The best thing you can do for your [financial] future at various ages/stages of your life…
They say hindsight is twenty-twenty. When you look back at various phases in your life, it’s easier to see what went well and what could have been better. So here are some thoughts on how I would design a perfect life, financially speaking. There have been books written about this so I don’t expect to cover every single detail in a 5-minute article. But I’ll try to do the topic justice. Here goes.
The best thing you can do for your financial future when you are…
Under 12 — Build your character
The best time to build self confidence and learn emotional intelligence is before you really need it. And trust me, you’re going to need it. As a child, character building should be your focus. Though I don’t know why a 12-year old would be reading this…
Under 15 — Learn how to code… or any other useful skills
I learnt how to code at 16. I don’t work in tech today but you’ll be surprised at how understanding the basics of programming has helped me navigate the corporate world. Also, knowing how formulas work can be a lifesaver when developing an Excel template for your boss!
Under 18 — Go to a “good” university
University experience is invaluable, even if you don’t plan to ever work for anyone. Just ask Steve Jobs! The university you attend also matters. The quality of the alumni, the [perceived] quality of the training… all very crucial details.
Under 21 — Graduate with honors
I spent 10 semesters studying a field that I don’t work in today. I could have gotten a similar degree in less time (and with less stress), and still built a similar career to the one I have now. What actually matters? Your grade. Study something you can really excel at.
Under 24 — Start a business
Don’t rush into a 9 to 5 job before you are 25. Try your hands on a business. Give yourself a year. Make some mistakes. Learn from them. Those lessons will be invaluable in future, even if you end up on a corporate ladder. Plus if it works out, you won’t need the corporate ladder ;)
Under 27 — Start Investing Consistently
Learn what’s a good investment and what’s not. Harness the power of compound interest. It’s easier (and safer) to develop good money habits when you don’t have a lot of money. That way your mistakes are curtailed. You don’t yet have any “life savings” to lose to a bad investment.
Under 30 — Get a high-paying job
The beauty of having an income source before starting your job search is that you are less likely to jump at the first offer you get. You are more confident during the interview, and you can actually walk away from a bad job. Remember, there ARE great employers out there. Don’t settle.
Under 33 — Get a raise
I’m one of those people that likes to extol the virtues of investing but honestly (and from experience), nothing beats getting paid more for whatever you do. Whether it’s a business or your job, increasing your income and earning power has an exponential impact on your ability to be rich. Investments are great but they basically make sure you don’t go poor. But to really get rich, you need to earn more.
Under 36 — Marry the “right” person
I’ve always been intrigued by power couples, whether fictional like Claire & Frank Underwood or real like Beyonce & Shawn Carter. There’s something beautiful about two people united in every way, working toward a single focused goal. It’s not always realistic to expect full alignment between two people with different backgrounds and aspirations but when it comes to marriage and money, most marriages fall somewhere between the two extremes. Never been married but from what I’ve seen, the easiest way to stray from your life’s ambitions is to marry the wrong person. Or someone wrong for you. Marriage is a partnership. And a great friend could still make a horrible partner. Choose wisely.
Under 39 — Invest for your kids
The minute you decide to have kids, you should start planning for their future. All the way through to adulthood. That’s what parenting is all about. Remember, the best gift you can give your 18-year old is a debt-free adulthood. A healthy trust fund is also a nice bonus :)
Under 42 — Pay it forward
Last I heard, life begins at 40, so I guess you can start balling now. Enjoy your family. Spend time with your kids. Relax. Those habits you developed in your 20s should be paying off now. So it’s time to give back. And not just money, give your time, knowledge, and expertise.
So in summation, cultivate a great personality, develop profitable skills, get a marketable qualification, earn, invest, and give. Do all that and you are set for life.