Whether it’s matters of money, love or health, certain life lessons transcend all boundaries. Some of us are looking for guidance to follow ourselves – others are searching for advice to pass on to their kids. By blind luck some of us had parents who instilled most of these life lessons into us as we grew up – unfortunately, others weren’t as lucky.
Regardless of if you’ve heard these before or not, from today on you have the chance to better yourself and those around you. Here’s a list of life lessons to both follow yourself and to pass on to your kids:
- A good reputation is more valuable than money. Warren Buffet once said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Putting people first is some of the best financial advice you can follow. It’s people that help you get that promotion or keep customers coming back to your start-up business. Don’t forget that along your way – it’s one of the Things Successful Entrepreneurs and Executives Do Differently.
- Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Human nature is to take the easy way out – try to fight this. Why? Because I guarantee that you’ll only achieve true happiness through accomplishment and realizing your potential. Anyone who’s inherited or been given money has learned this lesson. Easy money won’t earn the self-respect you desire – hard work will!
- Patience is the best remedy for every trouble. Like anything worthwhile in life, nothing good happens quickly. Sometimes it’s the raise you’re looking for at work. Other times it’s the adoption papers you need finalized. Recognize (and accept) when events are out of your control – embrace the fact that the marathon of life is made up of thousands of small steps.
- Avoid the “unknowledge” trap. Do your best to avoid ruts of “unknowledge”; where you’ve quit learning within your professional and personal lives (one of the 25 Things to Stop Doing At Work Today). Keep maximizing learning opportunities within your industry, but also set a personal goal to obtain a new license or skill outside of your profession. Invest in yourself – I try to think of new knowledge gained as a unique perspective which can serve to further enlighten you!
- Debt is the slavery of the free. Most simply, avoid credit card debt you can’t immediately payoff! Nowadays it’s so easy to just put it on credit and worry about it later – fight this urge. The only form of personal debt you should see as acceptable is a Mortgage/Deed of Trust – everything else is financially wasteful.
- Persistence pays off. If ambition is the path to success, persistence is the vehicle you arrive in. You’ve undertaken this venture, now don’t be discouraged by the lack of immediate results or success. It’s those who keep with it after the excitement and newness wears off that reap the long-term benefits. Remember, if it was easy and happened overnight, everyone would be doing it.
- Become addicted…to saving. Saving should be a habit (like wearing a seat belt) that, if avoided, you should feel guilty about. If you can get used to living off of 20% less than you make (contributing that to savings) you’ll be well on the path to a happy retirement! Looking for help? Read The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.
- Look for passive income. The older you get, the more you’ll notice (and envy) those who setup streams of passive income. They’re the ones who have phased out their nine-to-five jobs and replaced them by managing investments or businesses. While it always helps to be lucky, the earlier you start focusing on this goal the more likely you’ll be able to achieve it.
- Money isn’t happiness. While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery. Most of us will never be given the opportunity to learn this lesson. We’ll spend our waking hours focusing on realizing financial “success” – failing to prioritize meaningful relationships and accomplishments. While money can be a form of independence, don’t lose sight of the friends and family you’re working hard to spend it with.
- Leave your legacy. Ray Lewis, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, has a great speech about leaving your legacy. Mr. Lewis uses the context of sports, however, his message is a universal concept about maximizing your potential in everything you do. Don’t over think it, don’t be afraid – get out there and be somebody!
- Secure your future. Chances are you’re not a professional investor, nor want to be. Despite this, get in the habit of contributing to accounts that will help secure your future. It could be your company 401(k)/personal IRA or that ‘rainy day’ savings account. Whatever it is, don’t wait until your 40’s and 50’s to start thinking about retirement. And remember, fees kill.
- Slow down and focus. We all have goals. What separates the few from the many is their ability to slow down, prioritize and concentrate on achieving those goals. Right now you’re spreading yourself too thin to focus. Today, slow down, set aside some time and concentrate on writing that business plan or career mission statement (take the first step). Tomorrow, take the second step toward your goal. Whether you realize it or not this is the slow path toward success.
- Don’t be tax ignorant. Whether you like it or not, taxes are a HUGE part of your financial equation. Often times we put a lot of time and effort into earning money, but not as much into legally sheltering it from taxes. I’ve previously challenged everyone to do their own taxes…if that’s not an option, at least require your accountant to go over your tax return with you to identify any tax savings you could potentially maximize next year.
- Protect yourself. Now that you’re on the path to wealth and retirement, don’t forget to protect yourself. Specifically, don’t be afraid to over-insure your car, house and health. Personal liability protection ($100k +), life insurance (3x Salary) and Health Savings Accounts are all important forms of coverage. Lastly, consider covering any holes in your coverage with an inexpensive “umbrella policy”.
- Pass the baton. Whether it’s your money, opinions or knowledge, formalizing a succession plan is a must. It’s not just important when you’re gone, it’s extremely valuable while you’re still here. Recently, I had a discussion about how a guardian (my parents) should raise my kids if I weren’t around; public or private school, religion, money, etc. This exercise made me realize that I was unsure about some of my wishes and that this was useful in flushing out opinions and goals not at the forefront of my mind – way deep, I know. Give it a try, you may learn something about yourself!
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