Every time I hear someone say “I’m too busy” to do something, a little puppy dies and I want to stab myself in the eye with a katana blade. I don’t think people realize how good we have it right now: We’re young, we’re only responsible for ourselves, and we can do basically anything we want. If you think about the responsibilities we’ll have in 20 years–or even 5–you start to appreciate that doing almost anything will never get easier than it is now.
Here are 9 examples:
Saving money is never easier than now. If you don’t think you can save 25%+ of your salary today, think about this: You have no one else you’re spending on. And while your salary will go up, the increase won’t be commensurate with your expenses–unless you start developing habits right now. Let’s think about some of the expenses we’ll face soon: insurance, a new home, homeowner’s insurance, remodeling, moving costs, a car, car insurance, car repair, medical costs, vacations, giving to charity, giving wedding gifts, giving birthday gifts, giving graduation gifts, a babysitter, diapers, baby formula, kids’ sports, and, finally, unexpected expenses. As Chris Yeh wrote, “Just this morning, I calculated that our monthly expenses are about 10X what they were when my wife and I were just a single couple living on our own, mostly due to our two bundles of joy.” If you think you’ll be able to save more in the future than today, you’re out of your mind. Read my site, read others, start a budget, and find a way.
Working out. We’re in the best natural shape of our lives. There’s a school near my place, and when I run, I see older men sweating like Patrick Ewing after only one lap. I scornfully lap those 72-year-old men over and over again. It’ll never be easier than today.
Eating fast food. With that said, our metabolism also makes it possible for us to eat the greasiest, most delicious food on earth without causing our thighs (or whatever) to show it. So maybe we shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying that filthy KFC bowl.
Starting your own business. Here are some common reasons people give for not starting one “right now” that make me thankful I am not a dragon (my sigh would ignite them): “I’ll just wait until I save a little more money,” they say. Or “I just have to learn some more before I do it.” Now, most people won’t start their own companies and that is perfectly cool. But for those that want to, there’s nothing like learning by doing–and if you fail, what’s the worst that can happen at our age? You don’t lose your house or wife and kids. You go and…get a regular job. You can always go to the corporate world. Going the entrepreneurial route gets harder and harder.
I faced this exact situation when I was graduating from college: Google made me a great offer, the position was a nice fit, and the people there are really smart. Plus, the food is amazing. But I decided to go the startup route (to PBwiki) because I can always go back to the corporate side. The people at Google couldn’t have been more supportive.
Just hanging out with friends. It’s easier to go out with friends now than it will ever be in the future. Why? Because we all live in the same general area, live similar lifestyles, and have virtually no responsibilities to anyone else. “But Ramit,” you might say, “most of my friends live far away.” Even if they live on another coast, we have such few external responsibilities that we can take a weekend trip to most places. Also, on my comedy blog (Things I Hate), I wrote about the people in college who get “married” by only hanging out with their boyfriend/girlfriend. What a huge mistake. Your friends aren’t all boring and in serious relationships yet. If you have any married friends, have you ever tried hanging out with them? It’s like a giraffe trying to find a pair of lost contact lenses. Impossible. We’re young, our friends are young, and we’re all pretty available to hang.
Doing your own side projects. Holy christ, we have more free time right now than we know what to do with. “But Ramit,” you might say, “I work 12 hours a day and then I study for the GMAT and then I build houses in Guatemala on the weekends. You’re full of shit.” Let’s keep it real: We all have lots and lots of time we use for leisure activities–whether it’s watching The Hills (Heidi surprised me on Wednesday), working out, or whatever. The question is, can you track what you spend your time on and redirect it to something you care about? Something that will have an impact for the next 5, 10, or 50 years? The answer is yes. And we’ll only get busier in the future.
Taking risks in investing and life. I’m going to describe some fears we have about investing, but you can apply this to anything.
Don’t worry so much about losing all your money. Don’t worry about not having the optimal asset allocation. Don’t worry about your friends making more than you. Worry about not getting started. In my 1-hour talks, I ask young people our age about what would happen if we lost all our money right now. After a couple of inevitable gasps, most people admit that it wouldn’t really be that bad. Maybe they’d go live at home for a few months, get back on their feet, and go get another job. But what happens when you’re 35 with a husband, 2 kids, and a mortgage? Losing most (or all) of your money would be catastrophic. And if you’re 65 and spending your money on pills and bingo, losing your money can be a matter of life and death.
To get higher returns, you incur higher risks. And at our age, we have a huge tolerance for risk–even an appetite for it. And if we invest well for the long term, time can mitigate any short-term losses. No, I’m not telling you to lose all your money. You have to get educated and get started (see a list of all my articles). But if you let a fear of losing money deter you from investing, you’re losing the best years of compounding to turn a little money into a lot.
Meeting interesting people. You wouldn’t believe how many people are willing to meet to share advice and connections. I meet them all the time, and it’s not because I’m some fancy guy (I’m not). It’s because I’m young and interested. CEOs, VCs, and even small-business proprietors and teachers are so friendly. I think it’s because of 3 things: First, people love to talk about themselves, and I’m interested in their story. Second, people love talking to young people, both to share their experience and to stay connected to young people; for example, last week, I taught a business friend what “Benjamins” are. God I loved it. Third, people love knowing that your intentions are pure and that you got in touch to learn, not to inject some corporate agenda. Who knows what could happen if you just asked?
Traveling. You think when you’re 30, you’ll be able to take a weekend trip to New York, stay out until 5am, then make it back in time for Monday morning? No way. I’m not 30, but aren’t most 30-year-olds plagued with arthritic joints and incontinence? Heh, I hope I don’t get in trouble for that one. Anyway, traveling to visit (or live) in other places is unbelievably easy right now. To visit, it costs about $200 roundtrip to anywhere in country. To live, we pick a place, get a job, and it’s done. We have no one to answer to, and imagine the amount you can learn by living somewhere else.
Living in situations your parents would abhor. As we get older, we naturally demand a more comfortable living situation. When we travel abroad, for example, we can stay in hostels with no problem. When older people travel, they need a hotel. In college, we lived in like 150 square feet with 2 other people. Older people measure their homes in the thousands of square feet, and they have things like “dens” and “islands” in their “kitchen.” (Funny thing: You should have seen some of the parents’ horrified faces when they visited Stanford, where the dorms are actually really nice. And then to buy sheets (“linens” to them) at Target? Oh my god!) Ok, that went off on a huge tangent, but the point is that we can live in a way that older people cannot. So whether that’s saving on rent by living in a cheaper place, or driving your 10-year-old car, or just realizing you don’t need that much…it’s never easier than it is now.
Is this going to be just another blog article you read and then go on with your day? Or can you think of something concrete, right now, that you want to do because it’s easier now than it will ever be?
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