As I crossed the country earlier this year promoting my latest book, Money Rules, I spoke with thousands of university and college students about what it takes to not make the mistakes their parents made. Let’s face it, my generation has done a gawd-awful job of setting an example for the young’uns who are just starting out. Here are some important lessons your parents likely didn’t teach you, at least not in practice:
Don’t spend money you haven’t earned yet. If you let yourself get distracted by new and shiny as your parents have, you’ll end up carrying a whack load of consumer debt just like mommy and daddy. Show you have some self-control. Demonstrate that you know how to prioritize. Live within your means.
Your income and your stuff don’t say jack about you. My generation has bought into the branding tomfoolery like no generation before. If you define yourself by the labels you wear, by the model of the car you drive or the amount of money you make, you’re walking in the wrong footsteps. Let’s face it, a guy who makes $100,000 a year selling stuff people don’t need isn’t a better person than the guy who makes $35,000 helping an autistic child integrate into a classroom and learn to socialize. Your actions define who you are.
How much you make doesn’t matter as much as what you do with your income. Sure, you may not make bundles of money, but if you can live a worthwhile life and make your money do what you need it to do, you’re way smarter than the Ritchie Rich with the flashy lifestyle and debt-rot at the root of his financial foundation. Live a real life and keep track of every penny.
Watch who you choose for your peer group. Once upon a time we measured ourselves against our family, friends and neighbours. (Hey, you can say we shouldn’t measure ourselves against anyone, but that’s just not reality!) My generation decided to measure how we’re doing against the people we see on TV and in magazines. If there were no décor-porn, we’d all feel a little less like our homes constantly need upgrading. You don’t need granite counter-tops to turn out healthy and delicious meals for the family. Build a life of substance and focus on what’s really important: stability, happiness and a sense of belonging.