Growing up, millennials saw people with mediocre jobs living a modest and normal life. These people didn’t have huge houses or flashy cars, they didn’t go on vacation four times a year. This wasn’t the picture of financial success.
The people doing that were celebrities, doctors or lawyers. These people had nicer things than everyone else. They appeared to live a lifestyle in which money was never a source of stress. At least those were the parts we saw on TV.
They were living the good life while the rest of us were scraping by with the few pennies we had.
The embellishment of that lifestyle is what made me aspire to a profession where I could make tons of money because I had some pretty serious financial goals. But as I entered my twenties, I realized that a lot of what I thought I knew about achieving financial success in my youth wasn’t necessarily true.
As a millennial experiencing the hardships of high student loans and low income, I’ve had to take a hard look at what it is that gets people to financial success. Upon this re-evaluation, I’ve discovered these two huge beliefs society has taught my generation that has turned out to be largely mythical in nature.
Myth #1: You Must Go to College to Become Successful and Wealthy
Many of us millennials had parents that told us we needed to go to college in order to have a shot at getting a decent job. Decent jobs lead to decent money which then leads to not having to worry about money in the future.
Many years ago when a person was pretty much guaranteed a job with a degree, this may have been true. But we live in a different world now where this is just not the case.
I am not trying to discourage anyone from going to college because I think my four-year degree is invaluable. Some peoples’ career goals require they go to college. But I personally may have put college off at 18 if I had known that getting a degree did not guarantee me a job with a good salary.
I came out of college with a liberal arts degree at 22, absolutely broke with $50,000 in student loan debt not knowing what my next move should be. I could either go get a minimum wage job in my field or go spend two more years and a lot more money getting my masters degree.
It’s a widely held belief that a person is much more likely to be successful with a degree in their hand than without one. Statistics from the Census Bureau show that the latest median income for recent college grads is $43,000 per year in comparison to $26,000 for high school graduates. But what the statistics don’t show is that a few specific undergraduate degrees are inflating that median income while many college grads are not making much more than high school grads while suffering under heavy student loan debt.
Myth #2: A High Salary Will Automatically Make You Wealthy
It blew my mind the day I realized that the guy living two doors down in my lower-middle class neighborhood could have much more financial power than someone living in an upscale neighborhood with nine cars.
There are a lot of people out there making $100,000 a year but still living paycheck to paycheck.
A lot of it has to do with the media today romanticizing the lifestyles of people living on high salaries. But the quiet millionaire down the street? We don’t talk about her. They’re the ones that make a modest $40,000 a year throughout their careers and retire millionaires.
Very little about financial success has to do with a person’s income.
It’s about how a person manages the money that they do have. That’s why lenders look at a person’s overall credit score and not just their income.
It’s possible to save $10,000 or more a year on a $40,000 salary. There are many people out there that are doing it. We just don’t see it because in order to do that they live modestly and don’t spend money like some other people do.
Reframing the Financial Success Mindset
So while I used to envy the celebrities I saw on MTV Cribs, I now have shifted that envy because some of those celebrities are now broke. Instead, I envy the 50-year-old that wakes up when they want to every morning. The one that sits at the coffee shop for two hours every morning, reading a book and making small talk with the barista because they have nowhere else to be. The person that gets in their vehicle one morning to go on a spontaneous day trip just because they feel like it. That person retired early because they lived within their means and invested their money. They made smart decisions.
There’s only one person in this world that is incapable of financial success.
That person is the one who dooms themselves to a life of financial failure because “they don’t have a college degree” or “they’ll never make decent money”. That person has already decided their own fate. Their limiting beliefs will undoubtedly become a self-fulfilled prophecy.
The money game is all about hustle and how bad you want it. You need to get out there and get after it. If you’re not satisfied with how much income you’re getting from your full-time job, go out there a pick up a side hustle or ask for a raise. Work for a promotion or even re-evaluate your monthly expenses. A person is only confined by their circumstances if they decide to be.
A Different Path
If I had known that the things my generation were taught about money growing up were largely misconceptions, it would have altered how I went about living my life in early adulthood. My ultimate goal for as long as I can remember has been to be a millionaire. I want to retire early so I can live life to the fullest. But, as it turns out, the path to achieving that wealth looks nothing like I thought it would.
What are the beliefs you had about financial success growing up? Are they still your beliefs or were they misconceptions? How did they shape your path in life?