Here at Groovy Groomsmen Gifts we like to think we know a little more then just weddings and groomsmen gifts. Having been married for 9 years now, I've gone through the major stretch of life that comes post marriage. That would include home, kids, dogs, jobs, you name it, the full gamut. There are some things I did well, others I did not. Those I didn't do well on first try, I learned from. So I’m here to pass on some of that wisdom to all you soon to be newlyweds. The message is, enjoy your freedom of responsibility while you have it. REALLY enjoy it. While having that fun, never lose total site of all the things you do have to start thinking about. The sooner the better, but don’t let it get in the way of living it up. Shortly after marriage will come a ton responsibility.
I’m writing this like I would write a journal entry to my son. My advice to you all goes as follows:
1. Traveling – get it in. See the world. Get a passport, experience the different cultures of the world. It will open your eyes and give you perspective for your life to come. Immerse yourself in those cultures – that doesn't mean sitting on a resort in Punta Cana. Some of you may land jobs lucky enough to do this with work. For those of you that don’t, get out there while you have the freedom to do it. Spend a little extra if you have to – traveling right is an investment in yourself, it’s growing as a human being. With the world getting smaller and smaller and more global by the day, it’s the type of life experience that will help tune you into the bigger picture. It will make you understand others more acutely.
2. Pets – I’ve been down that road. It wasn't me. I’m not regimented enough for pets, which expect it. I don’t love walking and am just too spontaneously active. Pets can be one of those ideas that sound WAY better in theory than reality. Just like anything else, you have to be ready for them. Some people absolutely love their animals, would do anything for them and to spend time with them and ingrain them into their lives. I respect those people. I love animals, I just happen to like other peoples animals. They’ll be more time consuming, restricting and expensive than you think. If you’re love for them outweighs that, absolutely go for it. It will give you a loyal companion, a reason to be active and the kind structure to equip you for things to come.
3. Grad School – get it in early, but not too early. If you wait too long, you’ll lose steam and ambition to go back as you get comfortable with life. If you go too soon after undergrad, you’ll never develop a sense of self to know what you want to focus on in your career. You need some time to apply yourself professionally to understand what makes you tick. From there you’ll have the benchmarks needed to design your career through academia. If possible, get into a top school. Otherwise, I only feel it’s worth it if you’re looking for a dedicated career change with conviction.
4. Profession – this one can be tough, especially if you chose a really practical path with no passion to follow. Some have the will power to suck it up and plug along. You only live once and in that lifetime, you spend a ton of time at work. Find something that positions you in a way that brings you happiness. It doesn't have to check off every single ideal, but it should bring forward some of the basics like surrounding yourself with people you enjoy. It should stimulate your brain in a way that is natural. You may be a natural born entrepreneur. I have stories that can go on forever with friends that took on different paths to find it. I took a leap, it worked. All I can say is don’t wait too long. The longer you wait, the more you’ll find yourself stuck.
5. Fitness – another one of those deals where the longer you wait, the more inertia you’ll build to never get started. It starts getting painful if your body becomes stagnant. This is another investment in yourself. Feeling fit, looking good will have a major impact on how you feel about yourself and how others perceive you. Even if you’re thin at 22, time will catch up little by little. Before you know it, you’re 35, 35 lbs overweight and can’t will yourself to get motivated because you’re so far behind and self conscious. Make it part of your life, your routine. Once you’re there, you’ll build a natural guilt for not working out and that’s when you know you’re living healthy. Commit to 6 months minimum – that will give your body enough time to adjust to the pain. Find ways of exercising that are natural to you.
6. Home – one of the most important investments you’ll make. This will dictate the type of flexibility you’ll need for years. Find yourself under water, and you’ll be in a corner. Find quick equity and you’ll be able to roll that over into an upgrade, an addition, just about anything you can think of. Be smart, don’t feel forced to buy in a tough market. Be patient, don’t feel inadequate for not owning. Find something that requires a little elbow grease when you do buy. As that wise man once said, don’t buy the biggest house on an average street. Buy the house that needs some work on a great street.
7. Kids - Wow, now this is life changing, but equally rewarding. To the guys out there, the first couple years of changing diapers and waking up won’t be the most ideal stretch. It’s all worth it. It will all change your perspective on life. Don’t rush though, it’s a ton of responsibility and is going to severely limit you for any interests outside of parenting – if you want to parent right. Be ready, be patient, most of us have no idea how to do it right when we’re still barely not kids ourselves. And when you do decide, figure out a number that works, this is not something to be impulsive about. Two seems to be the universal number that makes sense – you can play man to man defense instead of zone and so much is made for units of 4 (cars, tables, etc). If you love kids and dreamed of a huge family, you can make it work.
8. Retirement and College Tuition – At a bare minimum, if you have a 401K available at work, contribute, contribute, contribute. Contribute in the least to what your company matches. It won’t feel great to stash funds on something you won’t see for a gazillion years, but as you get older, you’ll feel better and better that you did. If you don’t have availability to a 401K, there are vehicles that can resemble out there that you should think about. If you want to start thinking about saving for your kids college and god only knows, those will be insanely expensive, find yourself a college savings account. It’s a great way of committing and finding little breaks to ensure you’re building that nest egg.
9. Happiness – When you sum it all up, balance your life in a way that makes you happy. In this grand dance we call life, if you’re not creating happiness for yourself, what’s really the point? Different people find it in different ways - be proactive in getting there. I know that’s a real macro suggestion and I wish I had all the answers on how to find it, but that’s up to you. There are times when you’re sacrificing to get to a happier place and sacrifice is part of a fulfilling life. The end of that formula should lead to your happiness. You only live once.