I’ve had a lot of financial ups and downs over the years. I attended (podiatric) medical school and racked up some debt. Then I attended PA school and racked up even more debt.
I’ve worked as a PA and made decent money. But not enough money to easily pay off all my student loans. That’s the main reason I eventually started my own business. And being an entrepreneur has been quite a journey all on its own.
I’ve also purchased at home and seen both the advantages and challenges that come along with that. Overall, it’s been an interesting ride and has given me quite a lot of experience to draw upon.
Today I’m going to share with you some of my best tips for financial success, based on my own varied experience.
I think regardless of your current situation, you’ll find something useful here that can help you achieve your financial goals, and ultimately reshape your future for the better.
1. Limit your debt as much as possible
After college, I attended a podiatric medical school. After a few years of that, I had a change of heart and decided to become a PA instead.
Medical programs are extremely expensive, and I racked up several hundred thousand dollars in debt.
To be honest, I didn’t realize how much of a burden that debt was going to be. Like a lot of people, I was naive. And all that student loan debt has been a huge burden over the past several years.
So here’s my best advice:
Plan ahead, and try to avoid debt as much as you possibly can. Take it from me – that will make your life much, much easier.
2. Look for a modest home, not a mansion
So many people buy homes that are bigger than they need, leading to really high monthly mortgage expenses. Often thousands of dollars per month.
When I started looking at homes a few years ago, I was in the 200-300K range at first. After a while, I realized I could get a condo (with about the same square footage) for less than half the cost.
As a result, my monthly mortgage expense is quite low, less than $500.
Compare that to some of my friends who pay $1,500, $2,000, or even more per month. That’s an extra $1,000+ I can save or spend on other things every single month.
3. Consider starting a business, or “side hustle”
Starting a business doesn’t have to be that big of a deal. You don’t have to open a store or start a restaurant. And you don’t have to invest a lot of money.
I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since 2015. My first business was selling a product on Amazon. The total start-up cost was about $2,000.
And you can certainly do it for less. A business can be as simple as a website/blog, like the guitar website I started earlier this year.
The best part?
Once you start your own business, a lot of things that you couldn’t write off for taxes before, now you can like certain trips, office supplies, computers, etc.
So having a business can save you a ton of money, even before you make any money from your business.
4. Avoid the hedonic treadmill
You know how when you want something, and then you get it, pretty soon you want even more?
That’s the hedonic treadmill. Hedonic refers to pleasure, and the treadmill means you keep going and going, trying to get more things.
For most people, this is a continuous cycle throughout life. But it doesn’t have to be.
Instead of always wanting more things, spend some time learning to be grateful for what you already have. All it takes is a shift in your mindset.
5. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses
I work with a lot of rich doctors, and most of them seem to care a lot about status symbols.
They have expensive houses, expensive cars, and expensive lifestyles.
Ultimately, it takes a lot of work to keep up with all that expense! They make a lot of money so they can spend a lot of money.
If they spent a little bit less money, they wouldn’t have to work so hard.
My income is less than half what those doctors make, but my expenses are also much lower.
I own a modest condo, and I still drive a ’94 Camry with over 300K miles on it.
If you can teach yourself not to care about status symbols, you can save a lot of money. You also won’t have to work nearly as hard!
6. Put your investing on autopilot
This one’s pretty simple.
Sign up for automatic monthly payroll deductions to contribute to your 401k (or a similar retirement account).
Basically, as long as it happens automatically, you won’t really miss the money.
But If you get your paycheck first and then decide how much to set aside…well, it doesn’t work nearly as well.
Choose a number between 10% and 20% for your contribution. Then set it and forget it.
That’s what I’ve been doing for the last several years, and it works great.
7. Prioritize experiences over things
Next time you have the choice between getting more things or having a cool experience, choose the experience.
Planning cool experiences (like travel) gives you fun anticipation beforehand and fun memories afterward.
You don’t get nearly as much satisfaction from buying new things. Basically, they’re fun for a few days, and then the novelty wears off.
I don’t buy a lot of new things, but I travel a lot. It gives me constant stuff to look forward to and great memories (and great conversation) afterwards.
Ronald Reagan once said: “Money can’t buy happiness, but it will certainly get you a better class of memories”.
Most people never really get their finances in order. But putting some of these tips into practice will get you headed in the right direction sooner rather than later.
Depending on your circumstances, some of these suggestions will be more applicable than others. But almost anyone can find a few things on this list that would be helpful.
There’s always more you can learn about managing your finances, but after quite a few years, and different challenges and successes, these are some of the best suggestions I’ve found.
In the end, probably the best advice I can give you is to set your own goals, and don’t base them on what other people think you should do.
Decide what’s important to you, and then plan your life around that. Nobody can really tell you what you should care about, but you’ll be more satisfied in the end if you figure out what you value the most, and then work towards that.