Most personal finance will tell you that the seeds to plant are the dollars in your savings, pension and investment accounts.
I am not convinced. How do I know?
I know because I have reached the age when:
people meet for coffee to discuss not their latest date but their latest malady;
just keeping healthy and looking half decent is a costly struggle;
flirting shamelessly is acceptable because people think you can’t be serious.
Yep, I am in my early fifties and many of my conversations are about varicose veins, teeth whitening and anti-ageing products. I fully expect in 10 years to be discussing… well, let’s not even go there.
This aside, I feel grateful and blessed every morning. I am grateful for my family, for my friends, for my job through which I touch the future, for my lifestyle and for the future we are creating.
Every morning, I wake up and feel grateful that this is my time; a time when creativity is valued, knowledge is a valuable and flexibility is possible.
Recently, I wondered about the things I wish I knew in my 20s and the money ‘seeds’ I wish I’d planted earlier.
I made a list. It was long and repetitive. When I looked again it boiled down to six money ‘seeds’.
None of these are about savings, pension and investments. These are my gift to you!
Seed 1: Capital comes in many forms
You know you need capital, right? I’ll never disagree with that: your 20s is the time when you are laying down the foundations of your life.
And these foundations are about accumulating capital.
Where I have a problem is that, as we humans often do, when thinking about ‘capital’ you most likely think about money.
Capital comes in many forms; three that matter most are:
social capital; and
Now, here is the deal: to place yourself in a position to accumulate financial capital fast later in life, you better accumulate cultural capital which will enable you to build substantial social capital.
Put simply, this means that if I were in my 20s again I’ll spend more time at the theatre and art galleries than in the library. Thinking about it, I’d spend more time learning all there is to know about cricket: after all I do live in Britain and most conversations at high management level are about the game.
I didn’t! In my 20s I spend a lot of time in the library, hustled like a pro and kept little of the dough. I’ve read War and Peace in Russian and am in love with the novels of Thomas Mann. My boss still wants to talk about cricket.
Seed 2: You better increase the cloth
Cut your coat according to your cloth, the saying goes.
And I have grown to dislike it with passion I reserve for other areas of life.
You won’t believe the energy, time and frustration that went into trying to live my life according to my means. I only ended up with a very tight, uncomfortable and, frankly, useless coat.
It took me some time to realise that this is all rubbish; that to live an abundant life you should increase their cloth.
I know that money in your 20s is tight and simply surviving without getting in debt is a challenge. Keep your mind on increasing your income, or your cloth, and you’d have planted a powerful money seed to serve your well later in life.
Seed 3: It is about how much you keep not how much you earn
When you want to know where you stand in the game of wealth you are likely to compare earning. The more you earn, the better of you think you are.
This is what I thought. I always earned well; for most of my life I’ve earned more than most. Where did this get me? Four years ago, we had about $160,000 consumer debt.
To get out of the debt whole, I had to understand that how much I earn is irrelevant; how much of that I keep is what really matters.
If I’d planted this money seed in my 20s, I’d be already be working for the pleasure of it rather than the pay.
Seed 4: Life is not for money, money is for life
There is too much talk about money. Personal finance is a big business and we are bombarded by media messages about how to borrow more, what to spend it on and the threat of running out of it before we’ve run out of life.
And here is the thing: the link between our money and our lives is usually a negative one. It is a bit like, money is the goal and our lives are the means through which we achieve it.
Every time someone tells you that they want to make millions – and stops at that – they live for money.
In fact it is quite the reverse: living a happy and fulfilled life is the goal and money is the means to achieve it.
Now I have my money nourish my life. And I wish I had this one figured out when I was in my 20s. My life would have been more abundant, less stressful and, I believe, financially healthier.
Seed 5: Dream big
Recently, at a conference in Africa, I heard a political leader warn the audience ‘…to temper their dreams, because dreams can become nightmares’.
This was a transgression bigger, and more dangerous, than corruption and incompetence, I believe. Because our dreams are our future. Yes, sometimes they can turn bad and then we just have to dream another dream.
Dreaming is what gets knocked out of us from an early age; it gets knocked out by our parents (‘stop dreaming and get dressed’), our education systems and our societies.
When I told our financial advisor that we’ll pay off all our debt in three years he laughed; we did it! When I told a colleague that I’ll have a personal professorship within three years, he laughed; I got it in two and a half. And when part of my dream becomes reality I celebrate because this is so much more than my present.
Seed 6: Impossible is nothing!
I know I’m drifting into branding slogans.
I also believe this to be true: there are very few things that are truly impossible and this is likely temporary.
You can be anybody and you can get anywhere; you just have to:
decide where (and who) you wish to be;
work out the conditions to get there; and
pursue these with the single-minded commitment of a drug addict.
Impossible is nothing and you’ll see that things will start happening
You know, I wasn’t completely honest at the beginning of this article. The other day, I had coffee with a friend and we didn’t talk about our aches and pains; we dreamt up a new project.
I still flirt shamelessly.
Author’s bio: I am Maria Nedeva, the blogger behind The Money Principle where I show smart people how to win the game of wealth by learning and acting. My brand of money management comes with a side dish of logic, analysis and sociology.