At age 18 I took out a HUGE college loan…
and wasted the leftover money on beer.
At age 19 I got my first credit card…
and promptly missed the first payment.
At age 22 I bought my first truck…
with an insane interest rate.
Now you may have been born with a degree in finance…
but I wasn't – I had to learn everything through the school of hard knocks.
And I was too embarrassed to ask for help.
If I could go back and tell my younger self what to ask…
these would be the 10 questions.
1. Am I Being Greedy?
Some of you may think you’re “obligated” to spend. It’s rooted in a belief that saving equals greed. You justify splurges as redistributing wealth. I’m afraid this mindset is warped. Spending less doesn't mean stealing from people don't earn as much as you.
Take my company for example. All the wealth tied to RMRS comes from the value I’ve created. My readers and subscribers find value in the 2000 articles, 700 videos and 200 infographics that my company has made. Advertisers see my content as platforms to promote their products. This value literally comes from nothing. And it's unlimited.
No. There’s nothing wrong in finding alternative ways to earn. We must remember that many self-made millionaires these days created value out of thin air. No one was forced to buy their products. People valued them.
2. Can I Afford This Or That?
You receive your month’s pay and feel good. You’re tempted to spoil yourself – perhaps with that motorbike you always wanted? I know you’re checking your balance in the bank. That’s the wrong question to ask.
Obviously most of us would love a nice house and other luxuries. But now’s the time to focus on delayed gratification. It’s not whether you can afford the item in question. It’s really about thinking long-term – seeing more important things ahead.
No. Replace the original question with “Could I afford it if I were to pay cash?” This helps you save and set aside money through every “No” that comes about. There’s no need to overthink. It’s automatic. You’re better off with a similar item that's used/secondhand for the meantime.
3. How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?
If you’re part of the majority who struggle with credit card debt, think about it. Wouldn’t life be easier if you didn’t have that many cards? Especially those with high-interest rates?
The desire to save is one thing. Making it happen is a whole different deal. You have to get rid of the obstacles. Less is more.
To each his own – it’s you who knows how many credit cards you need to manage your money responsibly. The ideal cards only handle payments when debit cards aren’t accepted. They’re tools for convenience, not for impulse buying. I personally stick with just two.
4. What Do I Do With Unexpected Money?
There are times you get a lucky break. It could be a $2000 return from taxes or you could’ve won the lottery! The size alone might overwhelm you.
Make sure you’ve planned out what to do in those cases. Any success in life comes from a degree of preparation. You’re always better off with a game plan. Being trigger-happy never works out.
No splurging. Priority #1 goes to your emergency fund (in a separate savings account). I’d recommend that you always have six months’ worth of living expenses stored at any time. With mine it's only three months, but that’s because I’m lucky enough to have 20 different sources of income. Half a year’s savings can prepare you for worst-case scenarios.
5. What About Investing?
Investing means taking a chance. You have extra cash that you see no better use for than investment. But which type is best? The stock market? A new car? Business capital?
I’ve been driving the same truck for 20 years. It works for me. But things might be different for a guy in real estate. A brand new car can set the tone whenever he tries to close a deal. Another guy might be an aspiring entrepreneur. He will need that head start in capital.
Again I’d prioritize the emergency fund. The more generous you are with it, the better. But for other investments you should always ask yourself “What will get me the best return on investment (ROI)?” So it really depends.
6. Where Can I Learn To Handle Money Better?
There’s always room for learning, even with making money. Visit the local library and ask for the best Money books available. Or try talking to a banker for a basic class (but beware of upselling). Or why not take online courses run by accomplished individuals?
There are benefits to having a mentor. He offers secrets that you don't just nod to or write down. They ring in your head because they’re important now and later on. Their tell you exactly what to do the way most people don't.
You learn best from someone who’s proven to be successful. That person has the experience to back up every “do” and “do not” he mentions. He’s also rich enough to avoid making you buy anything aside from his relevant books/courses.
The great thing about paid courses is they are designed with purely objective information. There’s no personal interest involved. The key is finding somebody with a track record of well-received courses.
7. How Do I Get Rich?
We know there are two sides to this coin: saving and earning. This question deals with your earnings – how you can turn them into a year’s salary for a month’s job. You want to be that ambitious.
You can only do so much with saving up. However money in income has no limits. You control how much you can possibly make. So when it comes to earnings, you want to think big and out of the box.
Learn to earn. Find a way to fatten up your income. It could be a side job, freelancing or even the same career with another company. Explore those avenues.
That includes the option to set up a new business. The digital world has far more potential for making a profit than you might think.
8. Should I Ever Go Into Debt?
Debt is a pretty debatable topic. You should see yourself as the lender’s investment – they’re counting on you to become a great doctor or engineer, or for your business to soar.
Are debts ever okay? They’re considered risks. They might cause more trouble in the future when they're left unpaid. You’ve got to be careful with them.
Debt (to some extent) is okay. Sometimes it’s really the best way to get from point A to B. A bit of planning ahead always helps. Can you see yourself paying off that student or house loan in X years? Is the economy shaping up?
9. What Is Good Debt?
For every loan you have to consider interest rates. A percentage between 25 and 50 means you’ll need a high-paying job or booming business to keep up. That’s why doctors and lawyers don't enjoy a nice paycheck for a couple years. Those rates aren’t for everyone.
Be careful with high-interest rates. Try to gauge factors like how much you expect to earn after college and how many years you’ll be in debt. The ideal debt has an interest rate that your ROI can overcome. It’s a numbers guessing game so there’s always going to be risk.
10. Do I Need To Start Saving For Retirement Right Now?
Things might be going well for now. You love your job. The next few years look promising. So there’s that tendency to forget about the distant future. Should you worry about retirement savings?
You’re never too young to start saving for your 60s. Use your youth to see what works and what doesn’t. Find opportunities (real estate, stocks etc.) for long-term investment. Learn from any mistakes you make while you’re young. Time is on your side.
A resonating YES. Small saving practices are what it takes. Set aside at least 20% of your income to put into different funds (diversify investments). Put boundaries on your bets. Live below your means. The goal is to protect yourself from your worst enemy – you. Don’t risk retiring broke.
I hope you’ll find useful the things I have learned through asking these questions. Trust me: you’ll go far with these little pieces of wisdom.
FYI – Part of my success was because I had good mentors. I hope you realize the importance of listening to solid advice from people who are already successful. This kind of advice can get you moving on the right path.