For the vast majority of people in the world, life is a hard, arduous grind of an existence. Even in the US, most people go through life never really sure of how to improve their situation and life. They simply do what their parents and grandparents did; go to school (high school, maybe college if they’re so inclined), get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, spend the rest of their lives paying back debt to other people, hopefully save a little bit of money to supplement their retirement, then die.
That is absolutely NOT the way I want to live my life, but it took me about 40 years to figure it out. So I’m going to make sure my kids get the memo from the get-go. I’ve come up with a list of things that I want to impart on them from an early age that will, hopefully, help them lead a fuller, richer, less stressful, debt-free life, and have a ton of fun doing it. They are currently seven and one, and we are already dishing out some of these tidbits.
- Some people are just mean. It’s nothing you’ve done; they just suck. You can’t make them like you, or make them happy. Your mother and I are trying to do a great job raising you. You are smart, pretty/handsome, funny, kind, and have a loving spirit; so the problem most likely isn’t you. It’s them. Forget them and don’t give them a second thought.
- Start your own business. Be an entrepreneur. Remember when we made soap and sold it door to door? Or your lemonade stand? Keep coming up with ideas on how to help other people and solve their problems. They will pay you for it. Do this, and you won’t ever have a job you hate, boss you hate, commute you hate, or a feeling of being trapped by the promise of a nominal payoff at the end of it all.
- Don’t be materialistic. Until we started letting you really watch TV when you were about four or five and you started seeing commercials, you couldn’t have cared less about toys. Our bad. We should have stuck to Netflix with no commercials. Anyway, $50 t-shirts, $100 jeans, shoes, toys, gadgets, new cars, big house; all that is just stuff that clutters your life, literally and figuratively. You CAN be happy with much less than you think you can. Your mom and I used to live in a one bedroom apartment and drove two beat up old cars. Less stress. When your bills get too high, you feel trapped and are caught in a cycle of “need to make more to buy more, then make more to pay off the debt so I can buy more”. That is a bad way to live.
- Read. A lot. We’ve got more books in our house than probably 95% of American homes. Use them. Absorb them. Repeat.
- Trust Mommy and Daddy. Since you were old enough to understand us, we’ve told you that our sole purpose as a parent is to keep you safe. Always remember that. If we say no, we aren’t just being mean. It’s to keep you safe in some shape or form, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally.
- Don’t invest your money in the stock market. GASP! That’s right, I said it. Your money will be eaten alive by fees, taxes, more fees and if you invest in a retirement account, you won’t see it until you’re 59 1/2. Wall Streeters will buy boats, houses, and have extravagant parties with your money, then figure out a way to give it back to you when you retire. Investment accounts are ALMOST as bad as Social Security. Don’t count on that one either. Use your brain to come up with ideas, and use your money to implement those ideas. Build businesses.
- Don’t buy a new car. Money Suck. Buy a one or two year old car with less than 10,000 miles on it and save 35% off the price if it were brand new.
- Travel the world. You’ve got a good start on this one. You’re spending the summers in Turkey and have more stamps in your passport by age seven than most Americans ever will. Son, you’re a little harder to travel with, so we’ll see what happens with you. You’ve still got Turkey under your belt. By experiencing different cultures, you will be much more rounded as a person and much more empathetic with others.
- Your mother will hate me saying this, but you don’t have to go to college. Companies are wising up and are removing a college degree from many job requirements and advertisements. You’ll wind up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, which is a really bad way to start life as an adult. Plus, you don’t need a degree to start your own business (see #2). There are plenty of free resources to learn about business, finance, entrepreneurship, etc (see #4). Online resources like Udacity, Coursera, edX, among others will teach you more than most kids learn in college, at a fraction of the cost.
- Have fun in life. There will of course be times when things will be unpleasant. But if you follow this list, the good times will FAR outweigh the bad. When your brushing your teeth every morning, ask yourself “is what I have planned for today what I want to be doing” (props to Steve Jobs). At night, ask “did I do what I wanted to today.” If not, change something. I’m 41 now. I’ve said “no” to those question way too many times and it sucks.
- One more as a bonus. Read and follow the Family Rules hanging in the hallway everyday.