An Open Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

A letter I wished I had received as I finished school… “Buddy, you’ve made it! Congratulations! Right now the air smells a little sweeter and you are probably as excited about the future as you are nervous. There are so many things I want to share with you but the first one is most important. Learn to live with less.


Money Guiding Principle #1 – Living with less

MONEY GUIDING PRINCIPLE #1Living with less will help you as the years go on. Its not as flashy as other ways of living, but if you are looking for a sound financially smart way to live your life, living with less is the way to go. The longer you go along in life you will find that living with less means freedom. As you go through life keep in mind the following:

Having more stuff doesn’t mean more money, it usually means the opposite

Every where you will go in life, people will have more things than you. Don’t worry about it. The truth is that their lifestyles are largely fuelled by debt. They are spending their future before they get there. At some point, the debt will catch up to them in the future. And those fun times they had, the ones they couldn’t afford, will be a burden for years to come. Often for the rest of their lives.

Remember: Just because someone has more stuff than you, doesn’t mean they have more money than you.

Stop thinking everyone is happier than you because they have more stuff

An Open Letter to My 18 Year Old SelfUnfortunately nobody walks around with their net worth on their shirt saying “Hi My Name Is Al, I Owe $13,444 in credit card debt.” You can’t see peoples money situations. When you are entering into the workforce, everyone wants to impress everyone. You will see people spend outlandish amounts of money and ask yourself:

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“How do they do it?”

The truth is they don’t do it. They borrow it. AND… they borrow it at ridiculously high interest rates over long periods of time. That sweet new $2000 car system they bought? It will cost them double that over the life of their credit card debt. Be wise, stay away.

A Truth That Many of Us Hide From

Really these people are buying things to impress people they don’t know. Why? I don’t know.

Possibly because they are insecure. Maybe they know they don’t make enough and adopt a “Fake it till you make it” mindset. Don’t be a fool. Focus on the “make it” part and more importantly focus on keeping what you make.

I used to think everyone that drove a fancy car was richer than me, smarter than me, or knew something I didn’t know. The truth is that they didn’t know any more than me, they were just willing to go into more debt than me. If that makes them smart, then I’m happy to stay dumb.

If you ever hear someone say “It’s only $99 (or any other dollar figure) a month” then they couldn’t afford it. If someone ever tries to sell you something with the same pitch WALK AWAY. They are trying to sell you something you can’t afford. They may as well be saying: “How would you like to buy this and be a slave to this item that you can’t afford right now?”

Sounds terrible doesn’t it?

Kid I don’t know how else to put it: Keep more than you make. Look for ways to make more. Believe in yourself. You’ve accomplished more than you give yourself credit for. Confidence in yourself will be your best ally. Stay hungry and keep improving.

Think for yourself and work hard

Don’t give into other peoples ideas about how things should be. Think for yourself. If everyone you know is going into ridiculous debt for things they don’t really need, is there a reason for you to follow? The old saying “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you?” rings true. Don’t let their mistakes become your own.

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Lead by example, sometimes people will call you cheap. Sometimes it will be unsettling, but I can guarantee that spending your future earnings trying to impress others in the moment will be much worse.

Becoming a Millionaire

If you are getting out into the working world and you want to be a millionaire you will need to give up on the ideas of fancy yachts and private jets, for the time being. Sure some millionaires do have those things. Most of them don’t. The millionaires that you want to be like are everywhere around you.

They are the store owners, the businessmen, investors and the business owners. The ones who show up everyday and do their jobs. Focus on working hard and making smart choices. They are the ones that focus on earning and keeping more of what they earn. That is the path to becoming a millionaire. It’s not sexy, but it’s the truth.

Be A Critical Thinker

As you go into the workforce, everyone will try and persuade you to their way of thinking. They will make you think that they have this whole thing we call life figured out. They might…

More than likely they don’t.

They are hoping you will see their point of view and agree with them. This will in turn validate them and the things they are doing. They are trying to make their dumb decisions look like good ones and need your approval.

Don’t fall for this. If you are going to follow someone, chose that person for the right reasons, not because they want you to follow them. Definitely not because they have a nice car, or fancy watch or big home. Too many people believe they know whats best for you. Only YOU know whats best for YOU. You have a brain, use it!

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Quit Comparing Yourself To Others

There is one sure way to feel miserable and it’s comparing yourself to others. It’s normal and we all do it. It can be good motivation, but it can also have the opposite effect. If you must compare yourself to someone else compare the whole person, not just one feature. If they have more money than you, do they have their health? Good friends? Are they enjoyable to be around? Are they a good person?

We usually pick one characteristic from a person and want to be that way, but we when you look at that person’s life as a whole, you will think very differently.

Above All Else Find Happiness

Remember that money is a tool, it’s not good or bad, it’s what you make it. Ultimately in life happiness is what matters, true lasting happiness. Keep moving forward and use happiness as your guiding light.



Want the rest of my Money Guiding Principles? Sign up for our newsletter and I’ll send you the E-Book: “My Money Guiding Principles To A Happier Life” when it’s ready.

What advice would you give yourself if  you could write an open letter to yourself when you got out of high school?

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7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

  • High quality post! Thanks for your work! I am grateful that when I was about to get married my parents wouldn’t consign a loan for me. I didn’t know better. I just thought is what you did. I couldn’t be more grateful for that. That would have sunk me in a whole that would have taken years to get out of.

    • Thanks Jordan! It’s funny how a lot of things we think are normal can actually hurt us. I’ve been a victim to “I guess that is just what everyone does.” syndrome , looking back it seems crazy but at the time I didn’t know any better.

  • I have a story that came to mind after I read your second point. When I was in university, I said that when I graduated and got my first job, I would get a car, put in my own telephone line, maybe get an apartment etc. I was thinking that my future salary would be amazing and grandeur. Well…. when I got my first job, the salary was crap and the things that I thought were so simple to achieve loomed large like money sucking monsters just waiting to take my little dollars each month. And when I added up what those things would cost me each month, it was more than my salary!

  • I can’t tell you how different my life would have been if someone had taken the time to explain all of these things to me after high school graduation. Hell, even after university. Above all – this is my favorite take away:

    “Stop thinking everyone is happier than you because they have more stuff”

    You know how I feel about perception & money. It would seriously change so many peoples opinion on what they think they need and what they actually need. Great post 🙂

    • Thanks Alyssa! I still find myself seeing people with more stuff and catch myself thinking “How can they do that?” When the truth is they probably can’t. But they do anyway. When I was starting out it drove me nuts, because I thought I was missing something. More and more I’m finding the less flashy people are the better off they are financially. Thanks for the comment!

  • This is a fun post, thanks for sharing! I would tell myself to buy that townhouse in 1999 instead of renting it! Had I known more about property investing at the time we would have bought that unit and still be getting monthly returns on it today. Sometimes you just don’t know enough at a young age and miss opportunities, that’s one that we missed.

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