Break your life down for a second. You have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and 8,760 hours in a year. At least one third of each day is spent sleeping (about 8 hours). Out of the other 16 hours, most people spend at least 10 of those hours either going to work, working or coming home from work. The remainder of the time is spent with your family or significant other.
So basically, the bulk of your life is spent either at work or with the person you’ve chosen to love. These are at least two of the most significant investments you’ll ever make in your life. Your kids might be another one if you choose to reproduce.
With that being said, and with us agreeing that these two choices are critical for most of us, I am utterly fascinated by how little thought people put into these two investments. How many times do you see a college student choosing a major without thinking about it very much? How often does someone choose a job mainly because it is the one that pays the most money? When young black kids get together on social media or in person, how often do they spend that time talking about what they are going to do for a living?
Think about relationships for a second, the place where the apple of your eye can be instantly transformed into a nightmarish baby’s mama. Most guys don’t think carefully about which woman they want to spend their life raising kids with; they just chase after the girl with the longest hair, the prettiest face and the sexiest body. A lot of women are easily influenced by a polite, good-looking man with swag, without realizing that your decision to give that person your phone number can literally lead to disaster.
Now, fast forward to the age of 35. That’s when a lot of people wake up in a job they hate and say, “How did I end up doing this for a living?” The person you’re sleeping next to annoys you because you know you could have done better. By this time, you are no longer the free spirited 19-year old who could do anything they wanted. Instead, you’re the middle-aged parent who needs that job in order to keep a roof over your head. At worst, you could even end up wondering why you’re being forced to raise kids with a complete a**hole.
But how did that a** hole end up in your life in the first place? It started with a first glance, a first conversation and a first date. It was at that moment that you were making one of the most important investments of your life and didn’t even know it. When you let that man enter your body, the universe, God and Mother Nature sealed the deal. When you chose to sleep with the woman you barely knew, you were choosing a mother for your future children.
How did you choose that career? It could have been as simple as taking one class in college and having a teacher who convinced you that this field was for you. Maybe you chose one job after another because you were “paper chasing,” and trying to find the gig that best helped you live paycheck-to-paycheck. Instead of going to school a little longer or doing the unpaid internship to get your foot i the door of the music industry, you gave all of your time away to working the cash register at Staples. You didn’t want this life, it kinda snuck up on you, perhaps because you forgot that it is your day-to-day, minute-by-minute choices that shape the life in which you live. You thought the present and the future were disconnected, when in fact, they are one and the same.
Part of the reason I wrote the book, “Financial Lovemaking” is because as a Finance Professor, I was intrigued with how people make some of the most important investments in their lives and don’t think them through. Their lives sort of happen by accident, like a roll of the dice. Of course this doesn’t happen to everyone, but can you imagine how differently our lives would turn out if we were to think five years down the line before making major decisions? What if our kids were taught to think the same way?
I’m not saying that every choice should be done with precision and that we don’t all make mistakes. But what I am saying is that a person could optimize their life quite a bit by following a few simple rules:
1) Listen to older people: Learn from their stories and mistakes. Don’t be so determined to do it all by yourself that you end up repeating the same dumb decisions as those before you.
2) Have a five year plan: If a career or financial choice doesn’t fit into that plan, then you may not want to do it. If your potential relationship doesn’t synergize well with that plan, then find someone else to date. Letting the wrong person into your space can easily ruin your life, just ask the many hard-working professionals who lost their lives from domestic violence.
3) Don’t just choose relationships for purely emotional or physical reasons: That cute person sitting next to you might transform into your greatest liability. Don’t let love and sex ruin everything good about your existence, a lot of people do. What we see as a purely physical recreational endeavor is actually the foundation for the creation of all human life. It shouldn’t be reduced to just “hittin it.”
4) Spend time thinking and getting in touch with who you are: Find out what you like and don’t like. Reflect on good and bad decisions you’ve made. Figure out where you are and where you want to be. The best years of my life were when I lived all alone in my twenties and early thirties and spent most of my time thinking. You’d be amazed at all the things you can figure out.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and author of the book, Black American Money. To have Dr Watkins’ commentary delivered to your email, please click here. This article is culled from Financial Juneteenth.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.