As a financial advisor, I try to guide folks to make sound investment and planning decisions. My purpose is simple—to help people lead happier and more prosperous lives.
So, what advice would I give this year’s graduating class? (Hint: It’s not all about finances.)
- Happiness is more than money. When you have very little of it, it’s hard to believe more money won’t bring happiness. But happiness has less to do with the size of your wallet and more to do with the quality of your friendships. Nurture your relationships—new and old—and you’ll live a happier, more fulfilling life.
- Start saving and investing early. Don’t forget you possess something your wealthier, older friends don’t: time. Use it to your advantage. If at age 20, you started saving $10 per day for 10 years and earned 5% per year, you’d have $116,000 by age 40. If you saved the same amount also for 10 years but didn’t start until age 30, you’d have just $71,000. Start early. Time and compound interest are a huge tailwind.
- Be curious. Thanks to discoveries in neuroscience, we know the brain constantly develops new and stronger neural pathways as we learn. Seek challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, and embrace the process of learning. Doing so will literally grow your mind, and your life will be richer for it.
- Get comfortable with losing. You will encounter setbacks in whatever you pursue. Before becoming an advisor, I spent three years playing professional tennis. Through the highs and lows of my tennis journey, I took solace in the fact tennis legend Andre Agassi lost 24% of his own professional matches. Investing works in much the same way: Stock markets have declined about 25% of all calendar years. Expect occasional losses and you’ll be much better prepared to overcome them.
- Learn to say “I don’t know.” We often believe an ability to provide a quick, confident answer is a sign of competence and experience. But nothing will turn off a prospective employer (or customer!) more than a thinly veiled attempt at an answer when you really don’t have one. When you don’t know, say so—it’s authentic, and you’ll learn a lot by closing your mouth and opening your ears.
- Don’t try to be great. “Being great,” writes journalist Charles Wheelan, “involves luck and other circumstances beyond your control. The less you think about being great, the more likely it is to happen. And if it doesn’t, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being solid.” Whether in business, sports, or life, everyone needs someone they can count on. So be solid.
- Enjoy the journey. Too often, we think the next car, vacation, or promotion will satisfy our heart’s desire. Humans are quite good at adapting, however, so the momentary satisfaction we feel often doesn’t translate into lasting happiness. What lasts and gives our life meaning is the journey itself—that’s your real destination.
Congratulations graduates! Enjoy the journey ahead!