As someone who grew up in a cage of safety, I fully admit that dealing with money has been a struggle throughout my life.
When you grow up comfortably, it’s difficult to realize how affluence is not the norm.
What do I mean? Just that I’ve (a) always had someone to bail me out when things get tough, and (b) believe that there’s always more money waiting to be made.
The latter is true, and is it a bad thing to have. But there’s also the Millennial curses: (c) being raised with a belief that the good times will keep rolling on, and (d) a sense of entitlement.
Yup, I’m admitting to being an entitled bastard.
Oh, not anymore. I outgrew that years ago, and any lingering sense of entitlement exploded after my son was born.
What this adds up to, though, is a lack of respect for money. This culminated when I went back to school recently after learning my job was soon to end and having to pay bills. What I ended up doing was selling almost all of my musical instruments and other gear, not to mention many other possessions I’d rather have held on to.
Talk about humiliating.
Conversations with the guys at the music store were not pleasant:
“Whoa, this is some nice gear! Mind if I ask why you’re selling?”
“I have to make my car payment.”
I had no savings because I had been on the debt treadmill for a long while. Big mistake. But I’ve learned a lot of lessons since then, and I also made some important mindset shifts prior to pulling the trigger and selling this stuff. So here goes my take on trying to get better at the money making game:
Stuff is just stuff and can always be bought again. This was the big one. Yes, as a musician it hurt to sell my instruments. And some of them have irreplaceable sentimental value. But at he end of the day, will my old guitars really be that much different than the new ones I plan to buy? How important is that stuff, anyway?
There is always more money. Abundance mindset! This is a simple but powerful shift. There is no fixed pie of money. Money is created. You won’t be poor forever as long as you combine your work ethic with an abundance mindset and a healthy dose of humility.
Humility. Times won’t always be good…but they won’t always be bad either. And never think any job is below you. After law school, when I couldn’t find work and was trying to set up my own firm, I worked at Home Depot for several months. Yes, the questions were awkward. But who cares?
Learn to say no. To friends, to family, and yes…to women. There’s tremendous social pressure to keep up with the Joneses, to be sociable, to not be the “cheap” guy. Screw that noise. Either be prepared to say no, or just don’t go out. It sucks, but it’s temporary.
Credit cards are your enemy. I know from personal experience that this isn’t always possible, but if you must use a credit card, don’t buy anything you don’t have the cash on hand or in the bank to get in the first place. I worked for a while collecting credit card debt, and have seen first-hand how dangerous they are. Believe the hype. Stay away if possible.
Save. Some say 10%. Some say more. Whatever it is, save something. I like the six-month buffer rule (enough to cover expenses for six months should you lose your job). I’m not there yet, but that’s my goal.
Invest. As someone with little disposable income save a movie here and there, I’m not at the point where seriously investing is feasible. And I’m not about to give investment advice. But I do know the future value of money: A dollar today is worth more than a dollar in the future, because today’s dollar can be invested and earn interest compared to holding on to that same dollar and whipping it out of your wallet ten years from now. Think about that the next time you’re stashing cash in between your walls.
Most of these are simple in theory, et difficult in practice because they require discipline and long-term thinking. For those of you still in your 20s, I urge you to take this seriously because avoiding the debt treadmill is much easier than trying to get off of it.
What are your money success stories or most useful pieces of money wisdom?
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