Because so many asked...
Over the last month, since we started this little Hiddencash project of ours, one side effect has been many hundreds of emails asking us for financial assistance, but also for life advice. Career advice, relationship advice, etc. While we have made it very clear we are unable to provide financial assistance, nor can we answer all these inquiries, we have decided after so many requests to put something together. Here it is. We hope it helps. If it does, please share it, retweet it, forward it, copy and paste it, etc.
Open letter to a young person - by Jason Buzi:
Note: Although this is intended primarily as an open letter to a young person, ages 15 to 30, there is content here to benefit anyone. Having reached the ripe old age of 43, I was reflecting on all the mistakes I made in my youth, and what I were to tell myself, or someone in the same age group, if I could travel back in time 15 or 20 years. Here it is:
First of all - Congratulations! On what, you may ask? On having something that all the money in the world can't buy, and that millionaires and billionaires would envy you for and probably be glad to trade places with you for - youth; and, presumably, health.
You are truly in the prime of your life. These are the best years of your life. Decades from now, you will look back longingly, as you miss this time of your life, and the youth which, once gone, can never be regained. We all become nostalgic as we get older, some more than others. My hope for you is that you will not look back with regret. It is for that purpose that I have written this letter of advice. You see, the good news is these are the best years of your life. The bad news is you are a fool, and will probably squander them. Hold on! Don't be so easily offended by me calling you a fool! I only mean that you don't yet have the wisdom and judgment that comes from age and experience, and that you will gain over time. In fact, your naivete and ignorance may even serve you well at times, as the old can be too cautious.
But this is a letter to a YOUNG man, so let us not waste any more time.
"To thine own self be true". Let this be your guiding principle in all that you do. What does this mean exactly? Be true to yourself. Be sure that your actions, from the small to the big, are consistent with the person you are and want to be. More misery comes from not following this than from anything else. If you are true to yourself, you will pick an occupation that suits your personality, pick a partner that suits you, act in a way that is in line with your morals, etc. It may sound obvious, but believe me, so many people take actions that are not consistent with who they are at the core - pick the wrong job, pick the wrong partner, act in ways they later regret. We have all done this at times, and usually regretted the consequences. So let "to thine own self be true" be your guiding principle in all that you do.
I will break down my advice into three broad categories - career/money, relationships, and "other" :
Let us talk about...
CAREER AND MONEY:
Before you choose a career, you need to do some serious soul searching. Although many people change careers several times over their lifetime, it is hardly an easy thing to do.
I suggest you begin with one fundamental question: Do you want to work for yourself or for someone else? Think hard now, about your personality and preferences. Do you need structure? Is stability of paramount importance to you? Do you need camaraderie? If you answered "yes", you should seek a job, working for someone else. Or - Can you handle income uncertainty? Is freedom very important to you? Are you self motivated? Are you creative? If you answered yes, you should work for yourself.
"But what should I do???". Well, let's start with those who chose to work for others. Realize that there are few positions in the job market anymore that have a lot of job security. Even traditionally secure jobs like teachers, police officers, and government workers have seen waves of layoffs. If you are going to go the way of working for others, which is not the way I would personally go (I see too many advantages to being self employed, both in terms of income and lifestyle), then for heaven's sake, at least make sure the job is secure. As I mentioned, there are only a handful of secure jobs, with very low unemployment or attrition rate. Currently, some of these are: medical doctors, nurses, math and science teachers, government attorneys, software engineers, teaching English overseas (been there done that myself), and a number of others. As these change over time, you would be best served to do your own research, on these widely available figures.
If you are determined that you want to work for others, and be a paycheck person, do a lot of research, to find a job that pays well AND is secure. Keep reading, though. I have some financial tips for you.
For those who have chosen to be self employed: Wise choice! At least one that I can thoroughly relate to. Wait, before you pat yourself on the back, I hope you are ready for many years of struggle, sacrifice, and being broke before you finally "make it". That's because you are not as smart as you think you are. Oh, I know you think you're smart. And maybe you are. But you still lack the judgment and experience needed to make the right decisions, and you will fail and fail time and again until you get it right.
Let me make a suggestion. Two words: Real estate. I have tried more businesses than I care to remember, everything from internet marketing to selling cars to selling diamonds, throughout my 20s and early 30s, until I finally discovered real estate at age 34. I have made more money in a short time than all those other businesses combined. There is nothing like it, unless you are exceptionally brilliant and lucky and have a knack for technology, and are the next Sergei Brin (Google) or Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook). But realistically, what are the chances of that? For every success story like that, there are hundreds, if not thousands, or perhaps hundreds OF thousands, of failures. There are so many variables in every business that have to fall into places, where everything has to work perfectly, to make it happen. And then, technology, competition, legal changes can happen overnight and wipe out businesses. 20 years ago, travel agencies were a good business. 15 years ago, payphones were a good business. 10 years ago, bookstores were a good business. What's next to go? Real estate has remained, and will remain. There is simply not enough time and space here to go into all the advantages of real estate, and a plan of action. But let it be said, that no capital of one's own is needed to get started in real estate. And that is something I wish I knew many years ago.
For those who want to have a job, or are interested in another business, I still recommend real estate as an investment, if not a full time business. It has created more millionaires than any other vehicle. Many of those millionaires were created buying properties as a side business, either flipping them or holding them as long term rentals. If nothing else, start educating yourself on real estate by buying a few good books on real estate investing. Lumley and Shemin are two authors I personally like as primers.
Money: Always live at least a little bit below your means, and save! How I wish I had followed this advice. It would have saved me a lot of heartache and struggle during some tough times. Moreover, do your best to accumulate assets, not only cash, and create multiple streams of income if possible. These could be interest from bonds, dividends on stocks, other business income, or rental income from real estate holdings.
Do your best to own your own home, but do not overleverage yourself to do so. Make a large down payment or buy it all cash.
Finally, for the artists and the dreamers: You do not want a "job". Nor do you want to be an entrepreneur. Therefore, you deserve a category of your own. You are following your passion and your dreams. To be a musician, or writer, or actor, or stand up comedian, or painter, etc. First, be honest with yourself, and realize that the odds against you succeeding are probably 1000 to 1, regardless of your level of talent. There are many talented people working as waitresses and bartenders, dreaming of their big break. Visit LA sometime, if you have any doubt, and talk to some of them as you ask them to refill your drink. Nevertheless, it is very important, as I said, to live a life without regrets, so DO pursue your dreams. But put an expiration date on them. It can be 3 years, 5 years (probably ideal) or longer. And give it 110% during that timeframe. And if you don't "make it", by then, be practical and pursue a practical occupation where you can support yourself and have a solid future.
I have at least 3 close friends who have all done this. Pursued a musical career and failed, and now have other jobs and are in their early 40s.
Whichever category you fall into, be true to yourself, and weigh pursuing something where you utilize your talents, interests and skills, but don't neglect practical considerations such as success likelihood, job stability, and income potential. One needs to weigh the emotional against the practical generally in life.
In general, date to know what and who you want, but do not get married young. The older you are, the more likely you are to have evolved as a person and know what you want from life in general, and from a partner specifically. Meanwhile, why not spend your 20's and into your 30's dating different people? If you want children, though, don't wait too long! Mid to late 30s would be the time to get married, in that case. Once you pass 40, your stamina and energy levels will begin to decline, and do you really want to be raising children into your 60s? Think about that.
If you're in a committed relationship, do your best to make it work. Treat him or her right. Talk nice to them. Men - bring her flowers occasionally. Take her to a nice dinner or play sometimes. Tell her you love her. Be kind to her. Compromise. The more love you give, the more love you get back - remember that. Love him or her with all your heart, and you can have a happy life. Do not jump ship at the first sign of trouble. Try to work things through. Apologize when you need to. A person who is shown love and appreciation and kindness on a regular basis is a lot less likely to stray or walk away.
Travel the world, and try to spend some time living and working in a foreign country. For Americans and other native English speakers, there are plenty of jobs abroad teaching English or doing various things. The experience will be eye opening. There are also many opportunities to spend a summer volunteering abroad, such as through vfp.org and other organizations. Look into it.
Education: Generally speaking, somewhat overrated. Unless you get the right degree, from the right school. A Yale law degree, Stanford engineering degree, or Harvard business degree will open a lot of doors. A bachelor's in psychology from Chico State? Not so much. This goes back to making smart and practical choices if you decided not to be an entrepreneur. You better go to the right schools and get the right degrees for the right professions. I will say that college can be a great social experience, so I do encourage you to go and at least get a bachelor's if you can afford it, even if you plan to be an entrepreneur. Though it did not benefit me in any direct way, it was a nice experience, and I made some friends, and felt better for being "educated".
Try to do some volunteer work, and if you have a few extra bucks, donate to those less fortunate. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen or helping the elderly or at a sheltered for battered women or a home for children with terminal illness. It will give you perspective on life, and remind you how blessed you are.
Friendship: Good friends are hard to find. The word "friends" is used very loosely. For example, I now have over 700 Facebook "friends". The majority of these people I have never met. Another big number I haven't seen in years, although we live less than 50 miles apart. But we call these people "friends". Let us not forget what real friendship is. Real friends will be there for you through thick and thin. They will help you through hard times and celebrate with you during good times. They would visit you in the hospital, and lend you money if you needed it (hopefully not!). They will share in your sorrows and joys, and give you advice when you need it. Not always good advice, by the way, but they will care and try their best. If you have 2 or more friends like this, consider yourself very lucky. If you have more than 10 friends like this, we are not using the word "true friend" the same way.
Read! Always strive to be learning more. Read for pleasure and to learn - about the world, about other ways of thinking, about anything of interest. While formal education may be overrated, informal education is severely underrated.
Think critically and independently. Even if you belong to a political or religious or social organization with strong principles, do not lose your sense of self. Remember that no one is always right, and think for yourself.
Have a hobby or a few hobbies. Life is not all work. It's good to have a few outside interests, whether it's tennis, bowling, or knitting.
Appreciate your health! This is almost certainly the healthiest you will ever be. Don't take it for granted. Health problems will become bigger issues and concerns every year once you hit about 40. Take care of yourself as much as possible. I'm not going to tell you to eat right and exercise, coz I am still not always doing that, but don't take your health for granted.
Religion: No advice here, except it seems to be important to so many people, and surveys have shown it does make people happier. Follow your heart, but don't forget your mind. Live a balanced life. If you need a spiritual component for that, find what works for you. I personally don't believe everyone needs to be spiritual or religious to be balanced. Conversely, many religious or spiritual people are very unbalanced or immoral. As I said, find what fills your heart in this sphere.
Don't hold grudges. Let them go. Maybe there's someone you haven't spoken to in years, and you don't even remember why anymore. Think about reaching out to them. Either way, don't let anger weigh down your heart. Move on. Start a new chapter. It is never too late.
Live without regrets! And "To thine own self be true".
Best wishes in creating the life of your dreams. Don't forget to enjoy the present moment. These will soon be the "Good old days".
Be grateful for what you do have! Some of the happiest people I met were among the poorest in the world, when I volunteered in Ghana, West Africa. Some of the most miserable were the wealthy I have met in my business.
However old you are, if you are still breathing, remember - it's not too late to change your life, and start living the dream!
All the best to you.