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Letter to My Younger Self

letter to my younger self

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A Letter of Advice and Hope to My Younger Self

Dear Eric,

I am so proud of you that I am at a loss for words.  The last time I saw you was right after your graduation from college, but it seems like such a short time ago.  I could see what a special man your parents had raised and it brought me a great deal of joy and thankfulness.

You have your whole life ahead of you to do with whatever you please.  So, whatever you want to achieve, wherever you want to live and whomever you wish to love are all questions only you can answer.  You are the ruler of your own kingdom, free to shape your world the way you want it.

It’s my hope that as you read this, you recognize the great nation we live in.  You may not always agree with government or laws, but remember the freedom you have and what a beautiful country we live in.  I chose to live in Florida and love it, but you may prefer the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Northwest.  Wherever you go, take time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you.  Use all of your senses to smell, see, hear, taste and feel.   Life is beautiful and yours is just really just starting, right this moment, my younger self.

Above all,  remember I told you these four things.  They won’t mean much to you today, but will become clearer with every year that passes.

  • Love those who you really do love with all your heart, especially your grandparents,  mother and father,  because they won’t always be there. The passing of someone you love, will one day happen.  Just don’t wait until its too late to say the things that you’ve got to say.  My grand parents are all gone.  My folks are still very much alive, and I love them so much.  I call them nearly every day.  You know, they are moving back to Florida to be by me.  I couldn’t be happier.  They are going to live in my newly remodeled rental house with a pool! I can’t wait.

Make the People Around You Feel Honored to Know You

Don’t ever make people feel that you think they should feel privileged to be with you.  But, do lead by example and hold your head high so that people will feel honored to know and follow you.  Stay humble, yet reach high in everything you do.  Make your own definition of success and never mind what everyone else calls success.  You know what my definition for success is?  Being able to work my own hours, be my own boss, live debt free,  do what I want to do and feel good about life.   I want you to know, your definition will be different.   Be a unique individual and you will find your true self.  Happiness will follow you in life if you let it.

 

  • Earn your own way and don’t be afraid to pay a fair price.   People can be damned cheap and you’re going to see that.   I’m afraid, you can’t change them.  I always knew your dad to be a fair man, so I hope you got that from him.   What I can tell you about being cheap is that I used to be rather that way.  Although, I still like a good deal as much as the next guy, don’t be petty.   If you take something of value from someone, always offer and expect to pay a fair price.   If you split the tab with another couple at dinner, don’t worry if you pay a little extra.  Rise above it and you’re the one that will get respect… both self respect and respect from others.  Generally, people don’t like to be around others who are known cheapskates.  Instead, they aren’t invited to activities because they ruin the fun with their tight grip on money.  As long as you’re one of those people who pay they’re fair share, people will know you’re great to go out with and a pleasure to be around… even when the check comes.

Give Yourself A Break

  • Don’t be so hard on yourself. I fully expect you will excel in whatever you do, but you’ve got to stop beating yourself up.  It’s just not healthy and besides, you’re doing great.  Look at your peers for a second.  You’re doing better than them if you’re honest, true?   Don’t unrealistically expect too much of yourself.   If you keep doing that, you’re going to end up with an ulcer like my mom did.   Regardless of whether its physical capability, mental capacity or your ability to perform well on a test, the rule is the same.   You can only do what you can do, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward. You will do great, I just know it.

What you need to believe,  is that you were amazing from the time you were born.  Nothing happens overnight and success isn’t instant.  Heck, you’re a youngster,  with lots of time to live up to your potential, so don’t be too hard on yourself.   Pat yourself on the back for what you’ve done well, so far.  Look around if you don’t believe me.  I want you to be happy.

Focus on the things that are most important in your present .  It may be your career or your starting a business.  I’ve had many businesses, but most of them aren’t great.  What I’ve found is that its the positive things, the single business that makes a career, for instance, that matter.   The rest of it, including failures are simply a gage to tell you how hard you are trying.   Tweet This.  They will only remember when you got first place or you achieved something you set out to do and they will remember the effort you put forth when you were struggling to do better.

Have Healthy Skepticism, but don’t be So Cynical

To this day, I am cynical about things, especially the motives of others.  I want you to know that this isn’t a healthy way to be.  While you are still young and before you get too jaded, you need to evaluate the degree of cynicism you hold on to.  I advise approaching opportunities and people with some caution, but dial it down a little for your own good.

  • Don’t expect the worse case scenario to happen.  If you put it out into the Universe all the time, that you think the worst of each situation,  it might just happen that way more often.  A strange thing happens when we expect the best and believe the best will happen – It does.   On the contrary, if you are so cynical that your own friends make light hearted humor about your expected negative answer, you need to change.  Just between you and me, I’ve spent too much of my life being outwardly negative.  I realize now, that things will go much better for you in relationships and in professional situations, if you just get rid of negative thoughts.

You mean well, but negativity is like a cancer that grows and manifests itself in very bad ways.   Instead of being a pessimist, look at the best case outcome first, then prepare for the unlikely case of the worst. You certainly don’t want to be unprepared. Just be positive.  You know, I haven’t been all  that positive and my life is wonderful. 

Don’t Jam Yourself Up with Debt

.  It’s not just to brag, but I am pretty happy with myself, about this.  You can do this, if its important to you.  Mainly, I want you to know that cars can cost you a fortune in time.

Since you’re young and starting to acquire things,  you may find that your ability to spend money surpasses your ability to earn it.  Don’t worry.  Just be conscious of how much you are spending when you’re doing it. If you learn to weigh out the real value you’re going to get from something, versus the debt it’s going to cost you, it will help you make smarter decisions.  So many of my friends get caught in a cycle of spending they can’t control.  I hope that doesn’t happen to you, because it really can make life more challenging than is necessary.  You’re probably thinking, this shit is just common sense.  Well, you’re right.  But its still really important stuff.

Do you have any idea how financially healthy you will be if you use common sense?  The difference is enormous.  I read that the average American Household has $15,762 in credit card debt alone.  That’s crazy.  I hope you don’t become one of those people.  It would totally suck to pay all that credit card interest.   You might as well be pissing it away if you carry credit card debt.  I know you won’t do that.  Your parents didn’t raise you that way.  It would just break my heart to see a younger version of myself financially strapped.

Work and Save for What you Want and You Will Have More to Spend

Since you’re just getting started, you can be debt free.  Maybe not right away, because you’re still buying big ticket items.  You just bought a car and you can’t exactly pay cash for a house.  I learned that the secret to becoming debt free is easier than you might think.  Let me tell you, it really takes off a lot of pressure.

Okay, so you want to know how you can become free of debt, but aren’t quite sure how…. Let me warn you, its not easy and it takes some getting used to.    I think you’re going to take well to it, so here it is;

  • Live a lifestyle within your means.   What that means is to save money.  You can save money, right?  If you can’t, then how are you going to pay the interest on those loans?  Many of my many friends give me all kinds of excuses why they can’t save. Yet, they fork over gobs of money in interest and payments each month.

 

  • Learn to be happy with less.  Life is more than fancy cars and airplanes.  Now, I’m not telling you what to do, but Tweet This.  Does that make sense?  In other words, if you drive a $50,000 Lexus, but finance it, you must change that or you will always have a car payment.  But, you say you love your Lexus.  Okay, great.  Keep it, then.   When will you have it paid off?   What about your boat, or other toys?   Do you live in a house that’s bigger than you really need?

Live Out of Excess for Less Stress

I only want to see that you get the best for yourself.  If you are happy being in debt, congratulations.  You’ve found a balance that works for you.  However, if you’re stifled and suffer from debt anxiety, here’s what worked for me to get me to debt free status.

  • Keep your assets for three years after they are paid off.   This is how you can create your own funds from which to buy your next vehicle.  So, you’ve got payments today, but say 4 years everything but the house will be paid off.   Driving that beautiful Lexus few more years after it’s paid off isn’t so bad.  Especially since you take care of your vehicle and it looks great.   Lets say you save the amount of the payment –  Let’s say $600.00.  Let see, that’s $7,200 per year x 3 years (36 months) = $21,600.

So, in three years based on saving the payment of $600 / month you now have $21,600.   So, you have enough for a sale price, brand new Chevrolet sedan. But, wait.  You could sell your 7 year old Lexus and maybe get $10,000.  I’m guessing, but I’m probably really close, if its a clean machine and you’ve kept it up.  So, that’s a total of $31,600.

You can get a pretty nice new car for $31,600 in cash.  So, its not a new Lexus, but maybe a nice Honda, Toyota or Buick.   The point is simply that you can save money with a little discipline and keeping your vehicles a little longer.   The same principle of savings applies to your boat and other toys.

 

A Home is the American Dream – Don’t Let the Payment Be a Nightmare

 

  • Don’t buy the house your bank says you can afford.  My house is comfortable for myself and my fiancé (I’m going to be married again soon), but she would like something a little nicer.  But, she too recognizes that life is easier without debt.  She understands and agrees that we don’t need to get the house on the Gulf of Mexico that we would like, because having financial freedom is worth just having a pretty nice 3 bedroom house.

Eight years ago, I made the decision to scale down my home.  I was just divorced and didn’t need a 3,000 square foot house for myself.  Since I have no kids, I bought a house a bit bigger than half that size and less than half the cost.  I paid it off in 4 years.   I dropped the homeowner’s insurance, which you may find a bit dumb.  Nonetheless, I had the freedom to do that without a mortgage and so will you.

 

Invest In Rentals

  • Invest in rental property as soon as you can.  Rental homes are great and you should consider this while you’re young.  Don’t wait until you’re 51 before you bought your first one.  Fortunately, I paid cash and fixed my first rental up and now my folks are moving into it, at a reduced rate, of course.   That’s exciting for me.

I recommend you put your money into rental property instead of tax deferred 401k plans or IRAs.  The reason is that people always need a place to live, so, you can always get tenants.  You just can’t go wrong with real estate and you don’t have the risk (typically) as you do in the stock market.  I’ve got most of my cash tied up til I’m 59 1/2. You could buy 3 or 4 nice properties that would bring In a few more thousand each month.   To my younger self, I wish I had known then what I know now.

If you don’t live in excess, try to pay cash for everything you can, and never ever carry a credit card balance, you’ll be in great shape.  If you do these things, the only thing that may get in your way of retirement at 55, like my father did, is if you have kids and have college expenses.  I’m afraid, I’m not much help with that because I never had children and I paid my own way through college by working part time.

I’m not so sure, kids still do that today, do they?

 

Love,

An older and Wiser

Eric Klee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Eric Klee

My name is Eric Klee. I've been in the equipment leasing and service business since my first professional job in 1984, in Saginaw Michigan. I've owned several small businesses, including two copier companies. I presently own Digicor, inc., an independent copier sales, service and leasing compay I began in 2000. I call Tampa Bay, Florida home, having moved here from Flushing Michigan in 1989.

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