If I knew then what I know now...
At any point in life it seems we can look back and wish we knew back then what we know now. If knew back in high school what I know now, I would have done some things differently. If I knew in college what I know now, I would have altered a few decisions. My first job, if only I’d known. My first failed business endeavor, I would have, could have, and should have… Life is full of lessons and experiences, and in most cases the lessons come after we’re given the test. It’s backward from what we’re taught in school. With school, we’re taught the material, then given an exam on how well we retained and regurgitated it. Just so you know, this is rarely the case in life.
In speaking with people early in their careers, those that have recently graduated, and really most people, there are a few common themes. Debt accumulated during and after college is scary. Finding a job with decent income is far more challenging than expected. For those that are starting to make money, they aren’t entirely sure where to put it. And it’s very difficult to find an advisor you can relate to and trust. Good news, you aren’t alone. The challenge, it takes effort to overcome these unknowns.
Here’s a little food for thought: There are two major flaws in what and how we’re selling the future to our young adults. (A few more than two really, but I’ll just share these two or you won’t read the entire article. We can revisit the others later…)
This first flaw is setting the expectation that with a college degree you will graduate and get a well-paying job, maybe one that you like. The reality is that your diploma may get you in the door for a few interviews you wouldn’t otherwise get, may even get you hired somewhere when all else is equal, but it provides no guarantee of success, longevity, a baseline of income, or much of anything else. It does, however, provide an opportunity for you to get to know a bit about yourself – how you learn, who you interact well with, who you don’t, how you respond to authority, the types of people you attract – all of which are very valuable outcomes. A recent grad shared that her college experience, and life to this point, had felt like a long conveyor belt. She had ridden along, moved from one thing to the next, but after college, the belt ended, there was a grand drop and neither landing spot nor new belt in sight; just a free fall to a concrete slab. That’s pretty scary! How are we preparing students for what’s next? When do they learn how to add value to an organization? And if they do happen to land that first “real” job and start making a little money, how do we prepare them for the money decisions. We don’t, and therein lies flaw #2.
In over 25 years of formal education, not once did anyone broach the subject of making intelligent financial decisions. Not once did someone sit me down and explain a few core principles or truths that would have greatly impacted my early financial decision making. And what’s interesting is that it’s no secret that this is a problem; there are thousands of “financial literacy” programs out there designed to solve this, but they obviously aren’t working. Why aren’t they working? I have a few theories:
One: People would rather talk about politics, religion, or sex than have a conversation about their money, what they make, challenges, or debt. These are taboo subjects that we just don’t talk about. I think this will change in an upcoming generation that values transparency, but we have a ways to go. Two: Financial concepts are boring, dull, and rarely seem to apply to real life. If I ask a room full of people how many would like me to teach them how to read and understand a tax return and the US tax code, I don’t get a lot of hands in the air. Three: When you first start making money and need advice the most, the only advisors you have access to are those that are new in the business and lack the experience to give good advice. Most of these folks are trained by financial institutions, which are product manufacturing companies, on how to sell their products. The products are not necessarily bad, but for the most part advisors are paid to sell stuff, not provide sage financial advice.
So, if no one will talk about money, those that do we don’t want to listen to because it’s not exciting, and the ones that we think we can trust for advice are really just commissioned sales people, what the heck are you supposed to do?
What if it’s really not all that complicated? What there are just a few core principles that you can follow without having to have a degree in finance? What if you didn’t have to do the math on the number of lattes you buy each week or stop doing fun things to be able to pay off your debt? What if you could tap into the things that have been working for wealth creators for years?
None of this is complicated, but it does require discipline. None of this is rocket science, but it does require you to start. One of the grand lessons you’ll learn is that most things in life are not about a destination where you’ll arrive; it’s about the journey you’re on today. If you want to become wealthy, you need to learn the principles that wealthy people live by and begin living them today.
So I’ve already written more than you’ll read, and you don’t even have any of the solutions. Want to hear them? Great! I’ll be sharing several of these core principles in future articles and upcoming webcasts. Want to get in the loop? Simple, follow our community at
Is there anything you know now that you wish you’d known ten years ago? Is there? I bet there is. (If not, you’ve wasted ten years of your life learning nothing – ha!) Life truly is short, and decisions do matter. As anyone approaching the latter half of life will attest to, your greatest asset when you’re young is time. It also becomes a bit of a liability as you age. If you’re not leveraging your greatest asset, you’re missing the boat. Like the rest of us, you’ll come to your senses some number of years from now and wish you’d paid more attention. Well, now is your chance to pay attention. Learn a few basics, your small decisions will bear fruit. I know mine would have!