What Do You Wish You Would Have Known at 17?

Got another juicy email from a reader and thought you’d enjoy the Q&A :)

What would you tell this guy if you could?*

(*you can – just leave your thoughts in the comments below! ;))

Hello… My name is Jonathan (stalk my Facebook if you like) and I need to get my life together.

I have recently turned 17, reside in the UK and have only just stumbled upon your website. I have just touched upon the surface of your content and am already interested as to how I can better myself. I have just completed my first year of sixth form (similar to college) and am not continuing on next year with my studies (I’m the first person in my family to academically even get that far at this age, my mother is the only person in my family who went to university at around 32ish and now is a primary school teacher).

I live at home and its highhhhhly likely I’m going to get kicked out soon. I do not have any university savings and to my name have around 850£  of which is not currently accessible. I have opted for an apprenticeship and am currently awaiting a reply from them where I want to pursue the boring 9-5 (it’s actually pretty nice there and I could gladly spend the next 50years of my life there). I do want a weekend job to go along with the Monday to Friday gig and am currently looking for a side hustle (I have a few cheap ass watches which I’m going to try and move for a profit of 50ish£ if I can) but with an office based apprenticeship and career the money is really bad.

I guess I’m looking for a few questions to be answered and any advice would send me literally over the moon. I’m essentially a hustler with barely any shame, have a really strong work ethic, and all the youthful drive in the world… If Dominos wanted me to have the special deal sign on and dance in the street I’m down. I should also mention I have not previously been employed and come from a very working class dysfunctional family.


  • Number 1: in my position what would you do?
  • Number 2: what are your biggest mistakes so I can learn from them without going through the same?
  • Number 3: do you have any major regrets?
  • Number 4: could you provide me with a dummy dummy guide to money?
  • Number 5: if I do get an apprenticeship earning around 11,000£ a year, what the f*ck should I do with that money (currently my urge is to put most of it into my body as tattoos)
  • Number 6: what is your biggest accomplishment and why?
  • Number 7: should I say f*ck it and hold a petrol station clerk at gunpoint and risk it for an uncertain amount of money with a 98% chance of a long prison sentence?

These are all genuine questions, if you could help even just a little it would truly mean a lot.

– Jonathan, the 17 year old looking to get his life on track

Here’s what I shot him back:

Can’t say I saw that email coming :)

Good for you for wanting to do something about your situation and taking action – always a smart thing to do, no less at your age!

Answers to your questions —

Number 1: in my position what would you do?

I would hustle every angle you can until you find your rhythm. Doesn’t matter if it’s the apprenticeship, or weekend work, or any other project/company you end up at. What matters is that you’re putting yourself out there and being open for all opportunities that come your way. Some will be amazing and others will suck ass. But you’ll get farther than anyone else if you keep going after things until you know whether it makes you happy or not (or pays the bills). I’d do my best to chase what *excites* you btw vs the money… Usually if you can find something you enjoy AND are great at, the $$$ will come.

Number 2: what are your biggest mistakes so I can learn from them without going through the same?

If only it were that easy :) You just gotta keep trying things and seeing what sticks… I will say that waking up early every morning has done me much more good than harm, and also not buying crap just cuz it’s cool or gives me temporary pleasure. Remember that the less $ you need to live off, the less you need to make! Which means you can be ‘free’ for a looong time once you learn to live on less… Lastly, don’t chase the get rich quick stuff – they never work out and complete waste of time. You will get lucky with stuff here and there, but most things come with hustle and passion. Do your best to take your time and do things “right.”

Number 3: do you have any major regrets?

Not that many, no. I only wish I opened up my eyes earlier and realized how much control we had in our lives – and that you don’t have to follow what everyone else is doing if you don’t want. I waited way too long (my mid-20s) to try and figure it out. So that fact you’re 17 and thinking of this stuff is great! You’ll go much farther than I did at your age.

Number 4: could you provide me with a dummy dummy guide to money?

Sure – spend less than you make and save the difference :) That’s all there is to it. Just gotta widen that gap by making more and spending less. Then it’s a matter of doing it over and over again and letting time work its magic. None of this is hard in theory, you just have to actually DO IT.

Number 5: if I do get an apprenticeship earning around 11,000£ a year, what the f*ck should I do with that money (currently my urge is to put most of it into my body as tattoos)

Allocate a portion of it for fun stuff like that, and then bank every other dollar that comes in. The more you have saved/invested the more freedom you have to do as you please!! But you can’t get hardcore in either direction – if you save too much you’ll go crazy, and if you spend it all you’ll always be someone’s bitch. Gotta find that happy medium.

Number 6: what is your biggest accomplishment and why?

Besides having kids, starting – and sticking to – my finance blog, budgetsaresexy.com. It’s been the biggest game change for me in terms of life and career and lifestyle, and totally opened up the doors to incredible opportunities. I had no idea you could do this stuff for a living and was totally accidental. But again – when you put yourself out there and try all different kinds of stuff, you eventually land on something great and can then run with it. It’s taken me over 30 jobs to find this one!

Number 7: should I say f*ck it and hold a petrol station clerk at gunpoint and risk it for an uncertain amount of money with a 98% chance of a long prison sentence?

No, never (I hope you’re kidding). There is nothing better than freedom no matter how crappy your life is. Don’t chase the money and get-rich-quick stuff – focus on living a great and productive life! Go out and learn stuff and try changing the world for the better – there’s enough nonsense in this world. None of it’s about the money – it’s about finding your happiness.

I know you won’t listen to all of this stuff and may think it’s garbage (I probably would have at 17!), but just remember you’re always in control and can change your life for the better or worse. No one will care about yourself as much as you do, nor will they be affected as much by your actions as you will. So own them all and just do your best. You’ll fail and you’ll win, but just keep on going. I’m double your age and still learning something new every day!


Reading this back I kinda wish I addressed the whole college thing and asked him why he’s not coming back (or why he’s about to be kicked out of his house, for that matter?) but seeing how we come from such different backgrounds anyways I suppose it wouldn’t have helped much… Regardless, I give this guy major credit for reaching out and searching for answers, and even more impressively at 17! I wasn’t nearly as confident/honest with myself at that age. And his rawness, wow.

If you’d like to share any of your own thoughts, or even answer these 7 questions yourself, please do so below as I’m sure he’d love to see them :)

Maybe you were in a similar position yourself at that age, or you currently are now and have found some things that have been successful? What would you wish you had known at 17?

Just another reminder that everyone’s working out some sort of problem… We’re never alone in that!

UPDATE: Here’s what Jonathan has decided to do :)

PS: The above photo is not of Jonathan. Just a pic of what a 17 y/o looks like to me :) Though interestingly enough it was shot in the UK!

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  1. The Green Swan August 29, 2016 at 5:23 AM

    Great response J$, I think you said it well. I’d echo what you said about a gait balance in what is spent on fun things like tattoos and what is saved. Sounds like he’s a hard worker and even though his current situation is tough that he’ll be able you work through it and get his feet under him. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Anna August 29, 2016 at 6:11 AM

    Great answers! I would like to add that the fact this young man is asking these kind of questions at 17 means he’s already a little ahead of most people his age.

    Also, don’t be afraid to try things (legal, honest, moral things) to find out what you’re good at. You can correct almost any bad decision or mistake when you’re young, EXCEPT getting someone pregnant. Children are forever.

    And leave the possibility of university open for a later date.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:37 AM

      Truth about kids!! No return policy there ;)

  3. Roy Largo @ Band of Savers August 29, 2016 at 6:26 AM

    I would agree with your responses J. One thing that I would like to point out to him is not to put himself at a disadvantage by placing restrictive labels on himself. In the email he says that he comes “from a very working class dysfunctional family” and mentions that he is the first person to go to college at his age from his family. While I might come from a very different background I grew up where the majority of my school would have said the same thing. Looking back at how things have turned out for many of my classmates I can see some of the consequences of attitudes to these circumstances. I’ve noticed that a lot of them used those labels to hide behind as an excuse for believing that they were destined for the same life as their parents and never really did much with their lives. 10 years after graduation most are either in jail or stuck at the same job they were in and living paycheck to paycheck still without any savings or plan for the future because they’ve already given up on progressing. But there are a handful of others that I’ve kept tabs on from the same situation who, in high school, didn’t label themselves and used their home lives as a model of what not to do. Most of these are now in a great place because of the huge trials that they had to work through. It’s come to amaze me how much more someone’s mindset and attitude has in determining someone’s level of success than their starting point does.

    Keep you head up Jonathan.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:38 AM


    2. superbien September 4, 2016 at 3:34 PM

      I’d repeat this point. Being the first is totally doable, and it makes a role model for others.

      My dad’s family was solid blue collar, and he was the first to go to university, but all 6 of us kids have degrees, and his baby brother got a degree too.

      He (and then my mom, people married way young then) hustled hard to get through. They worked, live-in, in a home for unwed girls (back when that was hugely shameful), and at a summer camp, and my dad washed dishes to live in campus housing. They moved for jobs, cooked at home, and punched pennies till they screamed. But I remember family dinners together, lots of reading aloud together as a family (washing dishes, on long car rides), and camping. Frugality and fun are not opposites! In fact, I have come to think the opposite.

      So ok, advice to a 17 year old far wiser than I was at that age!
      1) Find the best damn tattoo artist in your country, maybe the world, and craft the most heartrendingly beautiful and personal tattoo. Then save like hell for that tattoo. Don’t throw away precious body real estate on stupid tattoos that anyone could have.

      2) Make savings automatic. If you get paid electronically, most will let you put in two or more bank accounts. Tell them to send 25%, or 15%, or 10%, to savings. Then live on the rest and only dip into savings in an emergency. A real emergency.

      If you get paid in cash or check, it’s a couple of extra steps, but make savings X% automatic. I used to do it as a kid in a rusty decorative can, but consider how trustworthy your roommates, friends, family are. Bank if possible.

      3) Learn how to cook. I recommend starting with Leann Brown’s free online cookbook, Good and Cheap, that explains good healthy cooking on £3/day (US$4). You save SO much money – and eat better – by knowing how to cook. It seems intimidating, but it’s mostly straightforward. Based on your email, you’re definitely smart enough to figure it out. http://www.leannebrown.com

      4) Check out Dave Ramsey. He’s got a great community to keep you motivated. His advice is solid and understands emotions and motivation. http://www.daveramsey.com/home/

      1. J. Money September 4, 2016 at 3:40 PM

        Love this all!! Esp that frugality doesn’t have to = not fun. Cool to hear your backstory :)

  4. Kate @ Cashville Skyline August 29, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    Wow, Jonathan sounds like a smart 17-year-old. I love the suggestions you’ve given him. Finding well-paying side jobs (like waiting tables or bar tending) were huge for me at that age. I just wish I hadn’t blown so much cash on drinking in college. I could have been earning great returns if I had socked that money away into index funds in my Roth IRA.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:39 AM

      Yes, but it was so much fun, right? :)

  5. Hannah August 29, 2016 at 6:38 AM

    Decide what your goals are, and write them down. Then think about what skills you need to achieve those goals. Then set about the business of gaining those skills (books from the library about the cheapest ways to achieve most skills).

    Good luck! I know you can do it!

    1. superbien September 4, 2016 at 1:33 PM

      Libraries, YES!!! Audiobooks if you don’t learn well by reading, or want to learn while doing something manual. The internet and YouTube also has crazy skills and knowledge training.

  6. Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions August 29, 2016 at 7:12 AM

    I have a 17 year old boy – so this hit home! I think your response in #1 is key. At 17 you have the energy to take on the world! You can work multiple jobs and sock away cash and even have a little to have fun. BUT – the biggest thing is to get yourself under control and try to stay at home initially. Trying to pay for all the adult things (housing, insurance, medical, utilities, food, etc..) can crush you – even with roommates. Finding responsible friends to split costs with at your age is tough! Be nice at home – help out where you can – and contribute when you make some money. If you’re working you won’t be around much anyway – just don’t be an A$$ when you are there. Good luck!

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:40 AM

      Thanks for jumping in :)

  7. Miss Mazuma August 29, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    Awwww – it love that you are the go to guy for advice for him!

    There is no doubt in my mind that Jonathon is going to succeed. First off, opening your eyes to the real world at 17 will go a long way in what he can accomplish in life. But secondly, he has hustle. In my opinion, you can’t teach that. Dysfunctional families are an interesting aspect of success – your background in what you grow up can either make you sink (and continue the cycle) or swim. Sounds like he will always have the ability to keep is head afloat.

    As for the financial aspect, you can’t do better than J’s advice. Spend less than you make and invest the rest. Invest in yourself (not sure the ink applies…unless you want to become a tattooist then perhaps ) and your experiences. I agree with Kate that waiting tables is a great way to make cash while figuring the rest out…plus you usually eat for free which is a huge expense in the average persons budget. Be good at what you do, keep your eyes open. You will meet people, network and make connections.

    I can’t wait to hear a follow up… :)

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:42 AM

      “Be good at what you do, keep your eyes open”

      Very very important! Whether you’re cleaning toilets or running a giant company. Always do your best and watch for those opportunities! (And talk to everyone you can!!)

  8. Barb August 29, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    Jonathan, your situation moved me to write. I was out the house at 17 because I’d been orphaned young and grew up in foster care where I became a rebellious kid just to survive. At 17 I married the first guy to ask because I needed to get out of a bad situation and I had zero confidence in my ability to take care of myself without a man. Even though I got good grades in school, no teacher, no adult ever said the word “college” to me. I didn’t even know it was an option. Like Jonathan, I had a lot of bad labels attached to me. Some were given to me by other and others I called myself.

    Here is my advice to Jonathan. Ignore where you came from and what others think of you. You are smart and self directed just to have written your letter and I have no doubt you can take charge of your life. You got good advice to try things (except crime!) and find out what you like. Take a college class or two and it will open up a new world. Be generous and forgiving with yourself as you WILL make some mistakes and missteps. It is all part of learning.

    For me, I divorced the man I married at 17 and eventually got two college degrees and built a great life for myself. But I remember clearly the despair of being alone at your age and thinking I had no options and my advice to my 17 year old self would be to value ME more than I did and know I was capable.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:44 AM

      Thank you for sharing your story! And well done turning your life around!

    2. superbien September 10, 2016 at 1:24 PM

      What a rough beautiful life story. Thanks for sharing it. You are a forged in the fire kind of gems.

  9. Brian @ Debt Discipline August 29, 2016 at 7:25 AM

    It’s great that Jonathan is seeking help and asking questions at 17. Not may 17 year olds would do that.

    I suggest to use this time to figure out what time of things he likes/dislikes. Try different types of work/hustles to see where his interest lies. Stick to the spend less than you make plan, but budget in a little fun money. At his age I sure he’ll still want to have the opportunity for social events.

    Good luck!

  10. SL August 29, 2016 at 7:27 AM

    Number 1: in my position what would you do?
    If sharing rent with someone, get a personal safe. Live in the smallest place you can handle. At 22 I needed a 1 br only because I had a visiting child – an efficiency (1 room) flat would have done just as well.

    Number 2: what are your biggest mistakes so I can learn from them without going through the same?
    Impulse buys SUCK!
    Don’t jump into a relationship of “I love you forever” without some serious testing of water. (also an impulse buy, also suckage)

    Number 3: do you have any major regrets?
    I like where I am — not always fond of how I got here. Express your feelings to people – friends, family, etc. and note they are your feelings. captainawkaward.com is my friend as a social idiot.

    Number 4: could you provide me with a dummy dummy guide to money?
    Pay yourself first. suggested is 10%, but figure a budget and make sure SOME set amount is set to your savings first. Before bills whatever. If the company you are going to work for has direct deposit put X amount of pay into a savings account and forget it for a while.

    Number 5: if I do get an apprenticeship earning around 11,000£ a year, what the f*ck should I do with that money (currently my urge is to put most of it into my body as tattoos)
    See 4. and budget for fun. and think about visible tattoos in your chosen field — mine are not visible; I work for a conservative industry.

    Number 6: what is your biggest accomplishment and why?
    Going from bankrupt to more than financially solvent with a six-month emergency savings and a heck of a retirement nest egg in six years.

    Number 7: should I say f*ck it and hold a petrol station clerk at gunpoint and risk it for an uncertain amount of money with a 98% chance of a long prison sentence?

    Of course not. (JOKING) everyone knows art theft is the way to go (END JOKING) — theft is not a good answer, and if you want guaranteed “three hots and a cot” (three meals a day and a place to sleep) then seriously look at volunteering for your military. Generally the training you get there on-job and off-job is more than worth the time. Usually military pays for a LOT of your day-to-day needs, and if you don’t party heavily every payday, you can sock most of your pay into savings for when / if you decide to separate from it.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:48 AM

      So fascinating reading all of this :) Good point about the visible tattoos (I got mine on my chest so I could easily cover it up too at any point – unless I become a member of Baywatch!). Love that you’re living a happy ending too ;)

  11. Apathy Ends August 29, 2016 at 7:38 AM

    great answer on number 3 J money – the younger people realize they can control their lives the quicker they can start writing their own story. It took me until I was 28 to realize that – wish I would have started sooner.

  12. Physician on FIRE August 29, 2016 at 7:55 AM

    Alright Eggsy, just keep doing what you’re doing. Pretty soon, you’ll be bailed out by a man looking like a buff Colin Firth who will take you to a tailor shop that isn’t really a tailor shop. Just go with the flow when you almost drown and crash to the earth in your training. If you play your cards right, you’ll be the stud who gets the girl and saves the world.

    p.s. Never trust Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp.

  13. Chadnudj August 29, 2016 at 8:04 AM

    Jonathan – finish school.

    Look, this may not exactly be true in the UK, but I suspect it is — here in the United States, your lifetime earnings/likelihood of being employed as a college/university graduate are MUCH HIGHER than those without a college degree. The 11k pounds you’re making? That’s just $14,375 a year, which is small potatoes. How much higher would your starting salary be at ANY company if you had your degree? Then think of how much higher it would continue to go with raises, bonuses, jumping jobs because you hustle and work hard and do excellent work, etc.?

    Find a subject that you are interested in (since you’re here, it sounds like money may be it — maybe accounting? Finance? Economics?), work your ass off at it, get that degree, then go get a job that pays much more than $11k. And as I understand it, college education involves little to no debt in the UK (or certainly much less than here in the US), which even moreso means college is the right decision.

    (Once you have that degree, then follow all the other advice here — although you can always do side hustles even while in school!)

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:53 AM

      Thanks for chiming in about that. I agree a degree helps you for the rest of your life and is a smart move – even if you don’t end up going into the same field! While I never went for “professional blogging,” there’s still no way I’d be here without going through the process and meeting people/gaining confidence/etc which led me to this career path. And who knows – maybe one day I’ll go back to graphic design or marketing once people are sick of hearing me talk :)

  14. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies August 29, 2016 at 8:07 AM

    This is so fascinating to me for so many reasons. My biggest regret in life has to do with fearing failure and fearing mistakes. I don’t much like thinking about what I’d do differently (what’s done is done), but I do think the best advice I continually give my students is not to fear the unknown so much. And not to worry about artificial indicators of success (straight As, a “good” university, etc.). Embrace the fact that you will make mistakes and commit yourself to learning from them. Otherwise, who knows how many opportunities you will miss.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:55 AM

      Yup! Because the “unknown” has just as many REWARDS as they do punishment! And even the punishment gives you extra experience to help you avoid more of it in the future :)

  15. Colin @ rebelwithaplan August 29, 2016 at 8:13 AM

    This is so great and you gave awesome answers. The biggest thing I would say is to not be restrictive on yourself. As you told him, people have more control over their lives than they realize. So often we get stuck in this mindset of “I’m in this situation, so I can only achieve this”. As Melanie Lockert said in her Dear Debt book, tell yourself you are a money making machine!

  16. Joe August 29, 2016 at 8:23 AM

    Oh wow, I forgot what it was like when you’re 17. Good advice especially #1. You have to be open to trying different things. A lot of people got stuck down a track and they couldn’t make a change. A career doesn’t have to permanent. Good luck guy.

  17. Jon @ Be Net Worthy August 29, 2016 at 8:47 AM

    This is all great advice and the only thing I could think to add would be to try and develop some type of a financial goal. I think it’s tough, especially at that age, to get motivated to either make more money or save more money if you don’t have a clear financial goal in mind to motivate you.

    You should ask him to write back in a year or so to let everyone know what advice he took and how things are going for him – that would be cool!

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:57 AM

      That would be cool!

      And agreed on the goals. I feel like at 17 if you can stash just $500 or even $1,000 you feel on top of the world.. And that confidence can help power you to even more greatness as you go along!

  18. David August 29, 2016 at 8:51 AM

    A few things I wish I could tell my 17 year old self would be. (FYI: I was 17 in 1995)
    1. Don’t date that girl you dated in high school. She’s toxic, to your mind as well as your bank account.
    2. Learn a programming language or two. The web and mobile will be huge in the future. (Job skills)
    3. Don’t go to college (it’s a waste of time and money, and your terrible at math)
    4. Don’t get or use credit cards (they’ll only lead to financial ruin)

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 11:59 AM

      Haha… I agree at least with half of those ;)

      Anything relating to the web is crazy smart. We’re only at the beginning of what the ‘net will do! It’s still fairly young in the grand scheme of things!

  19. Jane August 29, 2016 at 8:56 AM

    Anna, good comment but for some people an arrest record can be permanent also. In fact, I read an article once that said when male teenagers “get in trouble” they are in trouble with the law and when female teenagers get in trouble they get pregnant. Probably an overblown generalization, with some truth behind it.

  20. Credit Report Guy August 29, 2016 at 8:58 AM

    At 17 I would first decide on an education and career choice. Then as I had money coming in a few years down the road I would begin saving automatically each payday, with a 401k and shorter term savings goals. Buying real estate, investing in the stock market and starting businesses would also be part of my plan through the decades. On a smaller scale, I would diversify a bit like buying an ounce of silver every payday and throwing them someplace safe until retirement. 50 years x 26 paydays = 1300 oz. At today’s spot price that’s around $26,000.00 In 50 years the spot price could double, triple or more.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:01 PM

      I won’t argue with you as a coin collector, however return wise I’d def. stick to the market over the long run :) Silver/gold better for preservation vs growth in my opinion. But I love the 1 per paycheck idea! Would be a great habit to get into, as well as better for dollar cost averaging as well.

  21. ZJ Thorne August 29, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    My advice would be to be careful who you spend time with. If you are jokingly suggesting robbing a petrol station, you are probably making similar jokes with friends who think this is good. The biggest determinant in my life was finding good people whom I could model myself after as I was getting out.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:01 PM

      GOOD POINT!!

    2. superbien September 4, 2016 at 1:37 PM

      Yes!! Choose friends carefully.

  22. Rachel August 29, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    Hi Jonathan,
    I love that you are 17 and already thinking about this stuff. Given the austerity stuff in the UK just now I would say get yourself an emergency fund built up. It’s wrong but if you hit a bad patch and can’t live at home you’llama struggle to get any state help.

    Use contraception.

    Don’t underestimate the power of education. Having got a degree through a traditional uni and Open University I would recommend OU to you. Ok, that means study time will need 2-3 evenings per week when you could have a side gig. BUT if you earn under £25k pa it is free(!) and with practical work experience and tertiary education you’ll be well ahead of your peers. That will really set you up for the future.

    Most important though don’t spend more than you make, work hard when your working and remember to enjoy being young!

    Good luck.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:03 PM

      Love that last line :) We do tend to want to be grownups and make all those big decisions but then when you’re here as an adult you wish you could go back to the “fun times” again haha… Glad you mentioned this!

  23. Free to Pursue August 29, 2016 at 9:40 AM

    To Jonathan: I think asking J$ is a great start and there’s been much great advice offered above.

    I also think you might like the following book: A Million Bucks by 30 by Alan Corey. His writing would fit your style and he literally started with NOTHING!

    There is also a benefit of starting with nothing: you also have nothing to lose and how much you gain is up to you. Best of luck to you. I hope there’ll be an update in a year or two.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:05 PM

      Hah! That was literally the first book I ever reviewed for this site back in ’08! I thought it was so cool to get free books sent to me by authors :) Now I don’t have the time to read ’em anymore :( But still haven’t forgotten about yours and my idea – hoping to get back to it here in the near future!

      1. Free to Pursue August 30, 2016 at 8:26 AM

        Yeah…the year’s flying by. So many books to read and so much to write. I’ll have my head down for a while with all this good stuff…at least until late Sept. :)

        That said, there’s one I think might be right up your alley. Easy, fun read and so fits the philosophy of many in our community: The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It’s also a good one for later in the year. It has a bit of a Holiday spirit if you know what I mean.

        1. J. Money August 30, 2016 at 10:31 AM

          Cool – will check out!

  24. Paul August 29, 2016 at 9:48 AM

    Number 1: in my position what would you do?
    Go finish school. The rest of your life will be easier with a college degree.

    Number 2: what are your biggest mistakes so I can learn from them without going through the same?
    Believing that work is the end, and not a means to an end. Remember, work to get money so that you no longer have to work.

    Number 3: do you have any major regrets?
    Again, it was working first then pursuing a masters degree. I believe I would have a doctorate and would have been able to do a work study program to eliminate the cost. Now with a family and bills, that is impossible. Life gets in the way, finish school before you work.

    Number 4: could you provide me with a dummy dummy guide to money?
    just keep reading about personal finance. Eventually it will all make sense. Your success will be determined by your attitude about money and things. You will make mistakes but its more important to learn from them.

    Number 5: if I do get an apprenticeship earning around 11,000£ a year, what the f*ck should I do with that money (currently my urge is to put most of it into my body as tattoos)
    Finish school, focus on one thing and put all of your energy into it.

    Number 6: what is your biggest accomplishment and why?
    My biggest accomplishment outside of my family and work life is learning that it doesn’t matter what they (companies, politicians, etc) are selling, its all about what YOU are buying. Money is a tool to buy your freedom and possessions mean nothing.

    Number 7: should I say f*ck it and hold a petrol station clerk at gunpoint and risk it for an uncertain amount of money with a 98% chance of a long prison sentence?
    Be serious, this just an attempt to get attention. Go back to school, once you start working you will quickly realize that school was the best of it. Deal with a little hard work, your future self will thank you.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:06 PM

      Love how real you are, haha…

      1. Paul August 29, 2016 at 2:41 PM

        On the off chance your boy reads the comments I just thought, there is no point sugar coating it. Although I was tempted to just leave it at “Never trust a big butt and a smile”, there really isn’t any value in that beyond an initial laugh.

  25. Josh @MoneyBuffalo August 29, 2016 at 10:11 AM

    To be 17 again. A co-worker once told me that “Opportunity is wasted on the youth.” Now that I’m 30, I can kinda understand.

    Great advice & I think budgeting for fun is important. Whether it was booze, movies, cigarettes, or tatoos. I had plenty of high school or college classmates that spent their limited disposable income on these forms of “instant gratification.” We need to have some fun, but that money could have been saved up for a car or spending money once you move away for your first “real job.”

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:07 PM

      Yes! No shame at all in budgeting in the fun stuff! It doesn’t have to be all serious all the time. Get excited about spending your money – just do it within reason!

  26. Sandy August 29, 2016 at 10:53 AM

    Try finishing school and if that is not possible at this time, try learning a trade that you can make money off of. I know some people would say sit down and see what you like to do for the rest of your life and start doing it. But at 17, I believe it is very difficult to decide what is it that you like to do for many years to come if you have not experienced different thing. As J$ said, put yourself out there and see what makes you happy and pays at the same time. But you need to have a backup skill in order to fall back on if hustling doesn’t pay well. Learning a trade will come in handy in those situations when hustling gets tough.
    Also know that coming from a dysfunctional family is not a free pass at having a bad life or a dysfunctional life yourself. That is your family’s life, this is your life, where you have choices and control over things. Those were your family’s choices, although I know they have an effect on your life for sure. But if anything, try to make better choices than your family. So dysfunctional family and all, you still are your own person with a totally different path in life to lead and get to where you want to go.
    At 17, I was working 3 part time jobs trying to put enough away to pay for 1st year of college. I unloaded trucks, manual labor, as one of my jobs. I worked at a bookstore for a few hours a day and I was a baby sitter for a family in the evenings. Picked up their kids from school and was with them until they came home. My family did not have the means to pay for my schooling. To make the long story short Jonathan, I worked all the way through school sleeping at 2 a.m. and waking up at 5 a.m the same morning (3 hours of sleep per night for 4.5 years of college) taking classes when I could including summer classes. I still managed to retire 2 weeks before my 40th birthday. That was about 3 years ago. I am saying these so you would know everything that you imagine for yourself, is possible in this life. Do not pacify yourself with alcohol and such things when going gets tough. Either way, you have to wake up the next morning and carry on and doing so with a hang over and money blown on pacifiers the night before is no easier. Take a deep breath and control your frustration at life when going gets tough, and put money away and keep doing so. Just know that if you keep doing what you need to do, days pass and before you know it, you are living the better life that you were seeking at 17. Best of luck to you, you can do this.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:10 PM

      Favorite comment so far today – thank you for sharing your story!

      1. Sandy August 29, 2016 at 8:02 PM

        Thank you for sharing Jonathan’s email. I saw part of me in him when I read it this morning. The 17 year old me wanting to have a good life, a better life without really knowing what to do and where to start. Thanks again J$.

    2. Karlene August 29, 2016 at 2:18 PM

      Sandy, your response about getting a trade makes so much sense; I wish I had thought of that. :)

      I like that you could relate and told your story with such vivid examples of things you did to help you “to retire 2 weeks before my 40th birthday. That was about 3 years ago.” That should serve as an encouragement to him. Heck, it’s an encouragement to me. By the way, congratulations on your early retirement!

      I also appreciated the last part of your suggestions about “Do not pacify yourself with alcohol and such things when going gets tough….”, because it sounded like he could probably use that reminder.

      1. Sandy August 29, 2016 at 7:58 PM

        Thanks Karlene for your kind words. If I have done it, anyone can do it specially if they are thinking of money matters at 17.
        Learning a trade is something I am trying to learn even after I have retired. Lately, I have been thinking of learning how to reupholster couches and sofas and such. There is a trade school in my city that teaches this class and I would love to learn it.
        Best of luck to you.

        1. J. Money August 30, 2016 at 10:41 AM

          That sounds like a fun way to spend all your earned time :)

        2. Karlene August 31, 2016 at 2:26 PM

          You are welcome Sandy. You said it right, “If I have done it, anyone can do it specially if they are thinking of money matters at 17.” That, is a part of the reason why some of us are blogging, to help others along. And, I completely agree that someone age 17 who is thinking about money matters is going to go very far.

          I think it’s great that you have something to look forward to; best wishes learning to reupholster furniture. Have fun.

          Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comments.


  27. Julie@ChooseBetterLife August 29, 2016 at 10:58 AM

    17 seemed so old when I was there and seems so young now. Good for you, Jonathan, for asking the right questions (except the last one) early. You’ll find what works for you, and as long as you don’t make any massive mistakes now that end with you maimed or in jail, you’ll have time to figure the rest out.
    Start with the basics: work hard, be nice, and pay yourself first (save before you spend). Think about your values and hold firm against people who want you to blur the line and push you towards things you know aren’t right. Integrity is a valuable asset. You can always make more money, but you can’t make people believe in you again if you don’t deserve it.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:12 PM

      Good point!

  28. Lisa O August 29, 2016 at 11:24 AM

    Jonathan you are wiser than you know! Asking these types of questions at 17 means you are looking to who you want to be! I would tell you to “trust your gut” and don’t do things just cause it feels good! Work hard, live below your income, put people in your life that add value, be thankful for what you have and never give up hope that your dreams can come true!

    Good Luck on your Journey of Life!

  29. Dollar Engineer August 29, 2016 at 11:44 AM

    Jonathan, props for stepping up and knowing you don’t have all the answers in life and trying to reach out to someone for help and advice. I think you’re already on a great track since you know it will take hard work to get what you want, and sounds like you’re absolutely ready for that. Good luck and I hope you get that apprenticeship!

  30. Leslie August 29, 2016 at 11:47 AM

    I also come from a working class family/town. The amount of terrible financial advice I was given is unbelievable. Most of it had to do with debt. “You’ll always have a car payment,” “get a loan so you can get used to making payments,” and “buy something nice on a credit card and make the minimum payments to raise your credit score.” All of it was crap, and probably the worst thing I could have done. Then, I took a lot of flack for “being cheap” when I saved money instead of buying a new car, or anything else everyone was buying at the time. I’m now 32 and in a better financial position than my own parents. So my #1 tip is, don’t believe any “advice” without researching it for yourself first.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:24 PM


      And way to come out of it on the better end!

  31. Done by Forty August 29, 2016 at 11:49 AM

    “What would you wish you had known at 17?”

    She really can get pregnant the first time.

    Seriously, that’s a tough situation to analyze because, when you’re starting out there aren’t a ton of great options.

    My advice to my early self would be: share everything. Share housing (roommates), vehicles (public transportation, sharing rides & chipping in gas money), food (potlucks, dinners at home that your roommates rotate cooking), everything. You’re going to live lean for the first decade or so, but you can get ahead a bit if you don’t try to show off to your family and friends with cars, a new fancy apartment that’s all yours, etc.

    1. J. Money August 29, 2016 at 12:17 PM

      We found out how easy it is to get pregnant on the first try too with our 2nd kid :) The first one took TWO YEARS of actively trying to finally get pregnant, so the 2nd time around we thought we had to start trying ASAP since it would take forever again – but nope. Very first try. Thankfully we weren’t 17 and ready for a family, but man… Just never know with this stuff.

  32. Amanda @centsiblyrich August 29, 2016 at 12:16 PM

    Great answers, J$! Jonathan took the initiative to read a pf blog and write the letter at the age of 17 and that is HUGE! He’s asking questions and admitting he doesn’t have the answers to all he needs to know. As long as he doesn’t rob the petrol station and distances himself from anyone who is considering it, he will do well.

    If I could go back to 17 (mind you, it’s been a long while), I would tell myself that money is simply a resource, not an end goal and it’s important to realize life and priorities change (i.e. you meet this amazing guy and have kids).

  33. Linda @ Brooklyn Bread August 29, 2016 at 12:43 PM

    I think my life would have been very different if I asked myself questions like this at 17. Or, er 21 or 35! Actually it might not be that different, but I would have more money for sure! Sounds like this boy has it a bit rough, but he is young enough that opportunities are still everywhere and he is asking the right questions. Also sounds like he is open to some risk taking – you can do that when you’re 17, or early 20’s. I think this kid is going to be ok.

  34. Karlene August 29, 2016 at 2:04 PM

    J. Money, another great article and response to Jonathan; thanks for sharing and asking for comments, which he might read and find helpful.

    Although I did not read all of the comments the ones I read made sense.

    COLLEGE: While I agree that it’s best to finish school if at all possible, I think there are lots of people who did not go beyond high school and are still successful. Sometimes it’s okay to postpone college until one is ready. If he chooses to postpone school, hopefully he recognizes that he could face some more challenges without that degree, at least for a time. But, he also comes across as a go-getter and one who will find a way to make it. I don’t know what it’s like in the UK, but if it’s anything like in the US there is no age limit as to when one can get a college degree.

    HOME LIFE & SCHOOL: All that said, if I was in Jonathan’s shoes I would do whatever necessary to smooth things out at home so that I can continue to live there while I finish school; that would be the most cost effective means to accomplish my goals. As someone else wrote, I would contribute some of my money to the family, and help out around the home.

    GRATITUDE: Since we all know the importance of gratitude I would encourage you to focus on and thank God/your Higher Power/the Universe/the Creator for all the blessings that you now have (however small it might be, it’s something that someone else might be wishing for), and all the blessings that are coming. (I got that from Joe Vitale’s Attractor Factor book).

    GENEROSITY: When I was a teenager money was limited, but my time was not. So, I would help my family, friends, neighbors, and my community in whatever ways I could. Giving helps us to appreciate more of the blessings in our own lives. You could start by helping out around your home, and/or volunteering doing something you enjoy. For example, if you enjoy art, you might be able to help young kids with art at the library, or at a local school. If you enjoy plants, maybe there is a community garden that needs volunteers.

    PLANNING: Writing out your goals will help you to become clearer on what you want, where you want to go, and how you might go about achieving them.

    REGRETS: I did not have a written budget; did not save more; depleted all investments & starting over at a time when I should be relaxing; I had no financial direction. If I had it to do over, I would do exactly what J. Money and others here recommend and which I am now doing — spend less than the net income and save/invest, and of course give away some. As Jim Rohn has said in several of his videos (free on YouTube) if you are in debt the amount you give might be a lot smaller at first, and will increase as your finances improve. The key, I think is, to give from a generous heart, never give grudgingly, that does not help you or the recipient. Most givers say that giving gives them a good feeling, and when you are feeling good/happy life just seems to flow more smoothly.

    In my opinion continuing to live at home for as long as possible will help you to achieve your goals the fastest. This is why it is in your best interest to get together with the adult(s) in your family and do your best to remedy whatever has created the “dysfunction.” This could take some time, and, again, you come across as one who can do it. You could be the one to help curb/stop the dysfunction, at least in some part of your family. You might need to seek professional help from agencies that provide counseling. There might be therapists in private practice who offer discounted service, or you might try a local Church. I Googled “free family counseling in the UK” and saw some promising links. Here in the US where I live there is a community agency that offers counseling for people with insurance and those on Medicaid (government assistance) — with reasonable rates. You might be surprised at what you can get by simply asking. Or, maybe not; look at all that you are getting from reaching out to J. Money.

    DISCLAIMER: As with anything in life, even though you asked for advice, you must read through everything and decide what is best for you. Do not just blindly do anything that you read. Really think about it; talk it over with someone you trust and see if whatever you are thinking about doing will be the best thing for you. In the end, only you know what is right for you.

    Best wishes to you Jonathan. As someone else wrote, it would be nice if you kept in touch with J. Money and at some point in the future drop him another email to say how you are doing. We are all rooting for you!

    1. J. Money August 30, 2016 at 10:57 AM

      Beautiful, Karlene. Thank you so SO much for writing all this out. You should share it with your blog readers too – it’s crazy inspiring!

      1. Karlene August 31, 2016 at 2:17 PM

        You’re welcome J. Money. I really appreciate your response. As a new blogger it is most encouraging to get a response from an experienced and successful blogger such as you. I am definitely going to copy and paste this one in a Word file. You don’t know how much of a boost your response just gave me. I am jumping up for joy in my head. :)

        I was definitely thinking of writing something around this topic or going more in depth on my comments, but wondered if it was okay, because the article I wrote last week “Blogging is for the Committed!” was a pingback to one I read at Distilled Dollar’s site. I would not want to violate any possible protocol to the amount of articles a blogger can reference, etc.

        However, I think this is a topic worth exploring further, and I know how to reference my source(s), so I figured it would be okay. Before writing the article I thought I would visit your site to see if anybody had replied to either of the two comments I had written. I am so grateful to you and Sandy for both of your responses.

        I am teaching myself options trading and my mentor once said that trading is a lonely profession. His statement did not mean much to me then. While I am quite content working and being with myself I currently have little to show for my work in either blogging or trading, which affects my confidence. So, your comments have just lifted me higher than you could ever imagine. I am now ready to go write my article. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


        1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 2:57 PM

          Awww, well I’m glad :) I can’t speak about the trading part – only that I stay far far away! haha… – but blogging-wise we have a great community here and it’s hard to upset another blogger as long as you’re linking back and giving credit wherever due :) I would write about whatever topics you want to – and whatever format you want to (riffing off others, coming up with your own, a mish-mash etc) as you tend to do the best work when you’re excited and passionate about something. That’s my mantra anyways. And why you might see similar stuff here back to back if I’m obsessed about something :)

          Either way, keep going! People need to hear this $$ stuff and you’ll resonate with a group that I – or any other bloggers – won’t!

  35. Harmony August 29, 2016 at 2:17 PM

    Sage advice! He’s moving in the right direction simply by asking these questions at an early age. I bet that this isn’t the last we hear from Jonathan.

    As for me, it would have been great to know about the non-traditional paths to life and using money as a tool to buy freedom. But who knows if 17-year-old me would have paid much attention to these ideas. I was busy with cheerleading competitions and figuring out how to sneak out to parties. At the very least, it would have been awesome if someone had encouraged me to invest a little bit of money.

  36. Jentrify August 29, 2016 at 3:06 PM

    Hum. I wonder why no one likes the apprenticeship? Not all are made for college, and frankly the trades are always doing pretty well. (Paid a plumber recently?). As the child of an electrician, and the grandchild of a textile worker, I think the apprenticeship could be a good way to go – the pay you make now is low, but it is because you are learning a skill. In a few years time when you are a journeyman or a master at your trade you will see that pay triple. And you will have a brotherhood of others to rely upon and look up to. Sometimes it is just getting to work with folks outside of your family or neighborhood that shows you what is possible. Just make sure that trade is something we will all need and a robot can’t do as well! (If I could tell my 17 year old self something I might suggest she go into work with Dad for the summer to see if she likes it….female electrical engineers do pretty well for themselves…)

    1. J. Money August 30, 2016 at 10:59 AM

      Very true, too!

    2. superbien September 10, 2016 at 1:29 PM

      I agree that being a high skilled, hard working tradesperson is often better than college. It’s just that he said the pay is terrible. I’m not sure if he meant just as an apprentice, but he threw in enough details otherwise that I would think that if the pay got awesome in a few years or a decade, he would have mentioned it.

  37. Erith August 29, 2016 at 4:47 PM

    Before you take any major action, think about it, have at least 1 nights sleep and consider it. Ask yourself a few questions.
    1) will I be proud of myself in 5 years if I do this? Will I be able to tell my future, yet unborn children how well I behaved?
    2) is it a good, long term, life enhancing move? If not, why am I doing it?

    Before you spend money, waste it, or let it seep away, consider if you are doing the best you can for that £1, or £100 etc. Imagine 40 years on, doing the maths, about what you could be worth, versus what you are worth, if you just fritter it away….

    And that doesn’t stop you having lovely amazing trips with you and yours, it just means you have thought about it, and you still think that it is a good life enhancing idea

    You only have one shot at life. Make the most of it!

    1. J. Money August 30, 2016 at 11:01 AM

      YES!!! Great idea!!

  38. Stockbeard August 29, 2016 at 7:31 PM

    What I would tell my 17-year-old self:
    “There’s many purchases you will regret in life. But you won’t ever regret the money you saved and how it ultimately made you free”

    I bought lots of stupid things and regretted the purchase, sometimes instantly. I would be FI by now if it hadn’t been for some of these.

  39. Designing A Frugal Life August 29, 2016 at 9:08 PM

    Great replies! At 17, I wish I’d cared more about long-term saving. I was great at short term saving and then spending it on things I deemed appropriate. I wish I’d even just put half of my savings into long-term investments and let it grow.

    Keeping down debt is another one. While I didn’t take on *too* much debt in college and avoided any credit card debt, I could have done better at living on less some years to keep student loans lower.

    And your reminder that no one cares about you as much as you care about yourself is one I could’ve learned sooner. Sure people care about you, but no one is going to plan for your future with the same care as you would. So be smart, show yourself some love, and save some money.

  40. Scott @ Couple of Sense August 29, 2016 at 9:21 PM

    17 is such a dangerous age – you are too young to be really smart, old enough to think you are plenty smart enough and old enough that you can do some pretty serious damage with that line of thinking. I know if I could go back and guide my 17 year old self I would show him Excel, I was pretty into computers and I think I would have really dug it. I would also tell him to study become an Engineer because of the job options. Great advise though, good on you for taking time to provide some perspective to this young chap – I think most of us are in this game to change lives for the better and hopefully Jonathan takes at least some of this to heart!

    1. J. Money August 30, 2016 at 11:03 AM

      So true about that age and the dangerousness, haha… I pretty much felt invincible then :)

  41. Libby August 29, 2016 at 9:36 PM

    1. Money in the bank gives you freedom – it gives you choices: leave a job you hate, move someplace else, take a class, etc.
    2. Become a lifelong learner. You don’t need to know everything by a certain age. This curiosity will keep you learning new skills/improving your situation.
    3. Don’t be afraid to travel and learn how different people live – try living with a family in a foreign country for a couple of months.
    4. Growing up in a dysfunctional family can implant some bad “tapes/messages” in your brain. Consider finding a support group like Al-Anon to get healthy messages. This has financial implications as many people turn to spending/drugs/drinking to try and silence the bad messages.
    5. Try to meet as many different people as possible – networking opens up tremendous opportunities.
    6. Value your knees :) You won’t always be able to bend down to the floor!
    7. Don’t be afraid to take the path less traveled.
    8. Make good memories when you are young – they will delight you when you are older.
    9. Don’t spend a lot of money on single use items, utilities, or depreciating assets.
    10. Carpe Diem!

    1. Karlene August 31, 2016 at 2:44 PM

      Great answers, especially:
      #4: Which is why I spent so much time in my comments writing about counseling.
      #6: So true about the knees.
      #7: Do what makes you happy, even, maybe especially if no one else you know has done it before.
      Seize the day indeed!

  42. Financial Canadian August 29, 2016 at 9:43 PM

    Hey J Money

    If I could go back to my 17-year-old self, the main thing I would emphasize is the power of the Internet. Whether it’s building a brand like the Financial Canadian blog (or budgetsaresexy.com ;), learning how to code, solving math problems, or anything else – the internet is such a huge resource and it took me a long time to understand that. Just me two cents.

    Keep up the great writing. I’ve only recently discovered your blog and have enjoyed everything I’ve read!

    1. J. Money August 30, 2016 at 11:05 AM

      yes – the internet is full of CRAZY opportunities if you find you enjoy it. I recommend Pat Flynn’s SmartPassiveIncome.com site too for a good glimpse into it (for those reading this out there!)

      so glad you’re enjoying the blog, man :) means a lot!

  43. Pengepugeren August 30, 2016 at 6:50 AM

    About #7 Disregarding the moral issues, it doesn’t really pay financially. According to http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2012/06/13/bank-robbery-doesnt-pay-much/ bank robberies pay very badly, and I imagine robbing gas stations pays even worse.

    Then there’s the opportunity cost of going to prison. I remember a Danish TV documentary about a family in financial ruin. The father had been to prison, and they calculated his opportunity costs (not including lawyer fees and fines) which were astronomical.

    1. J. Money August 30, 2016 at 11:08 AM

      Haha…. I actually read last month that some banks are no longer even KEEPING cash on them! I forget the country (Denmark?) but they’re slowly getting rid of cash throughout the country and it’s proving to cut down crime and a bunch of other interesting stats too.

  44. Pengepugeren August 30, 2016 at 7:11 AM

    Oh, I forgot to provide advice besides “don’t commit robbery”.

    According to statistics, if you follow these three basic rules you’re almost certain to never be poor:
    – Finish high school
    – Get a full-time job
    – Wait until age 21 to get married and have children

    Add the #1 rule of personal finance, and you’ll almost certainly be rich :-)
    – Always spend less than you earn.

  45. Millennial Moola August 30, 2016 at 1:39 PM

    Tattoos are a terrible idea until you’re in your mid 20s and have a pretty good idea of who you are and what you like. Dad told me having a tattoo is like wearing the same shirt everyday. Kinda gets old

    1. Sandy August 30, 2016 at 1:53 PM

      Someone told me if you get a Bugs Bunny tattooed on your shoulder in your 20s, it will look like the Tasmanian Devil only under your arm pit in your 80s. :)

      1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 2:57 PM


  46. Steve @ Studentloansoldier August 30, 2016 at 3:51 PM

    Great idea for a post! Gosh, I would definitely get my hustle on too. Really just do anything that interests you. Start small and work your way up patiently! You’re only 17 so you’ve got years to master the things you enjoy!

    Avoid debt, find what you’re interested in/passionate about and let your skills grow slowly and organically!

  47. Jason Butler August 30, 2016 at 6:53 PM

    At 17 I was just ready to graduate from high school and leave Atlanta. I wish I focused on a few more things back then. My one regret is that I should have studied abroad in college.

  48. Finance Solver August 30, 2016 at 8:38 PM

    When I was 17, I would have told myself to pursue projects that would interest me and not something that would look good to an employer or anyone else. I did way too much in hopes to impress a future employer in college and that took away everything of what I wanted to do and I regret that I didn’t realize that.

    An employer doesn’t value you anyway (if they say they do, they’re lying because in bad times they will look out for themselves more than you) so I should have given back to the person who values myself the most, me! (That sounded a little selfish :p).

    Also, to question #4, I think I would add that more than saving the difference, you should invest the difference at such a young age!

    1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 2:59 PM

      Truth on all accounts! (no pun intended!)

  49. Chris August 31, 2016 at 10:36 AM

    J. Money,

    Thanks for sharing. Fun, thought-provoking stuff as always.

    Here are my answers to those questions, which I find just as helpful to get MY mind going as I hope he (or anyone else) finds helpful:

    Number 1: in my position what would you do?

    You’re 17. It’s totally okay not to know what your next move will be or what it should be. I found that from 18 to about 25, I would look back on who I was and what I thought the year prior and I would always say to myself, “What the hell was I thinking?!” Every day is a new experience for you now, so milk each day and each experience for everything its worth. Then, at the end of each day (or the beginning), sit and think about what you did, what you liked, what you didn’t like, and the “answers” or the “path” will slowly start to show itself to you. It’s probably going to take a while though. You have to be cool with that. Becoming more self-aware is going to help you move mountains though.

    Number 2: what are your biggest mistakes so I can learn from them without going through the same?

    When I was 25, I came into about $40,000. I decided to pay off my student loans and buy a Toyota 4-Runner. Stupid! I should have put $10k down on a nice house in Phoenix (where I was living at the time) so I could have saved tens of thousands in rent for the next 10 years while building equity. I should have put the other $30k into a Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund and let compound interest do it’s magic. I’d have saved myself a lot of financial misery. However, I also would probably never have come back to California…which means I wouldn’t have met my wife…which means I wouldn’t have my two kids…and on and on and on. Mistakes are how we learn. We can kind of learn from other people’s mistakes, but our own mistakes REALLY drive home life lessons.

    Number 3: do you have any major regrets?

    Not really. I have some small regrets, but even the small regrets led me to where I am now. If I didn’t make those mistakes (and I made a lot, just like everybody else…and I mean EVERYBODY), I wouldn’t be where I am today. 40 years old…awesome wife…two awesome kids…great house in Santa Cruz…everything that has happened to me for these last 40 years have led me here, and I love being here!

    Number 4: could you provide me a dummy dummy guide to money?

    Learn right now to live off 50% of what you earn. Put the other 50% away in a total stock market index fund. You will be living large in about 10 years (or on your way to living large) if you make anything near even an “average” salary. Read financial blogs like budgetsaresexy and mrmoneymustache for some common sense tips on how to spend money only on things you need. Also, keep track of every dollar that you spend…always. Use Mint (or something similar) and create a budget today. Seeing where your money goes and where it has gone will shine light on your poor decisions and keep you straight. Treat every single dollar you ever get as an employee. Make each of those employees work for you. Don’t let them sit around doing nothing in your checking account, or in your wallet. Pay off debt, pay bills, pay for essentials, and put the rest in an interest-earning account.

    Number 5: if I do get an apprenticeship earning around 11,000 a year, what the fuck should I do with that money (currently my urge is to put most of it into my body as tattoos)

    Figure out how to live off 50% of that from the get-go. Put the other 50% in a total stock market index fund and do that with every paycheck you get (or every dollar you earn or are gifted). Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to financial independence. More importantly, you’ll steer yourself clear of the evils of consumerism.

    Number 6: what is your biggest accomplishment and why?

    Accomplishment might not be the right word, but my two kids are quite an accomplishment. Simply having a wife, two kids, a house, a job, friends and family is quite an accomplishment when I think about it. What I’ve learned recently is that I am the only one who gets to decide what success means for me. Trying to attain certain things or status or titles is not necessarily going to make me a happier person, or a better dad/husband/friend. So, maybe my biggest accomplishment is coming to the realization that life is fucking awesome as long as I think it’s fucking awesome!

    Number 7: should I say fuck it and hold a petrol station clerk at gunpoint and risk it for an uncertain amount of money with a 98% chance of a long prison sentence?

    I would highly recommend not doing this. Even when you think things can’t get any worse, they always can. Think about everything that you do have, and then try to imagine your life without those things. I’m talking basics here too…think about not being able to see, or hear, or walk. There are millions of people in this world who kick ass without the many gifts you do have, yet take for granted. As long as you have your freedom, you have the possibility of getting a little bit better every day. As long as you have that ability, you should try to get a little bit better every day. Stack yourself up against everyone else in this world, and you’re a helluva lot better off than most, regardless of how shitty you think your situation is.

    Good luck, my friend, and much respect to you for thinking about these things as you are. It means you care, and it means you’re actually thinking. Some people wake up when they’re 30 or 40 or 50 and ask the same questions you’re asking now. You are ahead of the game!

    1. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 3:01 PM

      “Treat every single dollar you ever get as an employee. Make each of those employees work for you. Don’t let them sit around doing nothing in your checking account,” – yes! haha… brilliant.

      also this – “maybe my biggest accomplishment is coming to the realization that life is fucking awesome as long as I think it’s fucking awesome! ” – so true, never thought about that actually – I like that a lot :)

      Thanks for posting this here for everyone to see!!

  50. -"Mad" Max Speedwell August 31, 2016 at 1:06 PM

    I’m hoping you put all the suggestions together in one long list and pass it on to him.
    This young man just got himself a BIG gift!!

    I was about seven years old and I remember my grandpa saying, “I wish I knew then
    what I know now.” Even at that age I saw an easy short-cut to life and I asked him
    what it was that he wished he knew when he was younger. I just got a short vague
    answer. So here is what I wish I knew/did back then:

    1. I would work all the jobs I could find. You don’t need sleep, you need resources.
    Do all the side hustles when you’re not on the job. Save everything! Find what
    you enjoy, and do it with a passion. Just be sure it’s legal.(No, porn star won’t do).
    BTW… protect those assets. Put them in a trust or some vehicle to keep yourself
    safe from lawyers, insurance companies, doctors, and women.

    2. Biggest mistakes? Debbie, and Vickie. Seriously, stay away from women. Only
    spend time with the right woman and then make sure you do it for the rest of your life.
    Also, “Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people, and do stupid things. I get up
    around 4:00 every morning. I go to bed later than many people but still early enough
    to be sleeping when stupid people are out wasting their lives.

    3. Big regret… I met my wife in my mid-late 20’s. Wish we had met in school. I would
    have started early. Build a few houses when I was young and had a nice home paid-
    off by the time I was twenty five. I would also take care to protect ALL my assets
    from women. They have a better sense of smell than men and they can smell money
    from a long ways off. Didn’t happen to me but I saw cow-orkers who have paid dearly.

    4. Dummy guide to money? Rich Dad-Poor Dad. Also, ( and here’s a BIG ONE) anything
    written by J.J. Luna. May also recommend, “How to Wake-up the Financial Genius inside
    You (M. Haroldsen). That book focuses on real estate but it’s a good guide to setting
    your life in the right direction.

    Get everything ever written or recorded by a hard-working failure by the name of Joe
    Girard. Joe is my hero. He gave it his all but still failed. He needed money and tried to
    sell cars. He went on to become one of the greatest motivational speakers of all time.
    He also sold eighteen Chevrolets in one day. No fleet sales, no blow-out to liquidators,
    just one customer at a time. He’s in the Guiness Book of World Records. He’s also
    somewhere on Youtube.

    5. Tattoos…? Seriously…? I have concerns about my youngest son but he decided against
    several things, tattoos included. He said, “If it makes sense now, will it make sense in five
    years? Ten years? Twenty years? Will I regret then what seemed like a smart decision
    now? The best man in my wedding recently died. He wasn’t that old. He only made a
    few poor decisions that severely shortened his life (consulted a medium, cigarettes,
    drugs). He also lost his only son a few years before he passed away. That too was a
    result of just a few (oh, so few) bad choices. Are you upset with anyone? FORGIVE
    THEM!! I’m watching a former co-worker or rot away with hatred. It just consumes him.
    He’s destroying his life, his family, and poisoning everyone around him. Guess who’s
    paying for his anger and hatred? Just him. The other people hardly know he’s even
    alive. Was he right? Yes. Were they wrong? Very. Who’s paying? Just him.

    6. A number of big accomplishments, but, are my accomplishments going to be your same
    desire? Did you really want to teach subsonic aerodynamics? Are you really concerned
    about success as a cyclist? Start writing-down what YOU want to do and WHEN you
    want to achieve it. The list will grow to be pretty long if you just give your dreams time to
    blossom. Where do YOU want to live? Did you really want to climb the tallest mountain
    in Africa, or was that just something you wanted to brag about? Too much of life is
    wasted to achieve goals to impress people we might not even like. Did you really want to
    live in Monaco because you like it there, or just because it may impress someone? Do
    you like the thought of owning a Ferrari enough to put up with the horrific maintenance,
    and expense, or do you just want to use it to pick-up some cheap women?

    7. J.J. Luna decided to rob a bank. He spent a lot of time planning out the robbery.
    By the morning he added up the positives, and negatives. Decided against it and he has
    gone on to be a huge success. I went to school with a couple of bank robbers. One just
    died. His life was a waste. Don’t know what became of the other guy.

    8. Here’s a big bonus: Forget religion, religiosity, and Churchianity. I know people who are
    hobby Christians. I’m sure GOD is not impressed. Instead, get a real relationship with
    Jesus Christ. Don’t know how to do that? Just ask him. He will give you a lot of help.
    Forget about dead gods. They won’t do anything for you. Get a real relationship with
    the one true living God.

    9. Put your dreams in front of you! I was doing very well when I was younger and I just had
    no idea of how high the sky really was. Life was good and just getting better! Then one
    day the FBI, yes, THAT FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) came to where I worked.
    They took away my boss, and that cascaded into a loss of my back pay, sailboat, house,
    my fiancee’ (well, there is always a sliver lining)… everything! I was broke, cold, hungry,
    and alone. I decided to rebuild my life. I was hitchhiking in a rainstorm. Some older guy
    picked me up and he started asking me what my goals were. I told him I would soon have
    a Rolex on my wrist and have a Cessna Cardinal RG at the airport. His reply was, “Oh,
    you will, will you? What about short-term? You’re broke and hitch hiking!” Only months
    later my life had turned around. I had a nice view home, a wonderful wife, a Rolex on my
    wrist, and a Beechcraft at the airport. Decided that was a better choice than the Cessna.
    When I set my goals and watched them every day, it only took a short time for them to
    become a reality. Sure, looking back, a Rolex may not compare with achieving world
    peace, but hey, the goal did materialize. My goals can’t be your goals BUT I did put my
    goals in front of my face, and in very little time my life did a very fast, and dramatic
    turn-around. One more thing:

    About that Rolex….
    Sold it about a decade later. It was already needing a second rebuild. Two old-time jewelers said to never buy a Rolex, but buy an Omega. A much better watch. I was
    walking through a yardsale, saw a presentation case with a Greek Omega on top.
    Opened the case and there was an almost new Omega perpetual date-just inside.
    Got it for $7. Always be on the lookout for bargains.

    -“Mad” Max Speedwell

    1. superbien September 10, 2016 at 1:32 PM

      Uh, could you please not throw casual misogyny into these posts? Women read this blog too, and those comments were ignorant and rude. Especially for a teenage boy from a dysfunctional family – he’s getting enough corrupted messages fed into his brain, no need to add anti woman messaging to it. More anti woman messaging than society already gives.

  51. J. Money September 2, 2016 at 3:05 PM

    oh man – TONS of good juicy stuff in here! can’t believe you and that rolex though, haha..

    yes to forgiving people. that’s hard, but man – so good for your soul (and sanity).

    I’ve sent Jonathan the link to all this and he’s told me he’s already been perusing – so thanks for taking the time! Very fun to read for us too :)

  52. Eric Pemper September 4, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    What a smart question! Can’t help give my inputs. :)

    Take your career seriously. At 17, decide what you want and don’t do something just because that’s all you can do. Think out of the box. Discover the possibilities.
    I regret not saving early. I had the resources but did not think of saving my earnings.
    Don’t save from what you have left, put aside your savings first before spending.
    Do not get tattoos. Believe me, the right time will come and you will know it when it does.
    You have to always stay confident and believe in yourself.
    Don’t do shortcuts. Work hard, even if it hurts, even if you bleed. It will pay off eventually, trust me. Robbing someone will only also rob you of the life you deserve.

  53. Gary @ Annual Credit Report September 7, 2016 at 11:44 AM

    After choosing a career and landing that first job, put away 10% – 15% of your income away in a Roth IRA for the next 40 years. Never ever touch it. At retirement, the money is taken without any tax liability.

    1. J. Money September 10, 2016 at 3:46 PM

      You’d probably be a millionaire too :)