot. Everyone needs life insurance, because everyone has a chance of dying. “But, I don’t have a family or anyone that depends on me”. This is true, but what if something happens to you now? I have a friend that was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when she was 27 and there isn’t a life insurance company that would take a 2 second look at her now. Luckily, someone told her to get Term Life Insurance when she was 23 years old, and now she is insured for $700k until she turns 48 years old. She now has a hubby and 2 kids and knows they are going to be taken care if something happens to her. Term life insurance rates are ridiculously low right now. Don’t wait another second, get it now.

7. Drive a Piece of Crap

Brand new cars lose 11% of their value from the time you leave the dealership and get in your driveway. Then over the next 4 years, they lose 60% – 70% of their value. If you buy a brand new $31k car, it is going to only be worth $11k in four years and chances are you financed it for five to six years. This level of deprecation for a piece of metal to impress a stranger at a stop light is equivalent to driving around once a week, rolling down your window, and throwing out a $100 bill. I promise you someone else would love to take the depreciation, and by all means let them. As soon as they’re done riding down the depreciation, you should buy it from them at a 60% – 70% discount from the MSRP.

Don’t talk yourself out of it by saying “older cars always break down”. I promise you there won’t be $100/week fixes for the first 4 years. I’m debt free now, have a much higher net worth than I did at 22, and I drive a piece of crap even when I no longer have to. It’s not because I am cheap (maybe a little) but I would rather put my money in stuff that goes up in value than something that plummets like a lead turd in an outhouse. New cars and car payments versus older cars paid for with cash will be one of the biggest separators between you being wealthy or not. This one is simple – do it.

8. Rent (Because You’re Broke)

Renting is not evil, it’s not stupid, and it’s not going to cause you to go to hell. Renting is a smart move if you’re just starting off your life. When something breaks and you’re renting, you call the maintenance guy and it’s fixed. When something breaks in your house, you usually shell out $1,000. Give yourself a few years to build up some savings for a down payment, figure out where you want to live, and enjoy the freedom of renting. Just remember that renting is not supposed to be a forever thing. It’s just there to get you over the hump in life and to keep you out of foreclosure (you spent some time there when you were 27). When you finish reading this, Paula Plant at Afford Anything will blow your mind on Renting versus Owning!

9. Get Back Up!

You’re going to lose, you’re going to fail, and you’re not going to like it. Who cares? Get back up and keep trying. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t fair because it doesn’t have to be. Fair and equal are not the same thing. It’s not your fault for believing it is – society does a pretty good job of trying to make you believe life is supposed to be fair and everyone deserves a trophy. This can’t be further from the truth. You’re going to get passed up for that promotion, the pretty girl or handsome guy isn’t going to call you back, and the ref is going to blow the call at your next softball game. You will learn 100 times more from every crash and burn than you will from all the home runs. See failure as an opportunity to get even better and then get back up and try again.

 

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that’s why I succeed” - Michael Jordan #23Click To Tweet

10. Black Coffee and Sun Block

You are immortal in your late teens and early 20s, and then, Boom….it happens. You realize that too much pizza and beer will cause you to get fat, and too many sunburns can actually turn into cancer. My point is, be proactive and realize that one day is approaching rapidly. Black coffee is delicious, will keep you awake, and won’t pack on the pounds. The white line of sunblock on your nose doesn’t look cool, but it will save your life. When you leave your twenties, it will become very obvious that looking cool and being cool are no longer the same. Be cool, drink black coffee, and for goodness sakes, put on the SPF 30!

11. Give

Give your money, give your time, and give your everything. (It's what Rich People Do)Click To Tweet

Give your money, give your time, and give your everything. The most memorable times I have had in my life aren’t the vacations I took or the stuff I bought. It’s the times where I was able to make a difference in someone else’s life because I gave. I wish I would have done more of it. Understand that you don’t need to give away your life savings. It can be as simple as buying a cup of coffee for the stranger behind you in the line at Starbucks or leaving a $100 tip on a $10 lunch to the pregnant waitress. Take a less fortunate kid to a college football game or take an inner city teenage girl on a one day shopping spree at the mall. If you need some inspiration, visit I Like Giving.

12. Find a Mentor

You need a mentor who is going to praise your wins and point out your mistakes. Someone who is ultra successful and someone who is willing to teach to those who are willing to learn (YOU!). Who do you look up to, who do you want to be like, and who do you respect? That person(s) is your mentor. Ask that person if you could take them out to lunch once a month and learn from them. You will be surprised at the honor you are giving them when asking him or her to mentor you. Learn from their success stories, their mistakes, and ask them for advice. Remember, they were once in your shoes too and they made it to the other side.

There aren’t shortcuts in life, but there are roads that have fewer stop lights and not as many speed bumps. Ask your mentor for directions.

Congratulations younger little Peach, I just made you a millionaire! Now take some of your winnings and buy everyone in line at the coffee shop a sugar-free, non-fat, caramel machiato, with almond milk 🙂 One more thing – if you have an idea of a blog…..start it sooner.

Be good to yourself, your friends, your love, and BE GOOD TO YOUR MONEY!

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6 replies
  1. Josh
    Josh says:

    I like every bit of this post. I can relate a lot better to #3 Building Wealth Now & #4 Travel everywhere now that I’m married & have a 6-month old child. Being single is the best time to sacrifice your time if you have a time-intensive (& hopefully good paying) job so you can at least be debt-free or on the correct path as you most likely won’t want to put in those crazy hours once you hold that little one in your arms.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Life does get better when the little ones come along. However, the opportunity to take the crazy trips, the risks, and do “what-eva” you want decreases with each kid. If you’re single or still haven’t popped out the kids – GO Somewhere Awesome ASAP! 🙂

      Reply
  2. jason @phroogal.com
    jason @phroogal.com says:

    Great list. I do these things – travel more, drink black coffee, yoga (flexibility), less alcohol/less grease/less sugar (basically if this is the only life/body I have I should ensure it’s optimally running with better inputs.

    Reply
    • Peach
      Peach says:

      Ah yes, Yoga would have been a great thing to tell myself. I am the MOST unflexible person on Earth and I am paying for it lately. Thanks for the Comment Jason!

      Reply
  3. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor
    Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says:

    Great ideas! I especially love that you mention being generous and getting a mentor (and driving a beater). We have tried to include these all in our life and have been very happy with the results. I love the idea of the letter to yourself. Nice piece.

    Reply
  4. Jim Wang
    Jim Wang says:

    When it comes to working with a mentor, remember that you need to do the work and the mentor helps you get over the hump. Mentors can help with direction. If you show up to a lunch meeting with your mentor and ask for generic “help” or something that can be solved with simple googling, you’ll lose the mentor but also not get the greatest of value out of it.

    And it doesn’t need to be a formal take out to lunch type of situation either, just having a few folks you can email with a question can be extremely valuable mentorship as well. Fantastic post Peach.

    Reply

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