mod (Andy) note): "Best of Eddie" - while Eddie is on vacation we're throwing up some of his classic posts from the past. This one from June 2010 was the first in a series of 3 of "Sell Your Options". More to come later this week & next. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.
I'm going to take some crap for this series of posts. It's something I've put off writing for a long time for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it will be ignored by those who need it the most. Be that as it may, it's important advice and will go a long way toward maximizing the ROI on the time and money you've devoted to your career thus far. For those curious, the impetus for me to finally write this was this post.
I could have just as easily entitled this How To Screw Up Your Life, but in reality it's not just about avoiding these largely unavoidable mistakes as much as it is managing the timing involved in making them. In the end, this advice is all about lifestyle design and getting the most bang for your buck out of your education and hard work. I've personally ignored each and every bit of the advice I'm about to dispense, to my financial and emotional detriment over the years, and therefore had to learn the hard way. If I can save even one of you from these traps, it'll be worth the inevitable hate mail I'll get for writing this.
We spend the first two decades of our lives focused on one thing: expanding the options we have available to us in life. Every decision we make or that is made for us when we are kids is made with that end in mind. We're encouraged to do well in school, because that will give us more options later. Many of us work our asses off at entry-level banking, often for free, just to have better options later. The first 20 years of your life is spent on that one quest; the quest for the most and best options.
Then, inexplicably, after having spent more than two decades expanding our options, we begin a systematic process of limiting them. Your options in life are the most valuable thing you will ever have, especially when you're young. For some reason, there is immense societal pressure to stay on the well-worn path, to settle down, to acquire wasting assets through leverage, to work a job you might hate. From the age of about 22 on, it seems almost every decision you make is designed to constrain you in some way, rather than to free you.
There are many traps a young professional can fall into that have the potential to ruin his life (for awhile, anyway), but I'm going to cover the four biggest threats over the course of this week. The good news? They're easily avoidable. The bad news? It might already be too late for some of you.
If you're in your 20's, the four things you should avoid like an Ebola victim bleeding out in Times Square are: Debt, Marriage, Children (big caveat on this one, however), and Wasting Assets (aka Crap). Those are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse when it comes to your freedom, and the minute you let your guard down they'll turn your life into a life sentence.
Look around you. You can easily spot the guy who's trapped. He looks like he's 28 going on 60. Dead eyes, rarely smiles. Wracked up a bunch of student loans to get a high paying job he hates, and one day little Suzy Rottencrotch convinced him he'd never do any better so he married her and she pushed out a bunch of hateful kids, and now the only thing in life he actually enjoys are the long hours he works because they keep him out of the over-mortgaged suburban nightmare he calls home. That's a guy with no options.
Don't be that guy.