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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.

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Comments (47)

  • m2's picture

    Thanks Edmundo. More of this pls.

  • BashPolley's picture

    Well written. Unfortunately, it's easier to get caught up in the whole day-to-day conundrums instead of focusing on the big picture.

  • ElijahPrice's picture

    Edmundo Braverman:
    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.

    What is Wasting Assets?

  • levelworm's picture

    Occansionaly, I might believe that being unattractive could be somekind of blessing...

  • Jimbo's picture

    Wasting assets:

    "Reply to: [email protected]
    Date: 2007-10-04, 1:57PM EDT

    What am I doing wrong?

    Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy. I'm not from New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm overreaching at all.

    Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 - 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won't get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

    Here are my questions specifically:

    - Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms

    - What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't hurt my feelings

    - Is there an age range I should be targeting (I'm 25)?

    - Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I've seen really 'plain jane' boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I've seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What's the story there?

    - Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

    - How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

    Please hold your insults - I'm putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm being up front about it. I wouldn't be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn't able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

    ________________________________________
    [Posted Responses]

    Advice for woman seeking $500k+ earning man

    Dear Pers-4316xxxxx:

    I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament. Firstly, I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

    Your offer, from the perspective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity...in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

    So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

    So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

    Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if only for a tryout.

    By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.

    With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way. Classic "pump and dump." I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know."

  • HoboBanker's picture

    I'm not sure just how valid this article is, but for those with a heck load of time to waste, give it a read. It's about the relationships of investment bankers' wives in New York. It was a pretty big eye-opener when I read it.*
    http://nymag.com/nymetro/urban/family/features/2738/

  • HoboBanker's picture

    I laughed my ass off when I saw that article and response. I wonder how owned she felt?

  • veritas14's picture

    Marriage, children, family give meaning to life.

    Self-actualization as the path to happiness is bunk 1970s psychology.

    We become the fullest version of ourselves when we COMMIT. Bankers intuitively know this- they get off on sacrificing, on long hours, on no sleep. They COMMIT to their jobs, a noble decision in an increasingly lazy/complacent society. But this doesn't mean other meaningful choices should be avoided or delayed.

    But I do agree with the avoidance of debt. It will kill you.

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • ElijahPrice's picture

    So wasting assets is basically spending money on depreciating assets? (Aka everything except real estate and education)

  • Bottles and DCF Models's picture

    Real estate could damn near be considered a wasting asset right now.

    Even historically, only a smal percentage of people actually get more out of a house than they what they put in..

  • accountingbyday's picture

    Edmundo,

    I believe you are 100% correct, while at the same time missing some of the point.

    I'll use myself as an example.

    I've really grown to wish I had done some work inernationally. I love London and would like the experience of working in more exotic places as well. I am finally at a company in a position to take rotations around the world. Actually, it would be encouraged for me to do so because I have been identified as potential future leadership.

    It seems like the stars have aligned for me, but I won't be going abroad. I won't even be taking any positions out of northern Illinois. This is because I'm getting married in 6 days to a girl who doesn't want to leave.

    My perspective is that I loose a lot of flexibility when it comes to my job. I can do whatever I want in the Chicago-area, but my options are very limited. However, I am marrying someone who truly makes me happy (more happy than a better job would), building a nice house near some of my best friends from high school, have every weekend free to golf/gamble/travel. For me, this is a huge win. I will likely never be very wealthy, but I will live very comfortably and with some luck may become wealthy. To me, this is happiness.

    I'm not disputing anything you said. As a matter of fact, I wholeheartedly agree with your points. I've gotten to the point where I've learned what will make me most happy and was willing to limit my future choices. Also, I'm 28, which feels like a pretty good age for all of this. As I've eluded to in other posts recently, at 24 these choices wouldn't have been right for me.

    I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on this, especially the wasting assets part.

  • PecuniaryTutelage's picture

    I agree with Edmundo whole-heartedly, but I would say that not everyone is meant to follow that path. I know that avoiding those things is better, both through experience and watching others struggle or fail. I also know that not everyone can do it; like a bell curve, there is a middle ground and I think those that ignore Edmunos' advice tend to fill the closest deviations around the mean. Those who hear or see and then follow this advice fall multiple deviations away from the mean. Else, why would people who hear of or see such things before perpetrating them personally, still fall victim to them? In anycase, all a round-about way of stating I agree with the intent, though the application is usually much different.

    -N.

    "It's about the game." - Gordon Gekko
    "No matter how much money you make, you'll never be rich." - Jacob "Jake" Moore
    "'Oh Africa Brave Africa'. It was... a laugh riot." - Patrick Bateman

  • blong131's picture

    I think without an overall goal its easy to lose focus. im constantly kicking myself because i think i live day by day too much, and at 20 maybe it's just time to grow up. I feel like i have all the opportunities in the world, and i have a knack for getting my foot in the door, but I miss some because i refuse to plan for them. make sense?

    maybe it's just a commitment issue though. theres such a fine line. i really appreciate the post tho and i cant wait to hear more of your thoughts

    _________

    John Tabacco's raw, unique market commentary based on real information from real short sellers:
    http://www.TheDailyShortReport.com

  • ChildPlease's picture

    I think that spending money on wasting assets might be the one thing that can keep you sane in the long run. With out wasting assets to spend your income on, what the fuck are you working for?

  • In reply to ChildPlease
    Edmundo Braverman's picture

    CaliWowe:
    I think that spending money on wasting assets might be the one thing that can keep you sane in the long run. With out wasting assets to spend your income on, what the fuck are you working for?

    There is a lot of truth to this, and I'll cover it in my section on wasting assets.

  • Matt the Tiger's picture

    In the end were all dead.

    From one guy to the next though the inflection point is different for when they see a good time to exercise those options. I think Edmundo's OP is great though in saying what everyone is thinking/already knows.

  • whats-the-damage's picture

    Edmundo Braverman:
    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.

    Great post, Edmundo. I really believe that you're trying to help some people out. I do, however, think that you should at least acknowledge that some people actually end up very happy with marriage and children (not true for debt and crap!). You're painting a picture that's probably true for more than 50% of those who get married and have children (hence the 50% divorce rate). But don't ignore the fact that for some, albeit the minority, getting married and having children is extremely enjoyable to them. In fact, for some, getting married, having children, and being a "family man" is their ultimate goal in life. Not money, fame, power, or "freedom" (i.e. options).

    As you know, I'll be getting married next year, but my fiance and I have decided that we're not going to have children 'til we are 30 (we're 22 now). We want to spend our first 7 years of marriage without kids. That's our way of keeping our options open.

  • Edmundo Braverman's picture

    Dude, I'm so glad you chimed in because I was afraid you might think this post was directed at you and it absolutely was not. Your post just got me off my ass and forced me to write this series. There are obvious exceptions to every rule (case in point: I thought I was one of them). Waiting to have kids is an excellent idea, and I think you'll both be glad you did (but don't wait too long - and I'll cover that in my section on kids).

  • whooop's picture

    Edmundo,

    I tend to like some of your post but I don't feel the same about this one.. I LOVE this op.Great job and I do look forward to the rest of them. I agree with you 100%, and in fact, I argue your points to every friend of mine. Unfortunately, I hail from a small town where everyone thinks the whole point in life is to totally limit yourself from achieving anything and thus taking 5 years for an associates degree at the local cc, getting married at age 20, or having kids at said age also. If I learned one thing in my finance classes, it is that options are allays worth something. Not to mention ive never met a happily married person. I know they exist, but I've never seen them

  • Brady4MVP's picture

    Unless you REALLY want kids, there is no good reason for men to get married. It's just a bad deal, and you'll be miserable. No freedom, wife constantly nagging at you, and good chance that she will take half of your assets after a divorce.

  • lmb1234's picture

    If they relaxed the far too stringent child labor laws in this country, then children would be an appreciating asset.

  • dagro's picture

    misery O misery... if i didn't know any better i'd say most of the people praising edmundo's very preliminary post are still in college, dreaming about models and bottles.
    not that i think that ed's post is off track. it's very true, but you people seem to forget that the money isn't the goal. it's the means. if you don't want to get married, who the hell is gonna force you to? if you're stupid enough to say "i do" to someone other than s/he who will make you happy, then you deserve to suffer and learn from your mistakes. hopefully, you'll be alive to rake the morals, and not swimming at the bottom of a frozen river with a rock tied to your ankles.
    happiness comes in different forms, and if you'll pass up the chance because you want to keep your options open, don't be surprised if you find yourself at an age where the only reason women look at you will be to find the source whence emanates the stench of money they've been oh-so-longing for - like that 25-yr-old looking for a sugardaddy on craigslist. btw - to those interested, she put together a semi-impressive finance-oriented reply that later posts accused of having been written by her newfound boyfriend, taken from that very same original post.

    anywho, as i suspect (sorry if i'm ruining it, ed, it's just impossible not to comment...), ed will add a very important reservation: emphasizing the "sell dearly" part of his post, one must know when to sell.

    options, like options, are a very volatile asset. you might make loads off of it if you hold it open for long enough, but hold them open for too long, and you'll lose it all. know when to hold them open, but also know when you're faced with a bargain you simply cannot refuse, because when the love of your life will want to bear your children, you will be a damn moronic idiot of epic proportions to say "but uncle eddie said to get the milk for free!" and not remember the little line "sell your options [dearly - but sell - options are worthless if you just hold on to them...].

    adieu, and bonne nuit

    =========================================
    "... then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it."

  • dagro's picture

    @lmb1234 - had to kudo you on that fine remark. yes, more liberal child labor laws WOULD improve the demand for that asset, and rightly so!

    @accountingbyday - i'm glad you're getting married to a woman who really makes you happy to the extent you're willing to forfeit your options for her. HOWEVER, a relationship is only as good as the equal tradeoffs therein. if only one side makes all the sacrifices, said side will eventually feel emasculated. just be careful about what and how much you give up, and make sure she knows what's important to you and what's very important to you. sacrifices are to be made by both sides for it to work.

    =========================================
    "... then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it."

  • bobbymac's picture

    entertaining as usual. Keep 'em coming.

    If if don't make dollars, it don't make sense.

  • In reply to dagro
    LIBOR's picture

    dagro:
    misery O misery... if i didn't know any better i'd say most of the people praising edmundo's very preliminary post are still in college, dreaming about models and bottles.
    not that i think that ed's post is off track. it's very true, but you people seem to forget that the money isn't the goal. it's the means. if you don't want to get married, who the hell is gonna force you to? if you're stupid enough to say "i do" to someone other than s/he who will make you happy, then you deserve to suffer and learn from your mistakes. hopefully, you'll be alive to rake the morals, and not swimming at the bottom of a frozen river with a rock tied to your ankles.
    happiness comes in different forms, and if you'll pass up the chance because you want to keep your options open, don't be surprised if you find yourself at an age where the only reason women look at you will be to find the source whence emanates the stench of money they've been oh-so-longing for - like that 25-yr-old looking for a sugardaddy on craigslist. btw - to those interested, she put together a semi-impressive finance-oriented reply that later posts accused of having been written by her newfound boyfriend, taken from that very same original post.

    anywho, as i suspect (sorry if i'm ruining it, ed, it's just impossible not to comment...), ed will add a very important reservation: emphasizing the "sell dearly" part of his post, one must know when to sell.

    options, like options, are a very volatile asset. you might make loads off of it if you hold it open for long enough, but hold them open for too long, and you'll lose it all. know when to hold them open, but also know when you're faced with a bargain you simply cannot refuse, because when the love of your life will want to bear your children, you will be a damn moronic idiot of epic proportions to say "but uncle eddie said to get the milk for free!" and not remember the little line "sell your options [dearly - but sell - options are worthless if you just hold on to them...].

    adieu, and bonne nuit

    great addition. plus one. i love how everything on this forum relates to finance, even life lessons.

  • In reply to dagro
    Edmundo Braverman's picture

    dagro:
    anywho, as i suspect (sorry if i'm ruining it, ed, it's just impossible not to comment...), ed will add a very important reservation: emphasizing the "sell dearly" part of his post, one must know when to sell.

    You're actually right on the money, dagro. Like I said at the beginning, it's not a matter of avoiding the unavoidable (let's face it, the vast majority of humanity gets married and/or has kids), but doing it at the right time and maximizing your options beforehand.

    Great comments, by the way.

  • In reply to Brady4MVP
    Batrick Pateman's picture

    jjc1122:
    Unless you REALLY want kids, there is no good reason for men to get married. It's just a bad deal, and you'll be miserable. No freedom, wife constantly nagging at you, and good chance that she will take half of your assets after a divorce.

    A man with balls tells his wife what she will do; she will liscen. She will nag, but he will always put his foot down if it`s exaggerated, adn he will respect and love her. Don`t be godless twats ppl. Stop hating those things that can make your life amazing.
    Nothing gets me more exited than the though of having a family. But, and there is a but, you must be patient. Getting married and having children is not something thats done to correct for a certain amount of boredome, or to fullfill a superficial void thats catalysed by social pressure. You do it when you`re ready, when you`ve travelled, paritied and fullfilled your male duties of seed spreading/motorcycle riding/partying and such.
    When is it enough? For some never, and they should never get married either. All i know is, if you have a mid-life crisis and buy a Porsche or Harley, you`ve failed.
    We work too hard to marry at 23...thats a waste..wait till 30, and have kids at 33-35.
    Nice post Edmundo, but you might be neglecting the other side of the coin.
    Its all about balance...

  • In reply to dagro
    Easy E's picture

    dagro:
    if you're stupid enough to say "i do" to someone other than s/he who will make you happy, then you deserve to suffer and learn from your mistakes.

    Probably 99% of couples get married thinking they are going to be happily in-love forever. The fact is that people change and they get tired of dealing with the same BS and sleeping with the same person day in and day out for the rest of their lives. If you think being together forever will make you happy, fine - just live together until shit gets old and you are no longer happy. No reason to legally tie you down, with your only out costing you half or more of everything you earned.

    Marriage is an outdated concept from back in the day when a woman couldn't provide for herself and needed a dedicated man to support her. There is really no need for it now. Maybe one could argue that marriage is needed to raise kids so they wont end up in prison by age 16. I'll give you that, but you also don't have to be married to raise kids together as a "family". Just lie to the little fuckers.

  • Zzyzx's picture

    I feel like marriage is getting too discounted here. If you marry the right person it will be a huge boon to your success and happiness. The two are correlated, and a strong marriage is worth more than the sum of its parts. I would add that you might think your marriage options are getting better as you become more successful, so it makes sense to keep waiting for marriage, but that rationale could keep you single for a very long time. The option is useless if you never exercise it.

  • RE_Banker's picture

    Great post. Are you a journalist? (I don't know anyone else who roles out their posts like it's a 5 part mini series).

    I completely agree with avoiding wasting assets and debt, even after the marriage and kids options are cashed in (although I imagine it becomes much more difficult to do so).

    With marriage and kids it's a bit tricky. My parents married and had me when they were young (both were 22). It meant that they had energy to raise me as kid. They were both in the middle of postgrad and had flexible schedules and once they finished studying only my father started to work. As soon as my brother and I past the 5 year mark, they both really focused on their careers. It meant they didn't actually have to slow down just as their careers started picking up in their early 30s. I'd say they are more successful because of the way they did things. As well, my relationship with them is quite good, I see them more as friends. They are also not out of touch with our generation. I'm not saying its the right way to do things, just another way that might work.

  • In reply to RE_Banker
    Edmundo Braverman's picture

    RE_Banker:
    With marriage and kids it's a bit tricky. My parents married and had me when they were young (both were 22). It meant that they had energy to raise me as kid. They were both in the middle of postgrad and had flexible schedules and once they finished studying only my father started to work. As soon as my brother and I past the 5 year mark, they both really focused on their careers. It meant they didn't actually have to slow down just as their careers started picking up in their early 30s. I'd say they are more successful because of the way they did things. As well, my relationship with them is quite good, I see them more as friends. They are also not out of touch with our generation. I'm not saying its the right way to do things, just another way that might work.

    Couldn't have said it better myself. When I mentioned a big caveat in the Children category, that was it (and I'll go into much more detail in my post on kids). The nickel version: if you really love kids, love being around kids, and know for a fact that you want to have kids, it's almost certainly better to do it early in life for both their sake and your own.

    And yes, it would be fair to call me a journalist these days. The reason I'm doing it in 5 parts is because each topic deserves discussion and debate on its own. At the end of the week I'll provide a single PDF version with all 5 posts included for anyone who wants to download it.

  • In reply to Zzyzx
    streetn's picture

    Zzyzx:
    I feel like marriage is getting too discounted here. If you marry the right person it will be a huge boon to your success and happiness. The two are correlated, and a strong marriage is worth more than the sum of its parts. I would add that you might think your marriage options are getting better as you become more successful, so it makes sense to keep waiting for marriage, but that rationale could keep you single for a very long time. The option is useless if you never exercise it.

    the correlation between happiness and marriage is proven, the causality is still debated, it is unclear whether happy individuals are more likely to be married or married individuals are happier.

    Further if it is the right person who you are in love with, whether you are in a non - married or married relationship should not make much difference(unless you are from a v. traditional family).

  • In reply to HoboBanker
    RE_Banker's picture

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  • Uncle Rice's picture
  • veritas14's picture

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • TonyPerkis's picture

    I eat success for breakfast...with skim milk