9 Life Lessons I Wish I Knew At 18

Some things you just have to find out on your own, but there are plenty of financial and life lessons that schools should teach but don’t. From financial advice to relationship knowledge, I probably could have avoided many of the mistakes I made in my life if I just learned a bit more in high school. Here are 9 things that I had to learn the hard way that you don’t have to repeat.

1. Always ask the question because questions are free (and the 2nd best answer you can get is NO). Your grade school teachers were right. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Never be afraid to ask for help because everybody needs help from time to time… and usually, people are happy to be of assistance with their knowledge and time. I once asked my boss’ boss if he would consider me for a much higher position knowing in advance he would have to say no in order to keep the peace amongst the other work crews. He did, in fact, say no but a few months later I was called over to his truck and he gave me the promotion I was originally looking for.

2. Firm handshakes and solid eye contact are invaluable. Leaving a good impression with everyone you meet is more simple than you may imagine. A firm handshake and eye contact almost always win people over. Separate yourself as this practice is becoming more and more rare.

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3. What your mind sees it’s attracted to. This is why you should have your goals visible at all times (the fridge or bathroom mirror are great locations). You’ll work towards, desire, and attract what you can see. One word of caution: make sure what you see is what you really want. I spent 7 years with a car brochure in my nightstand (and then I got it).

 And that can never start early enough. The earlier you start visualizing what you think you want, the sooner you’ll get past the fluff and actually know what it is you truly want – and also the more you’ll be able to accomplish and happier you’ll be in your life. As you begin to successfully do this you’ll become a goal-achieving machine.

4. Pay yourself first…always…you will inevitably out-earn your bills that way. Before you do anything else, set aside a portion of your income to save. If you put some money away automatically you’ll never miss it. For instance, you can tell your payroll department to funnel a portion of your paycheck into a savings account that you don’t touch or, if you’re in debt, direct it right into paying down debt. Either way, pay yourself first (generally 10% is a good goal) instead of sending your money to brands that are looking to turn your paycheck into theirs.

5. At 10% return, your money doubles every 7 years. Start saving early because the sooner you enter the market the more likely your money will double, then double, and then redouble. 14 years until you retire? Money invested now with a 10% return would be worth 4 times as much. 28 years until you retire? It will be worth 16 times as much! How many years until you retire?

6. Max out your 401k, especially if the company matches. When your company does 401K matching it means they will give as much to your plan as you do (up to a certain level). Taking advantage of this is like giving yourself a raise while also saving for retirement, so don’t leave any money on the table. Invest every cent that your company will match, as long as you are able to afford it, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a comfortable (and hopefully early) retirement. Millionaires are made when they start in their 20s.

7. Christmas is a hell of a lot cheaper when you start saving a few bucks per week in January…and so are vacations. Establish savings plans for all of your goals and you’ll be surprised at the difference it will make in your financial outlook. Knowing you’ve got things covered in advance gives you an enormous sense of comfort, peace, and freedom.

8. How much a shovel, a rake, and a broom can teach you. I started with a shovel and a high school education and I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t spent so much time working with my hands. One thing my life journey and mentoring has shown is that success has many paths. A four-year degree is necessary for some paths and unnecessary for many others. The most important lesson my shovel taught me? No matter how difficult, complex, or seemingly impossible a goal or task is, you can accomplish it if you have the willingness to do so.

9. Comfort Peace and Freedom are your ultimate goals. I saved this for last because it’s the most important. It doesn’t matter what financial level you achieve, as long as you can look in the mirror and honestly say you’ve accomplished these three things. Not many people can say that but you will.