Graham’s Newsletter

My worst financial mistakes

Published 15 days ago • 6 min read

Hey there! Just a quick announcement:

Since I’ve started posting slightly less, I’ve been inundated with people asking if I’d offer YouTube, Business / Marketing, and Real Estate consulting. Now that my schedule is slightly more flexible, if you’re interested in booking a consulting call and speaking with me directly, fill out the form below to see if it’s a good fit.

I’ll make some time each week to speak with a few of you, one-on-one, about your YouTube channel, Real Estate Deal, Business, or Marketing Strategy. I’m not sure how long I’ll do this for, or if it’s feasible to continue long-term - but, if you’re interested, reach out and I’ll pick a few people to consult with. It can be over a phone call or Zoom (your choice). Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: Obviously, I won’t offer financial or investment advice. This is directed towards people with specific questions about their business, marketing, real estate, or YouTube channel. Any financial advice questions will be ignored and I will not get back to you.

The biggest impediment to building wealth is believing that you can’t. It seems like now, more than any other time, the younger generation seems to be caving to a wave of financial nihilism.This great article talks about how speculative activities like gambling, sports betting (and even interest in crypto) is at an all-time high. The reason isn’t that millennials and Gen-Z are degenerates who want it “easy” in life. It’s because a growing proportion of youngsters are losing faith in the narrative that if they work hard and save money, they’ll be able to make it.

So instead of buying into conventional assets like stocks and real estate, many are going one of two ways:

  1. Betting it big on speculative assets (Go big or go home?)
  2. Doomspending (If we’re never going to make it, why not spend now?)

I’m reading so many articles about doomspending these days that I had to sit up and take notice. Here’s the thing – the trend is real, but the assumptions are not. By giving up hope and not working towards financial freedom when you are in the best position to do so, you might be setting yourself up for failure. And because I’ve been through this phase myself, I know exactly which mistakes you should avoid. So here are the top 5 mistakes you need to avoid on your wealth-building journey:

1. Don’t give up on wealth too early

From everything I’ve read, people are getting overwhelmed at the start of their journey because a million dollars seems like an unimaginable amount, and they go ahead thinking “I might as well spend it.” But if you can save the first $10,000, then you have what it takes to make a million. Follow this strategy:

  1. Break down the timeframe
  2. Create a budget
  3. Pay yourself first – meaning, invest and save first
  4. Find a side hustle
  5. Start right now

Charlie Munger said “The first $100,000 is a b**ch. After that it gets easy.” The reason is the power of compounding. This visualization puts things into perspective.

If you invest $10,000 every year, it takes 7.84 years to hit $10,000. But every $100,000 after that takes lesser and lesser time. It only takes 6.37 years to go from $600k to $1 million. That initial stretch is where you build the base and the habits that grow your wealth later.

2. The health epidemic

People are realizing that they can’t just work hard in their twenties and thirties and “start life afresh” later. This tweet by Ramit Sethi for example highlighted a man who postponed his interest in martial arts till the age of 46 and then realized his body was more prone to injury at this age. All the money in the world couldn’t change that. Also, if you build unhealthy habits for a long time, it’s going to be hard (but not impossible) to turn around and build a healthy lifestyle the next day.

Health is very similar to money, in that habits compound. I realized this early, and joined a gym at 19 to do just a little bit of exercise every day, and it compounded and built fortitude that also helped me work harder (there’s actually research linking exercise to higher pay). Nowadays, I’m hitting the gym more often and focusing more on my health – and eating healthy is the easy choice, because I don’t want to give up on all the progress I’ve made. But I couldn’t have reached this point unless I had started small. Consistency beats big ambitious efforts.

3. Build your credit score

This was one of my worst mistakes, and it’s one that many people put off for later until they actually need the credit. I had grown up learning that debt was “bad” and even though a lot of my friends suggested I open a card and keep it active just to build credit, I thought I was too cool to use a card and only used cash. But when I tried applying for a loan to buy a house, even though I had a large chunk of money saved up for the down payment, I got rejected by so many banks because I had no credit history. It’s only then that I started opening cards and exploring the world of debt.

Building credit as soon as possible gives you an advantage. If you’re conservative and don’t want to spend more than you earn, that’s great – just make the minimum payments on the cards that you own and build your score, so that you can access money when you need it the most. I have a complete guide on getting the perfect credit score here.

4. Don’t wait for things to happen

From a very young age, most of us live a structured life in which we are told what to do and when to do it. The game is simple, the rules are known, and there’s so much structure that you get very little room to decide how to run your own life – Class starts at 8 am, lunch at 12.30 pm, school lets off an hour early on Fridays, then you complete homework, etc. But instead of shaping their own lives after leaving high-school, most people opt for college, and then a job, which continue to follow a similar structure.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against working a job, but if you aim to achieve financial freedom, this can condition you to complacency very fast. I remember that in my first job, when my boss was on leave, I turned up to office every day hoping for some instructions and because I didn’t have any, I just whiled away the time browsing some MLS and real estate websites till it was time to leave. It took me almost a week to realize – “Wait, this is my life, and nobody’s going to tell me how I can get ahead.” After that, there was a mindset shift. I started questioning:

  1. What did I really want in life i.e out of each day? (A 9-5 job? My own business? More money? More travel? Friends? Fame?)
  2. What “price” am I willing to pay to achieve this? (Short term fun? Free time?)

I realized that doing anything beyond the bare minimum – be it starting a YouTube channel or pushing to be better at your job or being a better friend/partner – comes with some level of sacrifice and risk. All we get to choose is which sacrifice. The real transformation occurs when the pain of doing nothing is more than the pain of doing what it takes to get what you want.

5. Embrace failing

If you try to strike out a path of your own, there’s inevitably going to be failure. How you deal with that failure decides how much you grow. For a long time, I operated with a scarcity mentality and took less risks. I was extremely insecure about how much money I had saved up – this helped me build wealth, but this money dysmorphia also held me back from experiencing a lot of the things that I wanted to.

But here’s the thing: Anything you try, there’s a risk it won’t work out – whether it’s starting a YouTube channel or finding a new job or connecting with new people. The trick is to try pursuing what you want while limiting the downside. If you want to start a business, that’s great. But don’t rush out and quit your job. Instead, I’d suggest building a side hustle, validating your idea, and learning how to do business before you take the plunge. This way failure can hurt your ego but not your finances, and if you learn to deal with that, you’ll bounce back stronger.

Here’s a bonus piece of advice: Say yes to new opportunities. Looking back, there were so many random events and gatherings that I could have gone to, but I said no because I was tired, lazy to leave the house, or too awkward to meet new people. In hindsight, I should have gone because every time I pushed myself to do something that I didn’t “feel like doing” in the moment, I ended up enjoying it.It’s akin to the feeling of going to the gym when you don’t want to and feeling great after an intense workout.

You never know where you’ll meet amazing new people to build out your network, learn new ideas, or just experience something new, so if you get a chance, take it.

That's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know your thoughts by responding to this email - I read every single comment :)

Stay safe, stay invested and I will see you next week – Graham Stephan.

113 Cherry St #92768, Seattle, WA 98104-2205
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Graham’s Newsletter

by Graham Stephan

A 33 year old real estate agent and investor with over $120M in residential real estate sales. This is my way of sharing actionable ideas that will make you a smarter and wealthier investor.

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