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  • Writer's pictureZachP

#29. A Letter To 18-Year-Old Me

If you remember in last week's article, in an effort to keep up with our food spending, I made an actionable plan to write about our food savings effort weekly.

Since February has just began, I do not have much to update everyone on. We have spent $5.00 on milk and $2.59 on a coffee in the month of February. Hopefully by this time next week, I will have some more good news to update everyone with.

A Question I Ran Across On Twitter

I was scrolling through Twitter last week and someone had posed the following question, "What investing advice would you give your 18-year-old self?"

I do not enjoy focusing on the past, but I also believe you can learn valuable lessons from prior experiences.

After spending a week with this question randomly popping in and out of my head, I decided to give myself the task of writing a letter to 18-year-old me, but I gave myself specific writing parameters (my writing parameters are shown at the end of this article).

I will explain after the letter why I think everyone else should write a letter to their young self as well.

The Letter

Dear 18-year-old Zach,

You will at least live to the ripe ol' age of 33! Congrats!

I will start off with the good news before giving you some advice.

You are going to love college and law school, so do not be in a hurry for those years to be over. You will have fantastic friends throughout this time that are still your friends today.

You are going to meet a terrific partner and have a beautiful son together (and hopefully another child soon!) Your priorities will start to shift over time, and that is okay.

You will work hard to make sure that you achieve your dreams of being an attorney. You will isolate yourself for two months studying prior to taking and passing the Indiana Bar Exam to become a licensed attorney. The two months of isolation may sound like bad news, but during this time you will grow to appreciate your future wife even more and learn quite a few magic tricks!

You will practice law with your dad like you always wanted and create amazing memories. Oh, and be patient - you WILL eventually get more comfortable being in the Courtroom.

Although mom and dad taught you valuable lessons growing up (and they will continue to do so as you age), you will get a wonderful set of second parents by marrying your wife who will help you become an even better man.

Now some advice. You will start making money and getting your finances figured out after you start your career. BUT, you need to start getting your habits right before then. Start purposefully saving 20% of any money you receive and put it directly into a low cost index fund (before you ask, Zach, just Google "low cost index fund" since you do not know what this means, doofus). In other words, get in the habit of paying yourself first prior to starting your career.

You will fail at many things. You will lose in Court hearings that you sincerely believed you should have won. You will fail countless diets, not follow through with fitness plans, and not start many side hustles that you believed would be successful. However, you will keep trying and moving forward. Do not be scared to fail.

Do not be stuck in your bubble. You currently dislike the thought of travel and adventure, but I assure you that you are wrong. For the most part, experiences through travel and adventure trumps most material possessions you can purchase. Seek out having experiences through travel and you will have those memories forever.

Life and priorities change over time, and that is part of life. Just because you currently believe your calling is to help the poor and helpless through the practice of law, you may find that you can help just as many people through other means. A person's calling in life should be phrased as follows, "My calling in life at this moment in time is . . . " Be willing to adapt your plans with your changed priorities (but please make sure your priorities are well intentioned, and you are not just being a jackass).

My last piece of advice is that it is okay to be the nice guy. People will tell you your whole life that you will never get ahead being nice, or that sometimes you have to be mean to get your point across. Be aware of the difference between being a jerk versus being passionate. You can passionately disagree with others in a respectful manner. But being passionate about something does not give you any authority to demean or talk down to another person. You are not better than any other human solely because of your money, education, or other statuses in life.


Future you

P.S. Onward! (You will understand this inside joke in due time)

What Writing This Letter Showed Me

After writing this letter, I came to one conclusion - everyone should do this, but with the proper parameters. The parameters I gave myself were this:

  1. Be folksy and do not take it super serious.

  2. Focus on giving your future self only good news (no bad news).

    1. Do not overthink this, try to write from the heart. You will not write down everything, but it will make you realize some of the things you value most.

  3. Lastly, take some time thinking about what advice you would give yourself, and then write it down.

Sticking to these three parameters made this process enjoyable, and it gave me a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment for what I have.

I spend a lot of time getting upset with myself that I did not start saving and investing for my future self earlier. However, looking back on my life over the last 15 years, I realized that there are plenty of other things to be thankful for.

Hopefully, I have a lot of life in front of me still. This will include watching my son become a young man. I may not be able to go back in time and tell my past self anything, but I am able to pass these lessons along to my son.

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