Refactoring Wisdom for the Millennials

Photo by Pierre Ch√Ętel-Innocenti on Unsplash

When I became an adult I was overwhelmed by so many suggestions, warnings, philosophies, rules, and/or recommendations that now, I couldn’t tell you which of them have affected any success I enjoy today. My grandmother specifically didn’t want to catch me, “smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol on the street-corner.” I’ve always wondered if she had a family member or spouse that did just that. My dad told me that if I pursued my music dream that I would be, “sitting in a Volkswagen van somewhere and waiting for people to toss coins in my guitar case.” I’ve even had a step-father tell me that I better get my transmission fluid changed soon in the car because I wouldn’t want to “break down on the highway with the wife and kids and not be able to drive the car.” Oh, the best one is my mother, “stop squeezing and picking at your skin, you’re going to get cancer”. I stopped, went to the doctor, he lanced it, and squeezed the piss out of it to remove all of the infection.

I’m guessing the smartest advice was to go to school and to save for my retirement. I went to school, didn’t listen, didn’t study, got bad grades, did some drugs, and didn’t get the degree I was after. I did get a job, got married, had two kids, saved a significant 401k, my wife died, and I lost said 401k. Started over.

This posting is being written for my children Brittany, Philip, and Aaron. Naturally, I hope the public might get some benefit from it. I’ve refactored all the wise counsel I’ve received over the years and my list is much shorter now. I have three things for my soapbox speech today, i.e. 1) pay attention to the world around you 2) never stop educating yourself and 3) make your family your priority. In each section below, I’ll explain the philosophy and also share an example. I hope that each of you get something from this. I want you to be successful in life. And, while my path hasn’t been perfect, I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far.

Awareness

Everyone should be aware of the world around them. When you are aware, you can effectively react to things and make adjustments in your current and prior plans. Life is dynamic. E.g. the analysts have recommended the 60/40 classic retirement portfolio for the last hundred years, that suffered great losses last year. And, since I’ve started my retirement over after the loss of your mom, I don’t have the ten years it might take for the existing market to gain back the losses that occurred just last year. We saw the same kind of loss in 2008. For us, we didn’t have all that much to loose. Also, I designed my portfolio and allocated all my positions prior to realizing the deposits last year were going to the capital fund (cash). This saved a lot of money and I wasn’t aware of my mistake. Or was it a mistake?

Bottom-line, if you pay attention, you will be successful in life. If you ignore it all, you’ll just be another one of the sheep. And, you know the sheep-herding government is going to take care of you.

There’s been a prolific use of the term gas-lighting recently. Philip and I talked and discussed it because his ex-girlfriend, was lying so bad, that he was questioning his own sanity. I was hurting for him then. She’s gone now.

Our government is gas-lighting the current economic situation. In 2022, the FED chairman, Jerome Powell said, “Households are in very strong financial shape.” The White House Press Secretary then said, “We are stronger economically than we have been in history.” These are lies. And, while the government was spewing these lies, our citizens were scratching their heads and wondering why they were losing their net-worth. Please remember that I had little to nothing when I was your age. It took time to have things. While I was getting lectured about cleaning the gutters on the house you were infants in, I was replacing the starter on the station wagon in the driveway with a desk lamp at 10PM at night. I had our house taken from us (foreclosed) because I couldn’t afford to pay for it when your mom got sick.

I’ll leave you with this awareness. My parents harped on the need for investments to plan for our retirements. Today’s solution should be to stop investing and start trading. To weather the next 10 years, any assets, generally used for growth, need attention and trading. Gone are the days of shoving some portion of your pay into a diversified, well-planned portfolio then sitting back and letting it grow.

If I had a huge retirement portfolio, I would be scared to death. I created my portfolio and researched all the allocation directions. We have something, but it’s going to radically change this year. Our assets are going to be moving with no rest in sight. We will trade everything for profit. I’ve already made some money with an isolated account and that was part of my education. I can’t trade on my current 401K but we may change that because I’m not vested with the new company for matching. The Roth IRA is getting ready to look like soup. Nothing will remain idle for long.

I am aware that each of your financial situations is very different. And, I won’t smother you with lecture and advice. You just need to know what’s best for you when the opportunity is there. That’s awareness.

Self-Education

I spend more hours educating myself now than I did when I was young in school. Nearing the end of my career, I not only have to learn about new technology for work, I am marketed to clients for things I have yet to learn. This isn’t really fair, but it’s all in the name of securing the deal. One of the ten commandments is to love thy neighbor. I’d say you better be smarter than your neighbor if you want to be the one getting the raise or that next promotion.

Let’s use the retirement strategy again as an example. And, while I know that my 3 points of advice were awareness, education, and priority, I’m only throwing in the hint that you need to be saving for the future too lol. My parents made it simple for me by constantly reminding me to save. It’s not that simple. I want to stress that the old way was to regularly put money in a diversified portfolio and just keep doing it until you retire. If you do that today, you better educate yourself on what that really means. Passive investing, even on the advice of a qualified expert could mean disaster.

I know someone that paid about 6K as a service fee to have their portfolio reviewed by an unbiased certified financial planner and lost 30% of their life savings just last year. That’s a significant loss and I’ve educated myself to actively trade our long-term savings and investments. I can’t stress the importance of educating yourself on how to handle your money short-term or long.

Priority

Your priority should be your family. When Kim was sick with cancer, my goal was for her health and happiness. I regret that I spent my evenings studying computer books to be sure that I was on the top of my game at work. This was at the expense of my children. I was grumpy. I yelled at my kids to study and told them that school was the most important gift they would be given. It was much more important than going to Walmart and buying a new ipod because you were missing out on the latest Eminem album. I was overwhelmed with it all but I had my priorities straight.

This is specifically for my boys. You won’t have any priority if you don’t consider your plans for tomorrow. You have always wanted things but never planned for the reward after the effort. I haven’t always achieved my long term goals, but I have always had my priorities and most of my dreams and goals have come true.

Here’s are some examples. I wanted a wife, a few kids, and the financial means allow my wife to stay home and watch these well-mannered kids. I landed the wife, had the kids, and your mom didn’t really have to work but a few times. My priority was a happy, healthy, family. I didn’t count on your mom getting sick or you guys not listening to me and getting bad grades in school. You survived. But I had goal, priority, and I didn’t do half bad.

Another example where my priority was taking care of my family again and having a goal to be a software developer. I was a submarine draftsman without a four year degree and I was accepted into a C/C++ software program at the shipyard as a software developer. I was the only one on the team without a BS in computer science. I was promoted 3 times within the group and led the piping and HVAC team for a 3D CAD system we developed for global sale. I achieved my goal and more. My priority in life at that time was to get into this prestigious group at Newport News Shipbuilding and care for my family financially.

My last example is a somewhat selfish goal I had to buy a new car. My last new vehicle was a Toyota pickup in 1984. As my priority has always been my family, I have purchased a new family van that belonged to your mother really. The car I wanted was a sports car or Subaru BRZ. I could have purchased the car when I wanted it but Patty kept an eye on everything and when the time was right I would get my new car. My priority is always my family and I didn’t get the Subaru BRZ. I got a 2020 Honda CRV that I consider “our” family car. Patty doesn’t like to drive it but I got it for her comfort too. The point here is again priority and goal can make things happen for you. And, don’t forget that education part too.

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