There are five financial decisions that I can point to that really made a huge difference in my life and basically moved me from earner/saver to guaranteeing financial freedom and wealth.
My First Financial Lesson – Value of a Dollar
My first financial lesson really defined a lot of my life with dealing with money. As a teenager when I wanted to spend all my money on one item I was so excited…. and then I was deflated almost right after.
Having “something new” quickly faded and I had my shoes and no money.
That left a very strong impression on me from that day forward. Anytime I was going to make a purchase, especially something that uses a large portion of my money, I need to think about it instead of buying on impulse.
Do I really need it, want it or is it just filling a temporary satisfaction? Will it go on sale? Could I save and use the money elsewhere? Once I learned the value of a dollar and learned how easy it was to lose it changed my life.
Plus I learned that I liked money more than stuff. Money is always awesome, stuff eventually wears out, fades away, or gets replaced by the latest and greatest.
Second Financial Lesson – No Debt Out of College
My second lesson came while I was in college. I knew that I was going into a career where the pay was extremely low out of college but had a higher potential later on. I knew I couldn’t have a debt of any type because I wouldn’t be able to pay it back and move somewhere to start my career.
I worked hard, graduated early and finished 4 years of school in 2, had a full time job just a week after school was over. I used those next two years at a low salary as my “grad school.” Having no debt to start out my career got me off to a huge start toward building my wealth.
I wasn’t making big money but I wasn’t falling behind and kept my expenses low those first few years while working. I also discovered that I could be happy on a low income as well so life and happiness aren’t always about money.
I have seen others who graduate with lots of debt succeed and do well. I have seen several crashes as well, but that is life. Many careers require an immense amount of schooling. Of course, it can be done, but it also depends on what your career is, how much consumer debt you have, and your spending habits.
You can be successful no matter your salary and career….it all comes down to your spending.
Third Financial Lesson – Buying a House I Can Easily Afford
Buying a modest house that I could easily afford was huge. This is likely your largest expense in life so don’t mess it up! I was so tempted to max out my payment and use every cent I had saved so I could buy a little mini-mansion (as my first house…seriously…what happened to lesson one right?!).
Luckily since stepped in (my wife) and helped me come down from the debt clouds to help me again realize that having extra money each month was way more important and essential to our long-term plan instead of paying for another room or two (more to clean as my wife puts it), granite, and other horrifically overpriced “upgrades.”
Now I watch people move in and have double the mortgage payment that we paid on our home and just shake my head. Their decision is going to hurt and keep their cash strapped for a long time. It causes strain on relationships, marriages, finances, families and so much more. Again love money more than drywall and 2×4’s.
Fourth Financial Lesson – Daring to Change Jobs & Careers
My fourth lesson was really a lesson about risk more than it was about changing jobs. Sometimes we get too comfortable and lose out on opportunities because we are unwilling to take on a little risk.
I was in TV and pretty good at what I was doing as a reporter, but with the evolution of media and consolidation of most companies along with breaking news taking priority over real investigative journalism, I started to lose my passion for the career I thought I would spend my life in. The pay and hours weren’t great, but it’s fun to be outside and on the scene and not in a cubicle.
Instead of looking at what I wanted to do, I looked for a company I wanted to work for instead. I made a list of the top five companies in my state and was able to get on with one of them and quickly worked my way up into management. Had I not made the move I would have lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, amazing benefits, more time off, and a more flexible schedule.
Risk is a funny thing to deal with in life. We are so fearful to make a move or change and then in many cases once we make the move we wish we had done it earlier. How many of us wish we had invested earlier in life? Why do we make the same fearful mistake over and over again?
If you need a lifestyle change and more income why not start scoping out ideal places to work? It doesn’t hurt to be prepared and ready to move up. There are amazing companies out there so why work at a place that makes you miserable?
Fifth Financial Lesson – Learning to Invest and Max Out
Finally, it simply isn’t enough to save money and earn money. You need to make your money work for you…and we aren’t talking about 0.01% rates from the banks and credit unions; that is stealing from you! Learning to invest is different for every person in life depending on what you have on hand, what your potential is, your life goals, and your age.
The one simple overall rule that applies to everyone is that you have to invest. Doesn’t matter your age. Not learning to invest is just leaving money behind especially if you are young.
It took me a long time to make that leap. First of all, I thought I was doing enough by putting down 3% for a company match. Isn’t that what you hear to do when you start out?
Do you know what saving 3% for retirement is? BROKE! I want to say it’s almost not even worth investing if you going to barely do it, but something is more than nothing as long as you are willing to learn and invest more down the road.
Take baby steps and learn to invest with a little bit of money. Learn why rich people don’t freak out when the market crashes and get super greedy to invest and make even more money while the rest of the world is lamenting their losses.
I have made mistakes, but the biggest mistake would have been not learning and really understanding how investing works. Had I not learned I would have $275,000 less than I do today.
The biggest risk is not learning….you take risks on other things far riskier than investing and don’t ever worry about it….so take the time to learn. Once you learn you find out that risk can be your friend as well and help you.
Life is about learning. The best learning comes from application. I know being book smart is good, but when you apply what you learn and move on from mistakes, financial or not, and keep moving forward you are on the path to success….and a freaking boatload of money.