Life Advice

Following is some advice regarding major life issues I would offer to the average person (the majority of people) based on my experience and the experience of others. Unfortunately, these are things they don’t teach you in school.

Invest in real estate

People don’t like saving money and generally aren’t good with money. If you choose to rent instead of buy a house for a long period of time, you will for the most part lose money and not end up with much money. Your rent will keep increasing and the money spent on rent will just be gone – given to your landlord. Conversely, if you buy a house, even with just a 20% down payment, while you may feel like you’ve lost a huge amount of money from paying the large down payment, in most cases you haven’t lost any money at all. You’ve just moved that money from one place (a bank account) to equity in the house. When you make your monthly payments, though some of the payment amount will be lost to pay interest to a lender, e.g. a bank, the remainder of the money will be yours, albeit in the form of equity in the house. Furthermore, the house will likely increase in value which increases your equity in the house. In hot markets like the San Francisco Bay Area, one can realize an impressive gain in house value due to appreciation, e.g. $200K over a few years of doing nothing but paying your mortgage.

Most people are not good investors, whether in the stock market or in running a business. While it’s easy to invest in the stock market, it’s extremely volatile and more akin to gambling. Running a business is a lot of work which most people can’t handle. Therefore, most people would be better off just investing in real estate and becoming a landlord. While it does require some work, it’s much less than running a business and more predictable than the stock market. Having a rental property would allow your net worth to grow much faster than if you just owned one home as your primary residence. In other words, if you had to choose between buying one dream home for $1M as your primary residence versus buying two average homes, each costing $500K, where one would be your primary residence and the other a rental property, you’ll end up having a higher net worth faster in the latter case as your tenants in your rental property will be paying that property’s mortgage for you.

Some ways to help get your first house are:

  • Buy a 3 bedroom house and rent out two of the bedrooms
  • Buy a duplex or multiplex, live in one unit and rent out the other units
  • If you know home improvement, buy a cheap fixer-upper and fix it up while living in it

The ways listed above may not get you your dream home but at least it can help you build equity to put towards getting a nicer home.

If you have a high-interest-rate loan, refinance

This should be obvious, but many people surprisingly don’t realize how much money they could save by refinancing a large loan with a high interest rate. I had a 5.875% mortgage loan and I refinanced it to a 3% loan saving, literally, around $200K! If you have a large loan with a high interest rate, monitor interest rates and refinance as soon as it makes sense too.

Read the fine print

When entering in a legally-binding contract, e.g. a contract for a mortgage or a credit card or a contract to rent an apartment, pay attention to the details of the contract, some of which are in fine (small, hard-to-read) print. Examples of ridiculous statements are

  • in a mortgage contract, if you pay PMI (private mortgage insurance), you can’t get rid of it before 5 years, regardless of how much your loan-to-value ratio becomes
  • in a credit card contract, if your interest rate is 5% and you miss a single payment, even by 1 hour, your rate will increase (jump) to 22%
Hang around people you want to be like

People tend to behave like their friends. If your friends do drugs, for example, in time you may end up doing drugs. If your friends are religious extremists, you’ll likely end up a religious extremist. If your friends are smart, you’ll likely end up smart, and so on. This should be a no-brainer but if you want be like someone, hang around people like that person.

Learn about finance

Everyone needs money but many, if not most, people don’t know how to manage it. Credit cards, for example, are super useful but so many Americans don’t realize that they’re not helping themselves by just paying the minimum amount due every month. Since something as important as finance isn’t considered important enough to be taught in school, everyone should make an effort to learn about it when they’re young before they find that they owe a ton of money and have wasted a ton of it on paying interest.

Don’t assume religious scholars and your parents are correct with respect to religion

Your parents will usually influence you to follow their religion because they believe their religion is correct. When you become an adult, you’ll be so brainwashed into believing your religion is correct. You’ll also feel comfortable just sticking with that religion since your relatives probably share the same religion. You’ll be afraid and lazy to consider other religions and seek the truth. The cycle goes on generation after generation. Most people just end up inheriting their parents’ religion. Needless to say, your parents’ religion may not necessarily be correct. Furthermore, as you learn about a religion, you may reasonably assume that religious scholars are giving you correct information and guidance. Unfortunately, many religious scholars can also be often wrong about many aspects of religion. When it comes to religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, you’d be better off studying the source of truth, i.e. canonical scriptures, rather than just believing whatever your parents and scholars tell you.

Get at least a bachelors degree

While dropping out of college to pursue a business idea works out great for some, that isn’t the case for most people. Statistically speaking, most businesses fail and most college dropouts will probably be worse off. Going to college when you’re older is more difficult as you may need to work part time, you may have kids, or you may just feel uncomfortable being older than most of your classmates. Unless you have a fast-growing project, just stay in school and get at least a bachelor’s degree.

Study abroad during college

Many people don’t get a change to travel internationally though they wish they could. Though one can do so using their vacation time off from work, that’s limited to a very short period of time. Living in a foreign country for a while can be very interesting and rewarding in different ways. For most people, the only time feasible to really live abroad would be while studying abroad, e.g. during your college years.

Pursue a career that’s not only interesting to you, but also financially rewarding

If you live in the US, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook provides detailed information on many occupations including

  • Median pay
  • Typical entry-level education
  • Number of jobs
  • Job outlook
  • Job description
  • Work environment

Though being an artist (musician, painter, etc) may be your passion, the chances of you being able to live the way you want to live from pursuing that passion are small. So as to not waste time, you should try to figure out what career you want to pursue by the time you apply to college.

If you live in a poor country, find a way to legally move to a rich country

If you are unlucky enough to have been born in a poor, third-world country and you want out to seek a better life, don’t go to another poor country or a slightly better country, unless it’s just as a stepping stone, e.g. to escape war. Move to a rich country. Though that is harder to do, it’s not impossible and it’s worth the effort. Some ways to legally move to the United States, for example, are

  • marry a US citizen (easiest and fastest way)
  • go to school in the US and after graduating, find a company to sponsor you

Migrating to Canada is also a lot easier than to the US though, personally, I’m not usually happy being in cold places.

When buying something expensive, calculate the cost per use to determine whether it’s worth buying

If you want to buy something, e.g. a $5000 pickup truck, because you find that you occasionally need to haul something large that won’t fit in your car, then don’t do so until you calculate the estimated cost per use. Assuming you expect to use it once every 6 months, then your cost per use for, let’s say, a 10 year period, is $5000 / 2 (twice a year) / 10 (years) = $250 per use. Compared to the cost of renting a U-Haul pickup truck, which is about $40 per use, buying a pickup truck no longer makes financial sense. Plus, there are additional costs involved in owning a truck paying such as insurance, registration, etc, not to mention having to find a place to park it.

Following are some ways of looking at some products.

  • Eyeglass frames are unusually expensive considering their size and production costs. However, since you wear them all the time (except when sleeping), the cost per use becomes very low. This supports the argument that you can spend more on eyeglass frames.
  • Bathroom remodels can be expensive but, since you have to use the bathroom every day, you’ll definitely lower the cost per use. Plus, you can recoup some of the costs if you sell your house. No one likes to use an ugly, small bathroom. I had an old bathroom with a tiny shower and a full-size tub that I never used. I remodeled it by removing the tub and creating a large walk-in shower. Much more useful!
If you have an unusual streak of bad luck, consider black magic as the cause

If you start to notice that you’ve had an unusual streak of bad luck that doesn’t seem to go away, e.g.

  • you get sick too often
  • doctors say you’re normal but you keep feeling sick or pain
  • you can’t find a job or keep losing a job
  • you can’t get married or keep getting a divorce
  • you often have weird experiences, e.g. hear unusual sounds, can’t control your temper, can’t sleep, etc

then you may want to get checked for jinn / demonic interference and/or possession. Though this may sound ludicrous, it is unfortunately very real as many people of various faiths including Christians and Muslims can attest to. The longer you wait, the harder it is to cure.

Get a mentor

Though you can learn a lot from trying to figure out things on your own, doing so can be very time consuming and costly. If possible, find a mentor to guide you, though that’s not necessarily free. If, for example, you’re good at coding and have a great idea for a new app, don’t spend too much time building the app to perfection. A mentor who has experience in technology-based businesses can guide you to maximize your efforts, e.g. by finding out if certain features in your idea are worth developing or if modifications to it would prove more useful for end users / customers. A mentor can also guide you with regards to marketing and many other necessary aspects to help your idea become a successful reality.

While in school, getting a mentor to help with schoolwork is also useful. They’re just usually called tutors.

Don’t marry without a prenuptial agreement

Though no one usually marries with the intent of getting a divorce, divorces are an unfortunate reality, and they can be extremely costly depending on where you live, e.g. California. I’ve heard too many stories of long-term (10+ year) marriages, with and without kids, where one spouse turns evil against the other and will even lie in court for personal gain. Believe it or not, a common strategy to get more than half of communal property (shared assets) or custody of kids is by filing a domestic violence claim against the other spouse, even if it’s based on lies. Additionally, if one spouse doesn’t work or earns significantly less than the other spouse, they could, unjustly, claim half of the property their spouse worked so hard for. To make matters even worse, lawyers earn more by allowing a case to drag on and their fees are exorbitant considering much of what they do is fill out forms and file paperwork. Hell, some lawyers even lie about how much time they spent on your case. Much of this can be avoided with a simple prenuptial agreement which details how the assets should be divided in the event of a divorce. Considering the huge amount of time and money, including that of taxpayers whose money goes to pay the courts, involved in divorce cases that lack a prenup, it’s surprising that the government doesn’t require a prenup or, at the very least, warn people of what they could be liable for in the event of a divorce.

Don’t have kids early in life

Many people will disagree with me on this but I think you’re better off waiting till your 30s to have kids. If you have kids too early, they could prevent you from finishing school, exploring the world, and establishing yourself financially, e.g. buying a house, among other things. Not only are kids expensive, they take up a lot of your time.

Unless you are rich, don’t waste your money on an expensive car

Cars depreciate in value as soon as you drive them off the dealer’s lot. Also, the latest model car will no longer be so great as soon as the next year’s model comes out.

  • Car cost: $30K
  • Average life: 10 years (3650 days)
  • Cost per day: 3650 / $30,000 = ~ $8

$8 is much cheaper than the daily cost of a rental car or about equal the cost of public transportation. A car that costs twice a much will accomplish the same goal (get you from one place to another) yet cost you $30K extra which is money probably better spent on something that will give you a better ROI (e.g. towards down payment on a rental property, kitchen or bathroom remodel, etc).

If you want someone to like you, talk to them about topics they are interested in

Don’t you enjoy talking to people who share the same interests as you? Don’t you get bored talking to people who talk about things you have no interest in? If you’re trying to get someone to like you, one easy way is to talk about things they like talking about, although if you dislike talking about that topic, you may get bored yourself. Example: say you want to marry someone and you want their parents to like you. In this case, find out what their parents like and talk about those things when you meet them.

Learn a foreign language at a young age

This advice is more for parents. Being multilingual can have its benefits when seeking a job. If you live in the United States, for example, and want your kids to be multilingual, there’s no doubt that it’s easier to learn a language before the age of 20 and when living among speakers of that language. If at all possible, have your kids go to school for a few years in a country where they speak the language you want them to learn. At this time, China is fast becoming an influential country and with there being so many Chinese people all of the world, being able to speak Chinese (Mandarin) could prove super useful.

If you don’t speak English, learn it as soon as possible

Let’s face it. English is the most widely used international language and it’s the language of business and technology. More information is available in English than in any other language. With English, you can likely travel anywhere with less problems getting around. It can also increase your chances of getting a job.

Make it a habit to exercise regularly

Most people wish they had the body of a model or athlete. Unfortunately, getting in shape isn’t something that can be accomplished in a short period of time. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy and attractive physique requires periodic effort. Of course, exercise is usually boring and something most people dread doing. To help overcome this, get into the habit of exercising at a young age so that as you grow older, exercising won’t feel like a huge burden or waste of time.

Care about your appearance

Your appearance is very important not just to appear presentable and acceptable to others but also for your own self pride and confidence. No one likes to be obese but fortunately, that’s something everyone can fix one their own without spending much money as long as they are determined and diligent in controlling their eating habits (and don’t have a disorder). For men (and some women), losing some or much hair can have a huge effect on their confidence. Even though it’s common for men to lose hair, it doesn’t mean that all men feel comfortable about their hair loss. If your hair loss affects your day-to-day happiness, then it’s obviously worth addressing. Fortunately, hair transplant procedures are extremely common and costs have dropped so that most people can afford to get back a natural appearance of a full head of their own hair. For women (and some men), having sparse or no eyebrows can really make your face look unusual. People have eyebrows for a reason – to help frame their face. I personally see many Asians (mostly Chinese women) who hardly have any eyebrows so they draw the shape of an eyebrow where their eyebrows would normally be. This has become so common that it no longer looks unusual but it is nevertheless fake and unattractive. Fortunately, hair transplant procedures also work for eyebrows so this problem can be solved permanently in a single operation. Not only will you have real hair for you eyebrows, you won’t have to keep drawing eyebrows on your face every day. Noses are another thing that varies significantly from one person to another and tends to have a big effect on one’s appearance and happiness. Many people just naturally have noses that are just too large, too small, bumpy, asymmetric, crooked, or a combination of these. This results in an unbalanced face which could be really bothersome for some. If this is the case with you, then you might as well do yourself a one time favor and address the issue by getting a rhinoplasty operation done. This is also a permanent solution which can have a lifelong positive effect. These are just some of the common issues and solutions that affect one’s appearance and consequently mood and happiness. Conclusion: if something about your appearance bothers you almost every day of your life, then stop dreading about it and just fix it regardless of whether it’s taboo or not. Your future self will thank you.