If Youth Knew If Age Could

Have you ever wondered what advice you would give to your younger self? Or similarly, have you ever thought about how your future self would show up and how it would want to guide you today?

Since we haven’t built a real flux-compensator [yet], wouldn’t it be easier to simply start asking those older and smarter than you to share their most valuable lessons?

I’ve spent some time to gather some nuggets of wisdom from people I’m surrounded with and decided to sort them systematically. Maybe first and foremost, one of the key lessons that I’ve learned is that’s it worth it to pursue what your longing for, especially if it’s difficult.

The most valuable things in life are often hardest to obtain.

This rule of thumb is valid for experience, wisdom, skills, technical talent and of course wealth. At the same time, the most valuable lessons of life are often the ones you try to avoid, resist, or simply miss for years – as you’re following your current routine indefinitely.

If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard.

But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.

Life is simple. But not easy!

In this post, I’ll try to summarize all the thoughts and ideas about what I’d be telling my younger self.

No Fear

Dream big – if your goals don’t scare you, set bigger goals!

Your true potential is only limited by your passion and imagination. Imagination is the workshop of your mind, capable of turning mind energy into accomplishment and wealth. What the mind can conceive and believe, it shall receive.

Work on making your dreams come true by finding your true ikigai. This planet needs more people that dare to dream – learn to dream with eyes wide open. Keep in mind that if it doesn’t challenge you, it most likely also doesn’t change you.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Walt Disney

The biggest risk in life is actually to play it too safe. You might end up with regrets for not having tried. We all just have one life. Use your time wisely. Time is the only wealth we’re given.

The biggest obstacle to get started is fear. People are afraid to think big, of trying new things and of making mistakes. However, if you think too small, you’ll only achieve small things.

Some of my friends confirmed they achieved the greatest advances in life in moments where they stayed calm and did it anyways. This is true for your career, for love and for making new experiences!

I would tell my younger self: “Trust me. The best things in life are on the other side of fear!”

“The problem human beings face is not that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim too low and succeed.”

Michelangelo

Find your true north, your direction, your why.

Then stick to who you are and keep building on it.

Do not try to impress parents, partners, the other gender, friends and bosses. In doing so, you would only head in directions that are at odds with who you really are or could become.

Yes, you will make mistakes.

Yes, you will have to learn more on your journey.

But all this is worth your while as long as you keep an open mindset and stay open to possibilities and chances.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Albert Einstein

In order to strengthen your foundation, do keep your partner and family onboard, you have higher odds as a dream-team!

Don’t be the guy that spent his entire life in the comfort zone.

Have no fear!

Start Now

Some say, the best time to get started was twenty years ago. The second-best time of course is today, not tomorrow. Don’t wait for the perfect time – it will never be perfect. Forget about waiting until you know everything – you never will. Start now.

The actual root of procrastination is doubt. Find a way to increase your belief and you will increase your activity. Of course you will be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t even try.

Keep in mind that people who never try are failing already.

For all you know, no one else knows what they’re doing either. Everyone feels insecure sometimes (some even a lot of the time).

Simple truth of life is: Those who keep going, keep winning.

Keep in mind: Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Take risks while you’re young and while you can.

“Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.”

A. Sachs

In case you don’t like where you are now, move. You are not a tree.

Move towards your goals starting now. Other than your partner and family (teamwork!) don’t wait for someone to give you permission – they won’t.

Just start now!

Stay Curious: Keep Learning

Unless you are completely retired, earning money is still the best form of building and preserving wealth. Anything that you learn will somehow become your wealth, a wealth that cannot be taken away from you anymore.

Invest in yourself so that you’ll never have to worry about earning an income whether it be from a full time job, side-hustle, or business.

There are many ways to learn new things: Reading books, attending classes or through experience. I’m a strong advocate of learning desirable skills and my favourite way to go about it is through exposure: Experience is king.

Experience are the raw form of learning and will put you in a situation which pure (book-) knowledge cannot give. Life greatest lessons come from experiences.

Get started with learning “how to money”. Use this key-skill to buy more of your time and expose yourself to learning more: New languages, new technical skills, how to write, give public speeches, how to start a business and so on.

Make your brain faster, smarter, more confident and more savvy!

Stay curious and keep learning!

Move the Needles

How to money?

The very first step to building wealth is to spend less than you make.

Simply put, focus on increasing the gap between income and expenses.

The bigger the difference, the more “free cash flow” you have flowing and the faster you cruise towards your (monetary) goals – be it net-worth or cash-flow.

The Crossover Point — illustration from “Your Money Or Your Life” – by Vicki Robin

The higher your monthly income and the lower your monthly expenses, the more you can save and invest. The more you invest, the faster the third curve, the monthly investment income, will move higher up. Once the “passive income” reaches your expenses, you’ve reached the crossover point. Congratulations, you are now financially free!

Read more about this in the wonderful book “Your Money Or Your Life” by Vicki Robin.

Reduce your expenses by listing them all up and question them one by one. You will be surprised how much potential most people are able to unlock doing this exercise. Focus on ongoing savings, not on one-offs. Explore saving more money by going for the “Million Dollar Haircut” or work on similar new habits. A budget might help.

On the other side, work on increasing your income either by adding more value to this world either on your job or with your business or by investing more into cash-flowing assets.

Move the needles [income and expenses] into the right direction over time.

Pay yourself first!

Don’t save what’s left after spending, spend what’s left after saving.

Start Investing Now

Very often people tell me they don’t have enough money to get started with investing. Well, how much is enough? I’d say, if you found a way to have your basic needs covered, anything above that is fair game.

No amount is too small, so start NOW!

Know the power of compounding in investing in financial assets as well as other areas in life. Whatever it is you like to get started investing: Start your compounding journey with your first paycheck and keep going from there.

Never stop.

By setting-up automatic bi-weekly investment contributions to a stock market index fund as soon as you open a bank account you’ll most likely be well served. Try not to look at it until you’re much older.

“Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.”

Albert Einstein

Buy Assets instead of Liabilities

Learn the difference between assets and liabilities.

Assets are anything that puts money into your pockets.

Liabilities are anything that takes money out of your pockets.

Simple as that!

Following this definition your car, expensive toys, boats or even your oversized home most likely qualify as liabilities (!) while investing into your education, equities or your business will be assets.

Never finance depreciating “assets” and be careful with financing liabilities even more. Better to purchase second-hand cars or wait until you have sufficient free cash-flow to indulge purchasing “fun-items” – if must be.

Most people can afford NOT to be a great investor, but probably can’t afford to be a bad one. Invest early in Index funds: You’ll worry less and earn more. Index and chill.

Once your assets are accumulating capital understand that capital is that part of wealth which is devoted to obtaining further wealth. This can be human capital (yourself) and/ or financial capital.

Keep accumulating capital.

Understand Your Taxes

The average person will view taxes as something inevitable and therefore not spend too much time understanding the “tax-code”. Each tax jurisdiction has different rules and loopholes. Understand the rules of the game before you start playing.

For most tax-codes the advice is similar: Maximize your retirement-account contributions, untap others such as health savings accounts, know how to optimize mortgages, debt, and real estate. Figure out how capital growth and dividends are taxed. Implement more tools if and when needed as your net-worth grows.

At a certain point in time you should consider starting your own business for employing yourself and/ or holding assets. From eight digits upwards the topics could be your personalized fund vehicle or to collateralize your assets within or establishing foundations and trusts with insurance shields to prepare for handing over your wealth to the next generation.

Beware, the rules keep changing.

Keep yourself updated.

Socialize with intention

You’ll become the average of the five people you spend the most time with!

Choose your friends wisely.

Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes. And the changes are what you become. Change the outcome by changing your circle.

Seth Godin

Take people for who they really are and not for who you want them to be. They show you everyday just look. Make sure you don’t confuse looking rich, (buying fancy toys and big houses), with being wealthy. The people we think are rich are often deep in debt.

Stay away from people that think you’re lucky if you succeed or that you’re greedy if you acquire wealth. Pay no attention to them. They simply doesn’t understand. Avoid people that don’t understand.

Choose your tribe. Surround yourself with energetic people that like to discuss their ideas instead of talking about other people. Engage in some #JacuzziBeerstorming for getting more creative with your social circle. Wealth flows from energy and ideas.

It is the product of man’s capacity to think.

Build your relationships, your network is your networth.

Fuck the Joneses

Avoid keeping up with the Joneses.

Avoid herd-mentality and most money problems will avoid you throughout your life. Instead of spending too much time with what the average Joe on your street does, says or thinks of you, focus on what you can control.

Why bother trying to “fit in”?

What other people think of you is none of your business. Don’t be in a race with your social media neighbours. No one is so miserable as the poor person who maintains the appearance of wealth. Be content with enough and stay clear of lifestyle creep.

“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money”

Pablo Picasso

Never ever, ever, ever give up! Ever!

Be patient and be prepared for set-backs.

Life is not a sprint, it’s rather a marathon. The greatest of all works have not been performed by strength but by perseverance.

Be more tough!

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.

Every journey starts with a first step. Get started and then focus on daily progress. Take small steps if needed. But steps into the right direction. Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.

Aim high, be unrelenting in your pursuit of your goal, but flexible in your approach of it. Stay true to your values and don’t compare yours with anyone else’s journey. Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

„When the going gets tough, the tough get going.“

Ignored the haters in the late 1990’s and 2020 again, never give up.

No Regrets

Sometimes when you think back you will realize in your life there are certain important decisions that have led you to where you are today. It could drive you mad if you keep thinking in “what ifs” all the time.

Imagine, back in 2004 I got accepted to work for Google through an AIESEC traineeship, said no and decided for the more adventurous challenge of working in Taiwan. Was this a stupid decision? You could argue so. However, I chose to venture out to Taipei instead and got to know my wife. There are many such crossroads in anyone’s life.

My advice here: Once you’re at that crossroads, listen to your heart, your passion. Choose wisely. Make a decision. Go for it. The path you take will define and form you. In the end, it doesn’t matter which path you take, as long as you move forward. And have no regrets.

Listen to your heart – keep your passion alive.

Seriously, it doesn’t matter too much what others think.

Regrets don’t help.

Take Care of Yourself so You can take Care of Others

When you fly on an airplane, the flight crew instructs you clearly to “put your oxygen mask on first,” especially before helping others, including your own children!

Wrong (credits to “Fight Club”)

Why is this such an important rule? It’s a rule to ensure a higher rate of survival. If you run out of oxygen, you wouldn’t be able to help anyone else with their oxygen mask anymore. Put more simply: if you die, you can’t help anyone else.

That’s how to do it.

Again, the life advice here is not to push forward at any price. You got to know how to take care of yourself. Especially when to take a rest. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can experience burnout, stress, fatigue, reduced mental effectiveness, health problems, anxiety, frustration, inability to sleep, and more.

Keep in mind, whatever you try to attain here: You’re doing this to improve your life! Money is not the end goal. It’s a means, a tool, a way to have options to build the life of your dreams but not worth anything in its own right. Don’t lose sight of what really matters. Happiness over being “rich”. The journey should be as remarkable as the destination. While wealth is the ability to fully experience life please ensure to enjoy the ride: Life is about being and becoming, not having and getting.

Remember: You only live once!

What advice would you give to your younger self if you could?

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.

Financially Imagineer Your Life!

Matt

Disclaimer: Please be made aware that the some of the links used above may be affiliate links for which Financial Imagineer could receive a compensation.

Ten Lessons to Raise Financially Independent and Happy Children

Making mistakes and learning from them to grow stronger is the essence of life. Let your kids experience undesirable outcomes, mistakes and set-backs. They are the best lessons life has to offer. Expose them to small doses of discomfort and failure earlier in life and allow them to grow into bigger, better, stronger and most importantly independent, happier adults.

Isn’t it funny how humanity is wired: Babies don’t read a book or attend a classroom course to learn how to walk. No, they try and fail, fail more, fail harder, and then all of a sudden: Wow, look my baby knows how to walk!

The moment your little one starts taking off independently is probably one of the biggest moments for a parent. The parent didn’t “teach” the baby how to walk, it just happens and we are so damn proud seeing our offspring standing on their own feet!

The same procedure happens again when your little ones learn how to speak. The first time they open their mouths, it’s usually just random babbling until one day they say: “Mama” or “Papa”! Then, before you know it, they’ll be able to say things like “I don’t like vegetables!”. Kids are amazing, they don’t need extrinsic motivation. They figure out how to build their skills independently. Isn’t it amazing to see a young human being soak up all those skills by them self?

If it’s so simple, how come some adults seem to forget how to do exactly that??? Shouldn’t we as adults have become better at “learn by doing” with all the accumulated experience from our life?

So, what happens here? Once kids grow older, they tend to become more and more “socialized” and adapt to their environment. As a parent, you are [and have the power to remain] the most important influence on how they continue to learn, grow and “become” more. Though, some parents suddenly start to forbid their kids to play certain games: “you could get yourself hurt!” and become increasingly protective while others keep increasing the freedom their kids may enjoy as they grow older.

There might be a fine line on how much freedom is good or sufficient and it certainly depends on your child as well. Ultimately, while I’m not a trained teacher as such, I strongly believe there’s a correlation about how the kids who got more exposure to freedom will be able to grow up to become more self-sufficient human beings.

A new life is an unwritten book, help your child to write a good one!

The good news: Humans are naturally curious and designed as life-long learners!

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

– Mark Zuckerberg

What’s Your Job as Parent?

As parents, your job number one is to “raise independent adults” who should be able to navigate life and its full spectrum of ups and downs autonomously. That’s your job, your responsibility, your KPI so to say. Hence, in order to achieve this goal, shouldn’t we try to find ways to enable our kids to become comfortable with trying and failing, learning by themselves and discomfort in general. If we constantly protect our offspring from all the “bad things” then there’s a very high chance we’ll not be ending up with strong [enough], happy adults at the end.

Embark on this journey together as a team.

“As your dad, I’m supposed to give you two things… roots and wings. Roots which is knowing that you have the security of a family who loves you and wings, which is the confidence to do whatever you want.”

How to do it?

Building tolerance for discomfort and encouraging curiosity to try, fail, learn and succeed are most likely worth much more than hours of additional cram school exposure for kids. The older we get in life, the more discomfort we’re probably exposed to: rejection by a potential partner, accidents, being passed over for a promotion, traffic jams, delayed trains and flights, you name it.

Some of us have experienced people who where brilliantly successful at school but failed to amount to something later on in life as once they’ve left the protected environment they got “crushed by real life” so to say. In order to prepare your kids for life, help them build up resilience, gain confidence in their capabilities, plant the hunger for continuous trying no matter what and let them know that they can survive even big “mistakes” and learn from them.

1. Let them get a bad grade

Is getting a bad grade a good or a bad thing? Is losing money at the stock market a bad thing? Hmmm… it depends! It depends on what you learn from achieving lower results than expected. If a kid only gets good grades because the parents are constantly behind everything, then I would argue getting good grades all the time is a bad thing! Some parents force their offspring to study, check their work, over-edit their writing and by doing so, we take away the whole experience for the kid. Just imagine one day you may not be here anymore and can’t help, how will your junior do? Better to let them get a taste of doing worse now, then help them improving from there from the side lines. If we interfere too much, they won’t know how to manage situations of hardship in the future. If they learnt that lesson, they will also be able to adjust their behaviour in order to eventually earn money at the stock market (as well as other things) later on in life.

“When you fail, learn from it. There’s nothing wrong with trying again.”

2. Let them forget their homework, their stuff for gym class, their snack box

If you bail your children out whenever they forget something, they will not be properly incentivized to build their own systems of checking and ensuring if they’ve got everything, they need for school today, and for life later on. The more we help, the more we actually teach them that they can’t manage without parental supervision. This is not encouraging. Hands off from now on!

Not everything works out as planned in life. Get your kids ready to deal with it!

3. Let them run out of money …or even offer them a loan

Teaching your kids financial literacy should start way before they get their first pay-check. It must start with lessons on their own. Give your kids allowances with increasing intervals, start with weekly, then go bi-weekly, then monthly. Also, assist them with setting up a budget so they can plan and learn how to keep hold of some money themselves instead of spending it right away. If their budget includes eating out, simply offer them to pack lunch from home instead of giving in and bailing out.

Eventually your child runs out of money and keeps nagging and asking you for an immediate exceptional cash injection, there’s something incredibly powerful you can do: Offer a loan! Yes, a bloody loan. For my part, I was offered a loan by my father when I was just 8 years old. There was this toy I wanted so badly but I was short around $50. My father offered me an interest free loan. I had to promise to pay it back over time. While still remembering how excited I was to purchase my toy, I can never forget how it felt to pay off $2 weekly for the next six months while my sister kept receiving her weekly allowance. As a result, I started to dislike that toy and I never took out another loan until we purchased a home much later in life.

“Obstacles force you to grow. Smooth seas create weak sailors.”

4. Let them be late

As with money, time needs to be budgeted as well. Later in life, no one will wake them up and ensure they’re on time. If they can, let them wake up themselves – you can help by buying a nice alarm clock or radio for them for that purpose. Discuss with them what they’re supposed to do, how to manage it and then watch them try and figure it out. If appropriate, let them handle their way to school themselves. In case they’re late, make sure they have to pay for the taxi from their own money if required or ask a series of chores to pay you back in case you need to drive them to school.

Let your kid seize the day.

5. Let them miss an important deadline

If there’s something of great importance to them: Don’t keep reminding them over and over of an approaching deadline. Let your child miss certain small things and learn the consequences. Imagine they’ll only figure that one out as a young adult. I’m sure most of you have missed a deadline somewhen in your own journey. How did this make you feel? Most likely it made you angry and motivated you in some way to set-up certain systems to prevent it from happening again.

Make sure your kids have the same opportunity as you to learn this valuable lesson!

6. Let them use public transportation and eventually let them get lost and experience the pride of accomplishment when they don’t

This part is more or less applicable depending on where you live. Certain places have wonderfully safe and reliable systems of public transport. Others don’t. If you are comfortable with the public transport system and the respective age of your children: Let them venture out! Maybe ride with them the first time they try, but as their companion, not their parent. Let them tell you how to pay for the ride, where to get off and how to read the maps, test also to go to a place you haven’t been before together. Also try this in foreign cities while on vacation. Later, let them go on their own. There’s a huge sense of independence from navigating around the city for the kid and if they should ever get lost, they will learn even more from that.

As I approached six years, I was informed that kids below six are still allowed to ride the whole city for free. My take away from this snipped of information: Very soon I’ll have to pay! Hence, I wanted to take advantage of still being able to ride for free. Together with my little sister and my best friend we took off for an afternoon city exploration tour by bus. Somehow, we failed to inform our parents though. Our parents where so worried and oh-so relieved as we returned. To this day, we still hold precious and proud memories of that excursion.

It’s time to explore!

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

7. Let them wear smelly clothes if they’ve missed the laundry basket or they didn’t do the laundry

The purpose behind this lesson is we want our kids to be self-sufficient when they leave home. At one point in time they’ve got to do their own laundry anyways, so why not have them help you with this chore. You’d be amazed how many young adults don’t know how to do this job themselves! Being able to do this, will not just let them appreciate this part of household work more if you do it but also let them grow into better room mates as a student and later on better partners in life.

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”

8. Let them be ashamed of themselves for doing something that was unkind or untruthful

Instead of rushing to console your child immediately after something bad happened, allow them some time to digest the situation. Also, let them go through the whole emotional firework inside of them, they should develop the skill to read their emotions and understand the full consequence of their actions or inactions. You can help by acknowledging your kids’ feelings but don’t let them get off the hook for what they did too fast. Help them reflect how their actions have caused the situation and how it makes them feel. Ask them how they plan to avoid a similar situation from happening again going forward.

9. Let them leave unfinished homework

Yes, that’s something you may consider doing. Your kid may look bad in school, but again, this is the whole point. I would argue that letting them miss homework for one time will be a much more valuable lesson than having the homework finished on that one particular day. Ensure they will feel the consequences at school for not having done their part. It might have been the last time you had to worry about their homework.

If the kids require internet access or other resources in order to finish their homework, and if you have set a cap on daily internet use, don’t bail them again by allowing more internet in case they’ve used it up already to surf for their private indulgences. This will teach them to use their resources more efficiently and they would have to tell that part to their teacher as well. Which would be embarrassing and therefore another lesson worth to go for.

10. Let them set a goal for themselves and don’t intervene if they aren’t’ going to achieve it

If your child has a big dream, help them break it down into smaller steps and show them what needs to be achieved first in order to make their dream come true. This could be anything such as learning a new skill, saving up to afford something bigger, achieving a certain grade in a subject, or getting into a certain sports class or team. You as parent can help them through a plan but let them try execute themselves.

When I was almost 14 years young, I wanted a TV in my own bedroom so badly. My dad quickly turned the situation around and told me if I could earn the money for the TV then he’d be fine for me to have it. Two weeks later I was distributing newspapers to 400 households two times a week, no matter if raining, sunshine or snowy weather, it had to be done. After three months of hustling I could finally buy my TV set. And yes, you may guess it already, a few months later there was buyer’s remorse as I felt how all those hours working went into that one thing there. I’m so grateful having learnt that lesson so early in life indeed.

You’re given this one life, what is it that you want to do with it?

“Goals are simply dreams with a deadline.”

Instead of telling the kids how to live their life, let them life theirs and coach them on the journey. Let them see. Let them do, try, fail and learn. Then, let them know how their actions or inactions have amounted to the final outcome of each and every situation. Praise the good stuff and also highlight room for improvement. Reflect on the bad stuff and encourage them to try again. Tell them how proud you are about their progress so far. Share with them your own experiences after they’ve had theirs [not before]. Tell them how proud you are to see them trying and not giving up on their dreams. In essence: Be your children’s coach, not their nanny!

“Imagination is the workshop of your mind, capable of turning mind energy into accomplishment and wealth.”

With that I’ll leave you to try yourself! Would be happy to read your own experiences as a child, a parent, teacher, advisor or coach on how you learned and grew bigger, better, stronger! Learning is a lifelong thing and I even believe the above lessons are not just applicable for children.

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All the best and have fun passing your experience and knowledge to the next generation!

Matt