On April 3rd I will be at the ripe age of 37 years old.
And that’s not all that is making me feel like time is flying.
I started dating my wife just over 19 years ago—that’s just under half my life!
My daughters are 11 and 8 years old.
My dad passed away 25 and a half years ago.
This blog is over 5 years old. I’ve known my best friend for about 33 years.
Life has been a wild ride, to say the least.
I’ve been through plenty of ups—marriage, kids, Disney trips, etc.—as well as plenty of downs—losing my dad at age 11, my stepdad having a stroke a few years ago, my daughter turning blue from an infection at age 1.
I’ve had plenty of money at times and was broke during other times of my life.
Life is truly a rollercoaster. But, both good times and bad times lead to some very important lessons.
Here are 35 things that I’ve learned about life and money in my 35 years of living.
- Start improving now. Time is short. Improve your budget, your life, your investments, and anything else you need to start improving now rather than later. It is less overwhelming the earlier you start.
- Life is worth living now. This includes using your money for life now. It takes a balance between saving for retirement and using your money to live your life. Don’t wait for retirement to start living.
- Health is linked to all other areas of life. Whenever I feel like crap, 99% of the time it’s because of my diet. Eat right, get moving, and watch clarity follow.
- Budgeting is the foundation of personal finance. I call it the root system of personal finance. Budget well and you’ll know how much to put toward every area of your life. This includes investing, saving, spending, debt payoff, and more.
- Budgeting around who I am is WAY easier. If you try and force yourself to be someone you’re not just to save money or keep from spending, it’ll never work out. Budget according to your values and you’ll make budgeting look easy.
- Relationships are everything. My relationship with God comes first in my life, followed closely by my wife and kids. But my friendships are extremely important to me as well. Relationships will either give you life, your career life, or your business life. It’s a win-win so I’m putting as much effort into them as possible. You are already valuable to all of these people in your life.
- Expense tracking is paramount to sticking with a budget. Even people that don’t budget still track their expenses if they want to succeed. If you’re not tracking your finances you have a much lower chance of financially reaching your goals.
- Budgeting takes real work. I will never deny that budgeting is work, especially the initial setup. But once you get it down and you’re doing it right, it’s very natural to maintain if you infuse it with who you are and allow it to become a habit.
- Rest is even more important than work. When you work out, it’s in the resting stage where your muscles repair and grow stronger. This is the same for work and your mind. If you want to be more productive, see your business grow, or watch your career soar, give yourself some intentional rest.
- Mindset, motivation, and habits work together toward action. I’ve heard probably everything under the sun when it comes to these three. It’s usually one that is more important than the others, depending on who you’re reading. In my study, I’ve found that they all work together to help propel you toward your goals. It’s a constant flow. When you are lacking in one, the others help support until it’s built back up again.
- Spending money on things that don’t matter to you will do nothing for you or your budget. Take it from a guy who once owned more than 20 video games he has never played. Spending money on junk that isn’t valuable to you will leave your life both physically and mentally cluttered and hold you back.
- Know yourself and what you enjoy. Going back to those 20+ video games I owned, I did not do a good job knowing myself. Know yourself and what you enjoy doing, spend money only on those things, and you’ve won a lot of the battle with your money.
- Getting married young will teach you a ton. My wife and I have been married for over 15 years. I was 21 when we got married and she was 20. We’re far from perfect, but I’ve learned to be slow to anger, quick to listen, and to consider her in everything. She’s my world. I’ve also learned more about finances, relationships, and parenting simply because I was young when all of this happened. It’s like jumping in the deep end.
- It’s NEVER too late to learn something. You are never too old, too set in your ways, too Democrat, too Republican, too religious, too anything to be able to learn something new and shift your perspective. From learning something simple as a new phone interface to something large like seeing someone else’s point of view, you can learn and it’s not too late.
- Walks can be your best friend. I try and take a walk every day, even if it’s just on the treadmill in the basement (thank you Chicago winters). Numerous studies have concluded that walking for even just a half hour a day can keep you healthy. But beyond that, you get some vitamin D from the sun (most of the time) and it allows you space to think and grow.
- Balance in your budget is key. You can’t save all your money and neglect your life now. You can’t spend all of your money now and neglect your future. There has to be a balance. Balance out your budget and you’ll kill your financial goals. It also helps make your budget easy.
- EVERYONE deserves equality. From years of seeing political fighting, growing up in a Christian home, and getting to know God as a father, I know that regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, gender, or anything else that makes us different, we ALL deserve equal human rights. Period. Besides, what makes us different makes us beautiful. Diversity is incredible.
- “The greatest of these is love.” Along the same lines, this line from the bible couldn’t be truer. You could know every answer, every flaw, every fix, and be perfect, but it’s all for nothing if you don’t love others. Unconditional love that accepts a person for who they are right where they’re at is the most powerful thing.
- I am in charge of my career. I’ve also learned that my career is my own. I choose how I want to develop, who can hold me back (whether myself or others), and where I want to go. If you want a change in your career, go after it. You are in charge and no one can stop you.
- It’s too easy to let fear stop you from making choices. I should have gotten out of the restaurant industry two years before I actually did. I was afraid. When I finally got up the nerve, I had to take a $15,000 pay cut. Turns out everything was ok and there was nothing to fear. Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you need to do in your life.
- Don’t be quick to judge. There are two sides to every story—sometimes more. I know it’s cliche, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. Get to know someone and love them for who they are and be quick to listen to their story. It’s the fastest way to a new friendship.
- Everyone starts somewhere. Of all the people I’ve coached with budgeting, there seems to be an underlying thought of “I should have known this by now.” Get all thoughts of comparison out of your head. Everyone starts somewhere, and chances are the people who are ahead of you were once where you are as well. Only compare yourself to where you personally have been.
- It’s never too late to start. Just start. No matter where you are in life or your budget or career, just start. It’s not too late and there is plenty of time.
- Set bigger goals. Bill Gates said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” We can accomplish more than we think over a long period of time. It’s ok to expect to hit the moon, but shoot for the stars.
- And then break your goals down to smaller goals. Break your goal down into smaller chunks by reverse engineering how you’re going to get there. This gives you your quarterly goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, and your daily to-do list. Then you simply have to accomplish your to-do list to reach your big goals.
- Opportunity comes to those who work for it. In order to have opportunities, you have to put yourself in situations that provide them. “Opportunity knocks,” as they say, but you have to get up to open the door.
- But luck is also involved. Even when you’re ready for your opportunity, there is a small amount of luck involved. But someone else’s luck is not going to be the same as yours. Your time will come, even if you missed the train. Want to know the cool thing about missing the train though? It always comes back to pick up more passengers.
- Frugality is freeing…if you do it the right way. I define being frugal as the art of spending money on things that YOU value. Being frugal means you are intentional in your spending. It doesn’t mean you are depriving yourself or limiting yourself. When you don’t spend money on things that are meaningless to you, you are free to spend that money on what you do value.
- There is no such thing as an overnight success. This can be a tough one to swallow because we sensationalize people who all of a sudden have a ton of success out of nowhere. What isn’t covered, is that these successes are the result of working many years to get where they are so they would be ready when an opportunity came. Again, your time will come.
- Be yourself. Believe me. There is no one else worth being. You will always have people that aren’t fond of you, sometimes for no reason at all. But don’t try to conform to who anyone wants you to be except for you. You are perfect the way you are.
- Believe in yourself. Along the same lines, you can accomplish anything. There is literally nothing you can’t do. When you see someone else’s success, don’t say “I could never do that.” Instead, ask yourself “How can I get there?” This poses the question to your brain and allows your brain to start processing the answer.
- Kids are an amazing blessing. I am absolutely crazy about my kids. I used to think they got in the way of what I wanted to do, always interrupting me and keeping me from what I needed to do. Man, I was way wrong. They are part of my strength and the reason for what I’m doing. Part of the change of heart is learning how God as a father is so much different than us as humans. It’s helped me to see my kids in a different light and has allowed me to love them how I’ve always wanted to but didn’t know how.
- It is better to give than to receive. Giving is always on my heart. I’m always on the lookout to bless someone. The more money I make, the more I want to give. Giving just does something to your brain. It makes you feel like a million bucks. Try it sometime. Generosity is also a great way to show love for someone right where they are.
- Build people up. Don’t be quick to point out flaws. Be genuine in wanting to be valuable and help others. Encourage like crazy instead of telling people what to do. You may be the difference between someone turning their life around and not turning their life around so don’t hesitate to lift someone up and help encourage and build them.
- SLOW DOWN. Ugh. 37 years seems to have gone by in a flash. I fully intend to slow down and enjoy the life I have left, whether that’s 5 years or 55 years. Starting now. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to do this last year, and I want to keep it going in my own life.
- The grass is greener where you water it. I heard this saying and it immediately resonated with me. The only reason the grass is greener on the other side is because they take care of their grass. It doesn’t mean their situation is better or it’s better where they are. Invest in the things that are right in front of you and you will watch them (and you!) grow exponentially.
- Social media gives only one-sided views of someone. We’ve always known this to be true to an extent, especially of social media influencers who just “wake up like this” and seem to have a perfect life. But lately, I’ve also realized this with all the crappy, inhumane political views on something. It’s way too easy to see just a single side of a person on social media. My intention is to get out more (post-pandemic) and have real conversations with people, get to know them, and meet them right where they are, even if their beliefs differ from mine. I’m not going to change someone’s mind by calling them out on social media. If we want to move forward united, we have to find common ground and address and get past the things that divide us. That takes a conversation, not a social media post.
There you have it. 37 things I’ve learned in 37 years of life.
My two hopes are that I continue to grow and learn as I age and that I can bring incredible value to the people and community I serve, both from a personal finance standpoint and a life standpoint.
Here’s to many more years of living and learning.