Updated: Jul 25, 2020
Is it true that we get wiser as we got older? Maybe there's something to it, although I'm not always so sure when I see the older generations spouting just as much nonsense as the younger ones. However, maybe it's fair to cut those youngsters a little slack, after all, they're not supposed to be the wise ones.
Have I become wiser as the years have passed? I've no idea but, either way, it won't stop me giving advice to my kids. They're aged twenty-four (working) and twenty-one (at university), and here's the advice I would give them:
If I were to have only a few words, I'd tell my kids that life is better when you smile, and even better when you can make others smile too. I'd also tell them what my mother used to tell me: "a little of what you fancy does you good, but nothing to excess". I think that's broadly what I call finding a balance, something I seem to keep coming back to.
If, after that, my kids are still listening, these are some more things I'd tell them:
Think the best of people
Watch or read the news and you'd think most of the world is bad, a continuous reel of crime, disaster, tragedy and conflict. This stuff happens, but it isn't a balanced view of all that's going on. It's why these days I tune into less of the news.
I'd rather believe that 99.99% of people are good. That's not to say I should be naïve, but I'd rather be caught out once in a while than go through life constantly suspicious of people. Maybe another Mum saying works here, "treat others as you expect them to treat you". That's what I'd tell my kids.
Choose what makes you happy
Start by understanding what really drives your happiness and, once you've figured it out, try to follow that path. When you really think about it, it most likely won't be money or material things i.e. not the bigger house, flasher car, etc that a lot of people think make them happy.
Different people will have different answers, but I'd always advise my kids to do what makes them happy.
Be willing to take a risk
Some of our best decisions, those that had the biggest positive impacts, were the ones where we took a risk. Life would have been very different if we'd shied away from our first overseas posting in Jamaica, or if I hadn't changed companies and relocated to Dubai. My early retirement was the same, it was a risk, to carry on working felt much safer. Without taking those risks, we wouldn't have the life that we have now.
I'm not suggesting my kids be reckless, but I would advocate that they be willing to take a chance now and then. Sometimes you just have to go for it, and it might just change your life.
Make time for yourself and your health
I believe in hard work - I'm not overly smart so I had to. Typically I'd work eleven hours a day, sometimes six days a week, believing I was very busy and important🤦♂️. In hindsight, I wasn't too busy and I definitely wasn't too important! Eventually I found a better work life balance, making more time for myself and my health. All it took was for me to decide I could, and would, do it.
My kids could easily fall into the same pattern of putting work first and not sparing enough time for themselves. It can be OK for a while but I don't think it's the way to go, certainly not long term. For sure, work hard, but be sure to keep a healthy work life balance.
Be mindful of how you define success
The marketing people have done a great job telling us that nothing better demonstrates success better than newer, bigger, shinier, faster. And we seem to lap it up. As the years have passed, I'm starting to think differently. Maybe success is more about being happy about ourselves, raising a family, enjoying experiences, being respected, or just trying to do the right thing.
I'd ask my kids to think carefully about what success means and what it might look like for them, and to be cautious about taking at face value what the marketing commercials want us to believe.
In some ways, I'd rather not mention money in an advice to my kids post as other things should be more important in their lives. However, getting to be financially independent is what allows me to have the good life that I have today, so it would seem remiss not to include some advice on the thing that supposedly makes the world go round.
It sounds incredibly dull, but tracking spending has probably been the biggest help in getting me to financial independence. In the old days, when there wasn't online banking, we had to keep some kind of track to avoid going overdrawn. I just didn't break the habit once technology came along.
My spend tracking hasn't always been as detailed as it is today, it's only recently that I've produced monthly spend charts. But even without the charts, the simple act of recording has always worked to control my spending.
I'd recommend this to everyone, including my kids.
Get into the savings habit early
I'm a fan of habits, assuming they're the good ones that is. If you can save even just a small amount each month at the start of your career, that habit will become engrained and you'll be set for when you enter the higher earning years. Plus, there's the benefit of compounding, meaning even small amounts saved will add up to a sizeable amount of money given enough time.
I sent my daughter a compounding interest example earlier in the month (you can't say I don't live a rock and roll life🤣) and her response was "wowza" - it's amazing how it adds up!
Index investing - low cost and long term view
Based on my record, I probably shouldn't give investment advice, but I hope my kids will benefit by not repeating my mistakes. I didn't know about index investing until the past few years, so I got sucked into investments with high fees, trying to pick individual stocks (basically gambling/guessing!), and ended up procrastinating with cash on the sidelines simply because I was too scared to risk a mistake.
If I'd known about index investing (with a long term view), I could have avoided a lot of costly mistakes. Kids, try not to make the same mistakes that Dad made.
So that's my advice to my kids, not in any particular order, other than I'd rank the life stuff as more important than the money stuff. What do you think - do my topics accord with your views, do you think I've got things wrong, or have I missed things that you think should be included?