I was speaking to a gentleman in his late 50s this week, and the subject of what he would have done differently in his youth came up. It made for a very interesting conversation. While he had no regrets, he did say that if life gave him a restart button, he would have gone back and done some things differently.
Thinking I’d be young forever
“I wish I had built my skill sets when I had lots of free time in my late teens. Learned a language or to play the piano. Suddenly, I was working and too busy. I genuinely thought things would stay as they were forever when I was in my early twenties. My idea of planning for the future was preparing for the weekend! I’d get paid on Friday and be broke by Monday. I got into a frustrating cycle of never having enough money – so much so that I would borrow from my family just to get through the week. On payday, I’d have to pay everyone back and be broke again.
“In my later twenties, when I started earning more, I wanted everyone to think I was doing better than I really was. So I dressed beyond my means, drove flash cars and insisted on buying everyone drinks when out with friends. Secretly, I was broke, although it looked like I was doing well outwardly. When credit cards became accessible to the masses; I was one of the first in line and amassed a collection of them. I had one of those foldable wallets that opened out to reveal an assortment of plastic. This was considered super-cool back in the eighties. I used every one of them and was soon running very fast to stand still, as my wages would just about cover the interest I was paying!
Starting everything too late
“I had my wake-up call in my early thirties when one of my good friends invited me to his house warming party. I was still renting at the time, but he had bought a very nice house in London. Impressed as I was, I was puzzled as to how he had done it, because I knew he earned no more than I did. Popping outside with him for a chat, he told me about his focus. Educated in money matters by his parents, he’d sacrificed to save for a deposit, and always stayed away from debt. He gave me a lecture about property; and what a good investment it was in the UK. I was green with envy and this made me take a close look at my own circumstances.
Not taking advice
“I was now desperate to get onto the property ladder. I should have taken advice, but was too clever for that. A financial adviser would have advised me to get out of debt first before plunging into purchasing property. But I wanted it all now, and bought my first flat in the early nineties whilst still in significant debt. Consequently, my unscrupulous lender didn’t give me the best mortgage deal and when interest rates spiked, they were unaccommodating and my repayments unsustainable. I had no choice but to accept the major humiliation of repossession. I ate humble pie and cried real tears when I was forced to move back in with my parents at the age of 35.
Thinking pensions were for old people
“Things settled down for me in my late thirties when I met Gwen. She had an incredibly pragmatic attitude to money and when we moved in together, made me concentrate on getting out of debt. It took four years of agony to become debt free, but it was worth it. Gwen is naturally excellent with money and I followed her lead. We saved enough for a property and bought our house after pooling our resources, albeit in my 40’s. My nature means that I can be extravagant, but I now have a pension (which I started too late), life insurance and a decent strategy for saving. Debt? You must be joking – never again! If only I had been a little more sensible earlier in life – where would I be today?
“I now realise that part of my problem was that because my parents never talked about money in front of me I grew up being none the wiser. I wish I’d been taught about things like mortgages, debt, insurances, pensions, tax, savings and investments in school. Real-world education. Even today, it’s a rare commodity.
Our biggest challenge is passing these lessons on to our children. My son especially doesn’t listen. He thinks he’s going to be young forever and lives for the weekends. I wonder where he gets that from?”