I thought it was good to save away every month in a 401(k). Little did I realize the amount of fees and wrong decisions 401(k) managers constantly make. Nor did I realize that even when the company matches, I would have been far better off investing in myself, or simply having my own cash in the bank rather than waiting until I am near 60.
2. Owning a home
I get it. Many people want "roots." Many people think rent is throwing money out. But you never really own your home. Try missing a mortgage payment, or a property tax payment, and see how quickly the land from underneath you is taken away. And I learned the hard way that the amount of equity I build is no match for maintenance, renovation, and the thousand other little nicks and expenses that owning a house entails.
Sure, some of the time (and there are a million anecdotes), homeownership works. But as an investment, it has all the worst qualities. You would never invest in a company/stock, for instance, where:
• You use 400% leverage.
• It can go down as much as 50% while you hold it.
• It is totally illiquid. (You can't sell it during the times you most NEED to sell it.)
• It requires constant payments to hold onto the investment.
I could go on.
3. Jobs are "safe."
Many people go to college thinking that even if they can't do their highest passions in life, they at least can have a "Plan B" that includes a safe job.
Unfortunately, incomes have been going straight down while inflation is going up.
The average salary for people ages 18-35 has gone from $36,000 in 1992 to $33,000 now, and it's only getting lower.
Meanwhile, the people I know who are doing the best financially have multiple streams of income, do not have a single job, and often the work they do is 100 percent related to their experience and not their education.
"But what about the arts?" I get it. You can learn the arts and humanities in school. And you can have many social experiences in school.
But the reality is, with $1.3 trillion in student loan debt (and rising), there are many other, cheaper, safer ways to learn these things.
Ways that would be just as enriching, valuable for your future (even more valuable since you will not have debt), and positive socially.
Every society builds its "religion" to keep the masses in check. All I'm saying is: Don't reject that religion. Maybe many of its tenets are good for you and your family and the people you love. But always be skeptical. Make sure that if the plane crashes, you are able to put the oxygen mask on your own face first. This is how you help the most people. By helping yourself. By choosing yourself.
This post is an excerpt from "What If It Does Work Out?" by Susie Moore. Copyright Career Launcher LLC 2016.