Recently my wife received news that an acquaintance from her days in high school had passed away from alcoholism. Hopefully my wife forgives me for telling you that her high school days finished in 1976. While they had not stayed in contact, it was still upsetting to hear of a life lost through addiction.
My wife recalls the person concerned had come from an affluent family and pondered what had gone wrong. Due to the lack of contact over the years, the answer to this is pure guesswork.
But what we do know is:
Money does not buy happiness
Money does not buy respect
Money does not buy love
However, money can buy you trouble and plenty of it. Justin Bieber immediately
comes to mind. Money without knowledge and discipline is a dangerous and potentially lethal combination.
Varying degrees of invincibility and ‘knowing it all’ are common traits of youth. With the benefit of hindsight we know life provides plenty of lessons that bring our limitations into stark contrast.
Which leads me to the ‘back to the future’ moment my wife and I did spend time considering – what advice would the older you give to the younger you?
Rather than share our personal thoughts (which I am sure my wife would NOT forgive me for) I thought for this article it would be interesting to do a Google search to see what others had said on this reflective topic.
Google delivered 4,140,000 results on this search.
After reading through several posts it became obvious the dominant themes were family, health and wealth. These three featured in the advice we would also give to our younger selves.
According to palliative care professionals, most people on their deathbed have one major regret – not spending enough time with their family. Few ever regret not spending enough time at work.
The collective wisdom from various posts was to tell your younger self to recognise the importance of family. Time spent loving, listening to, educating and mentoring your family is the greatest investments you will ever make.
There are people we know who have strained or nonexistent relationships with their parents and/or their children. The energy and emotion (not to mention the time) spent dealing with ‘issues’ is draining for all parties.
One of the major causes of family dislocation is squabbles over money. Spending time to educate your children on how to manage and respect (not worship) money is imperative. The education system fails miserably in this area. So the life lessons on money need to be taught around the family table.
Speaking honestly and candidly about your experiences (good and bad) with money provides an opportunity for your children to see the real and vulnerable you. Lowering your guard and exposing your human foibles is an intangible that can create greater emotional bonds for your relationship.
My advice to my younger me would be to sit down and speak to my parents about the basics – budgeting, paying off a house, what lessons have they learnt about money, insurances, superannuation etc.
How many families do you think have these sorts of conversations? Judging by the posts I read, not many.
You do not need to be a financial guru. By just explaining the very basics of money management you will be way ahead of the majority.
Building strong family ties is one thing; being around to enjoy the fruits of your efforts is another. Steve Jobs died age 56, Kerry Packer at age 68 – how much of their wealth would they have given to live another 10 to 20 years and watch their families grow up?
My wife’s school friend chose a lifestyle that eventually claimed their life. What if they had consumed a more moderate level of alcohol? There is every likelihood they would be here today.
The gist of the ‘older me and younger me’ online chats was to exercise regularly, eat nutritious food, drink in moderation and embrace the restoring power of sleep. Just as importantly, don’t even think about cigarettes or drugs.
Some of the most emphatic advice came from cancer and heart attack survivors – imploring their younger self to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Sadly it often takes a near death experience to deliver a wake-up call.
My advice to the younger me would be to heed the wisdom in ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure’.
Make a healthy lifestyle a habit, not a fad.
I have deliberately left wealth to the end, whereas it actually figured prominently in the online ‘older me to younger me’ chats.
The advice was not about learning to trade options, share trading, ‘flipping’ houses or foreign exchange trading. It was far more rudimentary.
- Build a ‘rainy day’ fund (an account with a least three months of living expenses in it). So many people live from pay week to pay week with little in reserve for an unexpected expense or worst still, loss of employment.
- Pay off all debts as quickly as possible – especially credit cards.
- Place a limit on your credit card that makes the repaying the balance easily manageable.
- Pay more than the minimum employer contribution into your retirement account – superannuation. One day the age of 55 that once looked an eternity away will be upon you. The compound return on the extra savings will be greatly appreciated when that day arrives.
- Don’t be flippant with money. Appreciate what it takes to earn, save, retain and build wealth.
- Don’t invest in anything you do not understand. So many have learned the hard way the unseen risks embedded in what looked like a ‘great investment’. If you do not understand it, walk away. Also be wary of those selling investments – what do they get out of it?
- Invest in your skills and knowledge to improve your ability to earn a higher wage/salary, start a business and/or invest more astutely.
- Remember it is NOT what you earn, but rather what you save that determines your financial success.
If these three fairly simple lessons can be passed onto the next generation, oh what a world it would be.
Healthier, genuinely wealthier and more considerate. Now that is an inheritance worth bequeathing.