Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Message to the High School Graduating Class of 2013

I must give credit where it is due. Today’s post was directly inspired thanks to Robert Powell over at Market Watch. Powell “penned” an open letter to his triplet sons, each a member of the high school graduating class of 2013. I find the inspiration to “pen” my own version of an open letter to this year’s high school graduates, because 2013 as a year has a bit of sentimental value to me. It was 10 years ago right around this same very time that I graduated from high school, and I will be the first to tell you that it doesn’t feel like 10 years has passed by. So without further ado:

To the class of 2013,

First and foremost let me be the next to jump in line to offer my congratulations. It is no small feat to go through high school and choose to take actions over a period of 4 years to meet your school’s graduation requirements. This achievement is the first, in what hopefully will be a consistent series of smart and intentional actions taken during your adult life.

 As noted in the open, I graduated from high school 10 years before you. And in all honesty it doesn’t feel like 10 years. I can also honestly attest that I was an average student. My GPA hovered around 3.4 and my SAT scores did not exactly win me any scholarships. It actually was not until a few years after college into my working career when I started to get my life together. Financially I made decisions to not live like everyone else and committed to living a debt free life. Following that I started on the road to healing the hurts, hang ups and paralyzing addictions that plagued me for over 2 decades.

It all boils down to the choices you and I make that determine where we go in life. A must read book (review coming soon) is Thomas Stanley’s “The Millionaire Mind.” In his study of multi-millionaire high income earners, traits and characteristics are explored and examined in depth, as are common qualities that are most prevalent among these wealth building superstars. Words like integrity, honesty, accountability, truthful and transparent pop up over and over throughout the book. But most important is that negative early life terms and labels did not deter these people from economic success.

Perfect 4.0 GPAs and sky high test scores are in fact not the norm among those profiled. In fact, and I am VERY happy to report, that those economic successes on average had a lower high school GPA than yours truly and the millionaires next door and I scored eerily close on our SAT scores.

A college degree was not a magical potion to success. A fairy tale dream job was not the ticket to economic prosperity. Instead the individuals Stanley profiled and interviewed for his book, navigated and used real world experiences and jobs they absolutely hated to (1) become aware of their talents and skills, (2) find a profitable niche market that harnessed their talents and skills, and, most importantly (3) became proficient evaluators of the character of others.

And they put everything they learned into motion with consistent and deliberate choices and actions over a long period of time. These people have the mindset of marathon runners, not sprinters. I can thoroughly relate to this. For roughly 24 years of life I was clueless when it came to matters of personal finance. I was over $20 thousand dollars in debt and floating aimlessly in my career. And at a certain point I got sick and tired of being sick and tired and opened myself up to learn everything I could about personal finance, because frankly my non-plan wasn’t working. Now I am on the path that is moving towards a vocation that will fire me up every day, I am debt free and am moving right along a trajectory to be eligible to participate in a future Thomas Stanley study!

But this particular post is not about me. It’s about you. And the best advice I can give, whether this fall you find yourself sitting in a classroom, working or enlisting in our armed forces, is that consistent and conscious decisions over the scope of your life will take you exactly where you want to be. Your GPA doesn’t matter, your test scores don’t matter and whether you took advanced placement courses doesn’t matter. What matters is whether you are a person of sound quality and character and that you live with intention and happen to life, instead of what I did, which was wander aimlessly until finding a clue at 24.

I made a ton of stupid decisions over the course of my life. And I still make mistakes to this day. But I’ve mapped out financially where I want to be in the future and choose every day to live below my means and invest in quality places with long term track records. And vocationally I’m just starting to put together the road map to an entrepreneurial endeavor that might just be 5 years down the pipeline. Your future is as bright as ever at 18, and if you learn from your mistakes and never stop learning or growing yourself as an individual, that future will look just as bright, if not even brighter, when you hit 28. And don’t wait, because 10 years can really fly by in the blink of an eye, and time is not something you can get back. #compoundinterest

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