The other day I received a somewhat panicked phone call from a close friend. She asked if I wouldn’t mind providing her son who is graduating from college in May with some sound personal and financial advice before he leaves his so-called “bubble” (e.g., his college campus). She has been reading my blogs lately, and she is very concerned that her son did not acquire the necessary tools and resources needed to pursue his desired outcomes during his college years. Even more so, she is concerned about his capacity to succeed and live a happy life as a result.
My friend is not wrong. I am continuously mystified by the lack of attention, detail and pride many people have nowadays for their jobs and lives. I read a great quote from Warren Buffett recently that said, “The most important thing to invest in is yourself. Very few people get the horsepower out of their life that they possess. Just imagine you’re 16 and I was going to give you any car you wanted-but with only one catch: it’s the only car you’ll get, has to last you the rest of your life. How would you treat it?”
We are all living in the greatest technological era, where information is more available and abundant than ever. So why, for a country that prides itself on its technological and educational advances, are so many of these adults in such financial chaos? I believe it is because most adults were never taught from an early age to educate themselves financially, and now, as a result, they suffer from what I like to call financial obesity: one’s obsessive and self-sabotaging need to constantly overspend and remain financially unhealthy. Like the overweight, these unaware adults spend money in the same way unhappy and unhealthy people eat.
Back in the 1960s, cigarette companies were forced to start placing health warnings on cigarette packaging in order to intentionally inform the public of the risks and unhealthy consequences that could result from smoking. Yet, despite the medical evidence, people continue to ignore the health risks and smoke anyway.
Consider today your financial health warning: failure to educate yourself on the potentially devastating effects caused by financial obesity may impact your future financial well-being. I already know that, despite my repeated warnings, several of you will continue to take financial risks that will ultimately sabotage your greatest asset: YOU!
In order to avoid the very pitfalls and repetitive patterns associated with financial obesity, as young and emerging adults between the ages of 16-25, you need to begin asking yourself now, “Who am I really?” If you are a graduating college senior and you still cannot answer this question, all hope is not lost! Like Warren Buffett said, YOU are your own greatest asset! Not your car, your great looks, your G.P.A., your parents, or family name. None of these are as valuable as YOU are, including your opportunity to choose right here and right now to start making smart, probable choices that align well with your core values and desired future outcomes.
In my upcoming book, Growing Success: A Young Adult’s Guide to Personal and Financial Success, I spend a lot of time proactively educating young and emerging adults on not only the importance of financial education, but also on the important concepts, resources, and tools, such as my T.I.M.E. model (Timing, Intentions, Motivation and Empowerment), to help high school and college students enhance their knowledge and confidence in the areas of personal finance, decision-making, and most importantly, personal development before they graduate so they can properly build their personal and financial success.
So, here is the advice that I gave my friend’s son the other night: Keep your life simple. Fill it with knowledge, not stuff. Your ability to write and communicate well with others, especially potential employers, is essential. Make sure that you take some courses on speaking and writing (text messages and emails do not count as writing). That way, you will be prepared for any potential opportunity that may arise. Toastmasters International or Dale Carnegie training courses can provide you with speaking experience and also, simultaneously, support you with becoming more comfortable when you speak in front of others. My additional advice included the suggestion to seek out role models that you can start emulating. Figure out what they do, and how they got that way. Understand why you admire them and why you would select them as role models for you. The sooner you figure out “who you really are,” the sooner you will become a great subject matter expert of your own life.
“We make such messes in this life, both accidently and on purpose. But wiping the surface clean doesn’t really make anything any neater. It just masks what is below. It’s only when you really dig deep, go underground, that you can see who you are really are.” ~ Sarah Dessen
My simple suggestion for those of you who are in a similar position as my friend’s son and getting ready to graduate from college: do not follow the generations before you that unknowingly or foolishly compromised, blamed others, or enabled themselves to make bad decisions either out of laziness or pure ignorance. You can be different! Start surrounding yourself with positive people today, those who you can learn from and who can help you get where you want to go.
You have just received your first “financial health warning,” one that is intended to help you grow your success.