Recently I read an article asking what advice you would give your 23 year old self. (Sorry, I forgot where I read this.) This is a very interesting question because it is a very personal question. It is not a generalized topic like the series I wrote about retirement advice for young folks. Everyone has a different life experience and this kind of question makes you think about what you could have done differently.
Let’s see where I was when at 23… I got a Master degree in Electrical and Computer engineering and was already working at Intel. Future Mrs. RB40 was struggling in the Peace Corps back then so I only had to worry about myself. Financially, I was doing well and did not have any debt. On the other hand, the only asset I had was a beat up ancient Toyota Cressida. I was saving more than 15% of my salary and was just starting to invest in the stock market. I think I did pretty well overall, but if I had a time machine, here is some advice for young RB40.
Go It Alone
When I first started working at Intel, it was challenging and a lot of fun. I learned so many new things and met a bunch of really smart people. It was great to be making money as well. However, now that I know more, I would tell my younger self to consider going to a smaller company or becoming self employed instead.
The big corporate environment doesn’t agree with my philosophy so it would have been better to get out of there earlier. The longer I waited, the more difficult it was to leave the mother ship. My potential was limited in a big corporation and I think I would have done better in a small start-up I had always worked better in a small team or by myself anyway. Even when I was in school, I never liked going to pep rallies or big sporting events. I’m more of a loner type than a team player. I should have put in 60 hours/week working for myself rather than for a big corporation.
Networking is one of my biggest weaknesses. It’s hard for me to build relationships and form lasting friendships. I would tell my younger self to put more effort into networking and learning from mentors. I was always much more comfortable talking to my peer group rather than older more experienced folks. I think the lack of mentors and role models really hindered my personal growth in the long run.
Get into emerging media
The last 15 years was a very dynamic time in technology. I should have paid more attention to things like blogs, Twitter, apps, and YouTube. I started Retire By 40 in 2010 and I feel like it would have been much better if I kicked it off a couple of years earlier. There are so many opportunities to make money with new technologies and if you get in early, you would have a huge head start. It was tough because I was working 60+ hours per week quite often in my 20s and just wanted to have fun when I got out of work. It’s also hard now because Baby RB40 doesn’t give me much spare time. Maybe once Baby RB40 starts school, I can seriously get into new technologies.
I lived in an apartment when I was 23 and bought a newly built house a few years later. Now, I think it would have been better to buy a duplex in a good location instead. I could rent out one unit and learn how to be a landlord. Living at an older duplex would given me a lot of opportunities to learn more about home repairs and maintenance.
Get rid of video games
Man, I spent a ton of time playing video games in my 20s. It just sucked up so much time that could have been spent more productively. My excuse was that I used it to decompress from the stress, but Mrs. RB40 said I was always getting mad at the games. I could have used those wasted hours to learn about the stock market or the emerging technologies mentioned above. Oh well, live and learn. These days I don’t play video games much. Maybe once the new XBOX comes out…
These words of wisdom are very specific to young RB40. I guess everything worked out alright because I’m a happy stay at home dad these days and I am not stressed out all the time anymore. Working at Intel gave us a big leg up financially, but I got burned out completely before 40. Who knows what would have happened if I took the other direction instead? I probably would still be working and there wouldn’t be a Retire By 40 blog. Life is kind of funny, isn’t it?
What would you tell your 23 year old self? Don’t forget to tell us how many years it has been since you were 23. I will be 40 later this year for your reference.