What would you tell an 18-year-old kid who just asked you about money?
My wife and I were out and about a few weeks ago and decided to stop into a local taco place in downtown Tucson (yes, taco places are all over) for dinner because it was getting late and, quite frankly, neither of us felt like cooking. I was wearing my Think Save Retire sweatshirt I custom-designed for myself as a Christmas gift last year.
My wife and I walked up to the counter to order a couple tacos. An 18-year-old kid took our order. Everything was perfectly normal until he noticed my sweatshirt. It says Think Save Retire in red, then "Financial Freedom".
He asked me an interesting question: "Are you a financial advisor?"
I noticed him looking at the logo and immediately understood the context of his question. "No," I said. "But, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night".
Actually, wait - I think I remember that wrong. What I probably said was: "But I do blog about money".
"Oh, okay. Because my mom keeps telling me that I need to start saving for retirement. What would you suggest that I do?"
First, I think I nearly started crying right then and there. The thought of a mother educating her son about retirement is amazing to me. What's even more amazing is this kid actually listened. Obviously, he's taking her advice to heart; otherwise, he wouldn't have bothered to ask us our advice soon after taking an order for tacos in a hole-in-the-wall taco joint in Tucson.
What would you say to an 18-year-old kid who just asked you for advice?
Our money advice to that kid
My wife answered first. "Read up about compound interest. It's an amazing thing that will grow your money over the years."
It's true, compound interest is an amazing thing. Beautiful, in fact. And, it controls more than just money. Compounding effects so many different areas of our lives that it's one of those forces, like gravity, that we'll never truly escape. And, like gravity, it can have a positive or negative effect! In other words, it needs to be used wisely.
I climbed aboard the compounding train and added my two cents. Working as a cashier in a taco place, I assumed the kid didn't exactly have a massive cash flow, and visualizing compound interest with such small dollar values might not be an easy thing for him at this stage of life.
"Even if it's just $10 a month, it adds up over time. Try saving $10 in an investment account. Or $50. Or $100. It doesn't matter how much. Just start. Start small, then slowly build up. "
He nodded and re-focused his attention to the taco-lovers behind us in line.
Both my wife and I stood there and waited for our tacos with giant smiles on our faces - not just because we were able to potentially help someone (akin to Fritz's life-changing discussion with a cab driver during FinCon17), but because this kid wanted the help. He took his mother's advice to heart and asked.
He remembered his mother's advice rather than letting it slip through one ear and out the other. That, by the way, is probably something I would have done when I was his age. Retirement savings was the last thing on my mind. All I wanted was a little beer (erm: "book") money working my way through high school.
But for him, it didn't just slip through. And, I predict he'll master his finances well before the majority of his peers, who also probably don't give two shits about their retirement at this point in their lives. Life, after all, is mental. It's so darn mental. A mind game, if you will. The stuff we store in our minds has a profound effect on what we end up doing with our lives. The stuff that we forget is equally important as the things that we happen to remember.
And this 18-year-old kid who earns a few bucks taking orders at a downtown Tucson taco place has the mental foundation to make this whole "financial freedom" thing totally work. He's thinking about it. It's in his head.
Thanks to his mom.
What say you? If you were in that situation, what would you say to that 18-year-old kid who just asked your advice in a busy taco shop?