It’s not what you leave your children that’s important, it’s what you leave in your children that will count.
What would you have liked to know about work life and money when you were a child?
What lessons should you teach your children about these areas of life?
Interesting question isn’t it?
1. It’s about the skills you gain, more than the jobs you do
When I was without a clue what to do, with my London School of Economics days near closing, I had the chance as student union secretary to speak to the school’s director (what the LSE calls its vice-chancellor).
I asked him what job I should do.
His reply: “It doesn’t matter too much yet, just get the best job you can and focus on acquiring as many skills as possible”.
Looking back, he was right.
While it’s a narrower pathway for those heading into law, engineering or medicine, the portfolio approach to work is becoming a modern norm.
Even the early casual jobs I did taught me something. Bar work was a confidence and communication boost.
Flogging caravan awnings at 18 brought transferable sales skills and a foundation course in commerce, which a stint in financial PR after graduation took up a notch – teaching me techniques I now try to reverse: to work for the shopper, not the shop.
Everything you do, if you give it your all, gives you something, a new skill.
Collect them, take them with you. Everything adds up.
2. If you’re self-employed, a third of what you earn isn’t yours
Those who are salaried receive money via the payroll with the tax automatically taken off, so all the money received is theirs.
However, the self-employed and freelance usually get paid before tax.
So for every £100 you earn, around £30 isn’t yours, it’s the taxman’s.
Put it straight into a separate bank account, preferably with as high interest as possible.
Failure to do this is the cause of many a personal bankruptcy.
3. Don’t be afraid to change path
In work years I’m now 18 years old – coming of age.
After school or university you’re a newborn in the working world.
Until you’re a few years into a career, it’s tough to fully understand what makes you tick.
Hopefully things will go well, you’ll be happy, driven and content. If not, don’t feel locked in. Make a plan, and if you’ll forgive the phrase – ditch and switch.
I left City PR at the age of 25 – a great job to have done, but not right for me.
I decided to leave before I was paid too much to risk the uncertainty of change and feel trapped.
My family didn’t approve of me giving up a secure job to go back to study (a postgrad in broadcast journalism), yet I went for it and thankfully it’s worked out.
Of course, there’s no guarantee, but when it comes to choosing work, don’t be afraid to try before you buy.
4. A bank’s job is to sell to you
If mass hypnosis were possible, I’d use it so that every time people walked into a bank and saw the word ”adviser”, they’d see the word ”salesperson”.
When they offer a product it means it’s good for them; it doesn’t automatically mean it’s good for you.
Just look at the various scandals – PPI, Libor, packaged bank account mis-selling and more.
Billions wrongly taken from the trusting public through lies, fraud and hard sell.
The one silver lining is that this has increased the degree of scepticism with which the public treat banks.
While it’s good to communicate with your bank, take its “advice” with a pinch of salt, and do your own reading and research to make your own decisions.
5. Don’t repay student loans quicker than you need to
All those who started university between 1999 and 2011 are currently charged 1.5 per cent interest on their loans – less than the rate of inflation, so in real terms the debt is shrinking.
Far more important, though, is that many will want mortgages, or commercial loans for further study, in the years after graduation.
These are more expensive and, unlike student loans, still need repaying if you lose your income.
So using spare cash to pay off debt now, only to borrow back later at a much higher rate, is a poor choice.
Far better to dunk it in a high-rate cash ISA, which earns more than the loan costs, so that it’s there when you need it.
6. Your time has a value
Time is a fossil fuel, not a renewable.
It’s easy to waste it.
So whether for work or leisure, make the most of it.
Your waking hours are a commodity.
You sell them to your employer, so when not working, value them at a similar after-tax rate.
This doesn’t mean putting your feet up in front of the TV is always wrong; that type of recharging has its place.
Yet for those earning little, it may mean spending your time being thrifty, making do and mend, rather than spending long-earned cash.
For those who are paid well, it could mean working more and paying someone else to do less lucrative, unrewarding personal chores.
Even I accept that sometimes you don’t have the time to save money, but equally it’s important to accept that sometimes you don’t have the money to save time.
7. Beware borrowing, but ignore “neither a borrower nor a lender be”
Most graduates already have what we call a loan to get a degree.
Many more will need a mortgage to buy a home.
Thus the grandparental wisdom of “neither a borrower nor a lender be” is outdated.
What counts is understanding when and how to borrow.
If it’s planned, budgeted for expenditure on an asset like a home or a car for work, it can be worth it.
Equally if borrowing leads to a guaranteed net financial gain, such as for a football season ticket rather than costlier individual tickets – or a 0 per cent card to pay car insurance upfront rather than the extortionate monthly cost, it may be rational.
Yet while the economy is hopefully turning the corner, personal incomes lag behind.
Don’t be tempted into willy-nilly borrowing to continually fill gaps in income.
If you won’t or can’t avoid it, at least do it cheaply – beware payday loans and high cost credit.
Finally, if you don’t know how you’ll find the money to repay the borrowing, then admit you can’t afford it – no matter how much you feel you need it.
8. You’ve worked for your degree – be proud of it
Many people knock higher education.
Some chant “these days a degree isn’t worth it” – certainly it isn’t the sole route to success.
I know this sounds wet, but the bigger picture is you’ve worked hard to be members of a special club.
While we often take a dim view of the UK, in relative terms, this is still one of the world’s richest and most tolerant societies.
Take a step back and count your blessings – you have an opportunity many in this country and more elsewhere in the world will never have.
If this privilege works out for you, there comes a responsibility, too.
Do what you can to improve the lot of you and yours, but think about the wider world too.
9. Make ’em fight for your business
We live in a competitive consumer economy.
Your business is valuable to companies; don’t let them take you for granted.
Whether it’s haggling to make the AA, Sky TV or your mobile network give you a better deal, making comparisons for the best energy tariff or train ticket, or even choosing where you go for your pint or a sandwich – ensure your custom is valued.
If not, ask for better, or tell them you’ll go elsewhere.
10. Accept uncertainty – there’s not always a right answer
It’s very easy when you’ve been through school, college or university to assume everything must have an answer. Yet it doesn’t. We all need to learn to embrace uncertainty.
This is something many people (including me) struggle with both logically and emotionally.
It’s a great cause of anxiety.
Whether the question is…
Should I change my job?
Should I get that car loan?
Should I marry him/her?
Should I save for a bigger deposit to get a better mortgage deal to buy a house?
Without a crystal ball there is no right answer.
All you can do is weigh the upside against the downside.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best.
And if it does go against you, it doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision.
You did what you could with the knowledge you had. Don’t beat yourself up about it, it’s just part of life.
Source: The Telegraph
Also published on Medium.