Societal Pressures: Education

There is no doubt that society as a whole pushes the younger generation on a certain route through life. Whether this is because it is the correct way on average to go through life or not is the best question to answer. Societal pressures do change with the times, but do they change enough and do the life routes we get pushed down really our us in the best stead for our future?

So, to start what I hope will be a series of posts about the many pressures that society provide us with, let’s talk about education:

You hear a lot of people saying that school does not teach the right things. It doesn’t teach you about paying taxes and it doesn’t teach you about real life lessons. Even sex education is lacking and with recent removals of lessons about gay rights shows that perhaps we are educationally not living in the 21st century in some respects.

I agree with this point of view in terms of financial education as well. With money being almost everything in life these days, surely it would make sense to have a financially literate younger generation so that they can boost our economy from their own homes. This does give me a reason to believe that society pushes us into an education system that is not necessarily best for us.

Financial Education is one of the things you MUST teach yourself

Now, I am not saying that we shouldn’t educate ourselves. Of course not, given I preach the idea of education every single time I write. However, what I am saying is that the education system has not adapted to the changing ways of the world, and many of the richest people in the world are those who taught themselves after dropping out of college or university. Surely this says something about the way education works, and how ambition and experience are perhaps the better qualities to foster than simply grades.

I think what has been drilled into our heads from the moment we could walk and talk was the idea of following the standard path:

  1. Do well in school
  2. Get good grades
  3. Get into University
  4. Do well at University
  5. Get a good job

Many of the older generation tried their best to follow this path (perhaps excluding University, which is more available now) and it has worked well for them. Pushing us to follow this path is definitely well intentioned, it worked for them so it will work for us is the idea.

The problem is, we live in a completely different age now. Society is changing at a faster rate than ever before, and more of us want to create our own jobs, instead of just following a prescribed by the elders passage. Despite this, we tend to need to follow the path at least to a certain point. It’s difficult to get a job nowadays without the piece of paper from university, or at least some good A-levels.

You can take the apprenticeship route, which honestly should be promoted more (in my opinion this could be the best way to improve your mental capacity), but this means you lose the opportunity to get a degree. The opportunity costs balance out in an annoying and time consuming way.

Now, on to Higher Education, the bane of many of our lives. In my opinion, the university experience is great, but the way of teaching is completely behind the times. We get pushed into what is meant to be the highest level of formal education we will experience, yet the course gets taught through straight speech with the occasional bit of class time.

In my course, we more or less get talked at for 2 hours per module per week, and then sit in silence during the class time as well. In the technological age, the main technology used in the classroom is POWERPOINT. Surely there is a better way to grab the attention and teach more tailored courses for our wants.

To conclude, Society definitely forces us down a path towards what is thought to be our optimal education. Some people really don’t suit this form, yet are punished for their inability to follow it. Once the education system adapts to suit more people, perhaps we could have more people enjoying their education, and thriving compared to their current struggles.

Motivating yourself to be brave with your money

Money is a scary thing to talk about, learn about and do anything new with. There’s no doubt some of us suffer from financial anxiety, it’s a classic problem. We are not taught what to do with our money, we only learn through experience. The majority of most of our experiences with money is spending it, and old habits die hard. Spending is okay, as long as the thing you spend your hard earned cash on is worthwhile.

Being brave with your money is all about making the right choices. It’s about investing your money, helping yourself out for the future instead of spending all your money on meaningless consumables or luxuries that you don’t need. It’s about being willing to learn instead of procrastinating, willing to put your money on the line to make more of it. Risk puts many of us off, and being brave is all about taking a risk. So let me tell you about risk:

Risk with regards to money can be controlled. Many people forget this and assume that investing is always going to be risky, or it’s for other people to do. You can start investing, with a small amount of education, earning 5% compared to 0.5% with very low risk. Simply starting to read up on the best investing funds, current business affairs and doing a bit of research goes a long way, and can start your journey to being brave with money.

Many of us assume we are not clever enough, not deserving enough or don’t have enough time to learn how to use our money to its best ability. Your money has the ability to multiply itself with just a tiny bit of coaxing from ourselves. However, we give all of these excuses. The first of the excuses is wrong, if you can read and ask questions, you’re clever enough. The second excuse is something you have to learn to get over. If you earn money, then you are deserving to more. You are deserving of the extra money your money could make you, obviously. I’m not endorsing theft. The third may seem the most logical and the most reasonable. In this respect, I follow the school of thought of many of the most successful people in the world. There are 24 hours in a day. The most successful are working for 16-18 hours of that day. Elon Musk worked for 23 hours a day in some of his pre-Paypal days. You have enough time.

The face of a workaholic

I’m not saying you need to work 16-18 hours a day. Of course I’m not, I’d be a hypocrite if I did. But if you truly want to start making more money, and most importantly start being brave with your money, put an hour aside every so often, whether it’s on a commute or in the evening before bed. This is enough time to have a read, learn what you want to invest in, learn the way investing works, open an account even, and if you do this every so often and take it one step at a time, you’ll get braver and braver with your money. You’ll build up your confidence the more you learn.

Learn and you will become confident. Confidence leads to bravery. Be brave with your money, you’ll thank me.

How do our habits lose us money?

I am a very habitual person. I try not to be as much as possible, but it’s so difficult to break many of my habits. Sometimes I just can’t help but bite my nails or lie in bed when I know I should be getting up and working. Habitual behaviour underpins many people’s lives, and however hard we try to break them, we often don’t. However, maybe if we discovered all the money-losing habits that plague many of us every day, we would focus everything on breaking them. It would just make financial chef.

Habit 1: Savings Accounts

Whether you count it as a habit or not, your 0.5% interest rate on your Flexi Saver Student Whatever Account is not helping you financially. Yet, so many students and even working adults continue to use them. If you had £1 million sat in one of these accounts for a year, and you had the option to earn either £5,000 from it or between £30,000 and £70,000, which would you choose?

If you say £5,000, you’re either joking or you need to really rethink what you’re doing with your money. Ditch the savings account, and start building your stocks, shares and funds portfolio. Educate yourself on the topic now, and make 5% growth your new habit. Today ends the days of your 0.5% growth.

Habit 2: “Dipping into” your savings

We’re all guilty of it, if we have savings available. It’s tough when the student loan runs out, and instead of deciding to go into the overdraft, or simply not doing fun things, we decide that £50 out of savings is worth it every single time. In first year alone, my savings built up over 18 years depleted by about 70%. In one year!

“I can afford it if I take £30 out of my savings. Worth it!”

Fresher Me pretending it’s worth it

The reason this is so bad for you financially is not just because you’re £50 worse off than before, but because that £50 turns to £250 very quickly. Without stopping the habit, it morphs into an ever growing beast that can’t be stopped. So here’s my tips for stopping it:

  1. Become less liquid
  2. Tight Restrictions
  3. Locked Pots

Becoming less liquid means putting your money somewhere where it takes a while to be withdrawn. My Hargreaves Lansdown stocks and shares ISA takes 3-5 working days to withdraw my money, and hence it’s not really worth taking the money out!

Tight restrictions refers to setting dates of withdrawal for yourself, so you do not dip into the savings you have. This could be active or passive restrictions, either putting a lock on your account, or simply saving towards something important, meaning taking money out is not worthwhile.

Locked pots are something many online banks such as Monzo use. Putting your money away in a “savings pot” which cannot be opened until either a certain date or amount of money is reached is a great way to stop you touching it. It also means that you are more likely to increase your savings as you will have to continue growing them to be able to withdraw. It is what I do as well as having a separate account and it works a charm.

The original Locked Pot

Habit 3: Being a procrastinator

“You may delay, but time will not.”

Benjamin Franklin

This one is the toughest and most broad habit. I’m not just talking about sitting around watching Netflix instead of working or reading or financially educating yourself. Even though that comes into it, it’s acceptable to not always be trying to learn something new. My biggest irritation is the “I’ve been wanting to do that for a while” procrastinator. They have the funds, they have the time, but by God do they have the excuses.

I’ve heard many people say to me that they’ve wanted to start matched betting for a while. It is unlikely they will ever start, as they are so caught up in this habitual excuse making that it seems to fizzle from their mind every time they actually have the spare time to start. I’ve heard the same with ISAs, the same with reading and learning in general, and it really gets on my nerves.

Train yourself to stop procrastinating. Put your full effort into it. Then get started. It’s worth it.

These habits damage our financial objectives and destinies every single day we keep them up. Habitual behaviour is one thing that really strikes people down without them even realising it, and it is up to you to notice and stop your bad habits, and start making the money that you deserve to be making. The idea of “opportunity cost” is important (meaning the benefits forgone of making one decision over another). How much are you missing out on by choosing to watch 3 hours of Netflix instead of spending 1 hour learning how to earn more with your money and 2 hours matched betting? Just think about that, then make a change.

Motivating yourself during the toughest times

Sometimes things will be getting you down, and it feels like there’s no way back. You let yourself fall out of any sort of routine, you sleep in later, you stay up later. You may become lazy and lose all motivation to do anything. That’s normal, but it doesn’t help your productivity, it doesn’t help to improve your life, and if anything, you’re driving yourself further into the ground.

There are 3 keys things to maintain in order to regain motivation in the hardest times:

  1. Routine
  2. Diet
  3. “Fun Productivity”

Routine is the cornerstone of motivation. If you have a routine to work towards to, it means productivity comes alongside it. You become so used to being productive on a day to day basis that it becomes ingrained in your attitude and mindset. However, it’s often tough to either first get into a routine, or get back into your stride if a tough period has rocked you. So, I would like to offer the first stepping stone to returning to your routine.

When you wake up in the morning, make sure it’s to an alarm. Five minutes later, you need to have forced yourself out of bed. So much time is wasted (and I myself fall foul of this too often) lounging in bed when you should be up and going. As soon as you get out of bed, you will begin to wake up properly. If you stay in bed, you stay tired, you promote laziness and you’ll take your first steps to letting the bad times consume you.

“Most of life is routine – dull and grubby, but routine is the momentum that keeps a man going. If you wait for inspiration, you’ll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street.”

Ben Nicholas

After this, make your bed and have a shower. Complete the first two tasks of the day, and feel pride that you have. Push on to the next task. You’ve already started your day right, what a waste it would be to not continue that way. I’m sure we’ve all had days where we’ve been ultra productive. It’s a fantastic feeling, so why not make every day like that. That’s how you beat the negative thoughts and the tough times.

This video sums it up:

Diet is more of a health perspective, in reality. When you’re in your worst moods, you either stop eating, or eat shit. I think many of us know that when our lives are at our hardest, we tend to eat more fast food. What you may not have known, is that eating more fast food is actually worsening your mental health. This is after a study in Spain confirmed that consumption of food such as fast food and baked goods increases your likelihood of becoming depressed.

This surely has to show the importance of at least trying to maintain a balanced diet. Obviously, on occasion you may slip up, but you need to get back to the healthy diet. Firstly, boosting your health by eating well simply makes you feel better. You feel cleaner and generally this can make you more productive. Secondly, cooking your own healthy meals at a proper meal time helps your routine. This will generally make you feel better and more motivated throughout the day, satisfied with both what you’ve eaten and the productive routine you’ve been following.

Now, “Fun Productivity” is tough to define. However, to me, this means working on something you are passionate about. Whether that means reading a book you like, or learning an instrument, anything that is both productive and enjoyable will boost your morale, get you back to a working level you like and make doing the less enjoyable productive tasks more bearable.

It’s vital to love what you do

Finding something you love doing can be difficult. I, myself, took a while deciding what I wanted to work on. I initially started talking to a camera, to see if I enjoyed it. This didn’t work for me, at least at the time, so I started writing. I loved being able to put my views out there, on topics I was passionate about, and seeing my articles out there on the web was a great feeling. My point is, you may have to try a few things, but once you find it, it’s fantastic.

I really hope, if you’re going through a tough time, you try to take my advice. Working hard with anything brings the best results. Why would you work hard for other things but not work hard on how you treat yourself.

The University Social Sphere: Lifelong or Mythical?

Social life at University is almost as important as the degree itself. For some people, it is even more important than their academics, but what I want to understand is whether this social life, the friendships it brings and the memories it provides is a positive and long-term mindset, or whether it is a negative, volatile and ultimately short-term distraction.

Lifelong friendships can, of course, be made anywhere. This means that university is probably one of the more likely places for you to find a lifelong friend. Many people stay well in contact with their university friends, and stick with them after graduation. However, to say that the university social sphere has an ultimately positive effect on friendships is farcical. The number of students going through friendship dramas right this second is ridiculous. The bigger the social group, the more drama occurs, and the worse the impact on your personal mental health. Now, this is not me saying that you won’t find your best friend at university, it is just a call to be wary of how the break up of a social group, or the inherent “bitchiness” that comes with some of the millennial generation, can damage you more than help you.

A recent conversation with a good friend of mine comes to mind. Looking through her photos from their first year days, she noticed the colossal difference between her friends then and her friends now. The relationships in first year had broken down or decayed, through drama or negative actions or changes in attitude. University is a time where people are changing an enormous amount. This shows this undoubtedly, as everyone’s lives and attitudes change at different rates, causing arguments and differences that often break down friendships or show the true colours of certain people. It’s tough to admit, especially as often you get over it and forget about it, but it is an essential learning experience.

“People inspire you or they drain you. Pick them wisely.”

Hans F Hansen

The word volatile is definitely important to think about. You could have the best friends and the best time at university, but things will be changing throughout your 3-4 years and your social sphere will be adjusting all the time. You’ll still tend to find your reliable friendships, the stalwarts of your network, keeping the peace and ultimately having your back. However, the flaky, unreliable and sometimes selfish people on the side tend to flit in and out as they please, causing an ever changing dynamic.

An impossible goal? Perhaps with the presence of fake and toxic friends

University is full of people wanting the be popular, full of people who are going through big changes in mindset and full of people who want to be left alone. The first category are “the wannabe BNOCs”, those who will do anything and put anyone down to get where they want to go. Being climbed on by these people can be tough to deal with, and it could really affect your experience. This isn’t helped by The Tab’s constant attempt to glamour-ise this sort of behaviour with their BNOC of the Year articles. Yawn.

The second category are just trying to find their feet, but this can lead to many changes in life, reinforcing how short term many social experiences are at university. These people tend to be most reliable, as long as you are reliable for them. It’s a give and take.

The final group just want space. Whether it’s only occasionally or all the time, these people deserve their space. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand this, and bombard the sanctity of their peace and quiet. You could be negatively influencing someone’s university experience just because you’re not being conscious of their space.

To sum it all up, you will have made many friends at university. You will meet a lot of people, have many nights out and love it. However, it is not a bad thing to try and work out the character of some of your friends. The people who use you or treat you worse than you would like are those you need to evaluate. The parasites need to be removed, in order to give you your best experience at university, with the least drama and volatility. And for the friends who truly will be with you for life, keep them close, for you might need them more than you imagined at one point or another.

My Top 3 Books that changed my views of Money and Business

Making money, as I have said so many times before, is all about educating yourself. The more you know about a market, the lower the risk of investing in it. The more you know about a method or platform, the more confidence you have putting money into it. It is just that simple. Books about money, finance and business have been my main source of education, especially recently, and whether you read a lot, or a little, these books can help to hone your understanding of money and business.

Book 1: Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Kiyosaki has been called a “hack” by many, and not in a positive way. His company, Rich Global LLC, filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Surely this is not a good sign. However, his bestselling book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” completely changed my view on money, the importance of it, attitudes that help you make money and ways to understand risk.

He talks about his “Rich Dad” and his “Poor Dad,” as you might expect, and the decisions the rich make compared to the poor and middle class. He taught me, most importantly, that I personally want to have financial freedom, and to escape from his prescribed “Rat race”.

Kiyosaki may be a hack, it is not for me to say, but he’s not stupid. He’s still worth roughly $80 million dollars even after his initial company went bankrupt, and for that reason, I think it’s fair to assume his advice is at least worth listening to once.

Book 2: The Way of the Wolf by Jordan Belfort

A running theme of controversial characters it seems. The Wolf of Wall Street himself has turned a corner in his life after his 4 years in prison and $110m fine, and this book proves it. He is an exceptional salesman, and has made a KILLING selling.

He now makes money by teaching firms, funds and everything in between his method of salesmanship called “Straight line selling.” He teaches us how to close people who can be closed, and it’s honestly a really interesting read. I try my best to implement his teachings in certain aspects of my life, but I need to read it again. This won’t be a chore, it’ll be a learning exercise and just like I did the first time, I will love every page.

Selling, however much you don’t think it’s immediately vital for making money, is possibly the most important thing you will learn in your life. If you can learn to sell, you can sell yourself, your products, your business or your pitch, and if you don’t think that’ll make you money, Jordan will convince you.

Book 3: What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack

An honestly fantastic book. This won’t teach you the ins and outs of business, but it will teach you the absolutely fundamental hidden parts of running or starting a business that you’re expected to teach yourself. Things like motivation, keeping time, treatment of clients and controlling your own work. These are the things that keep you successful.

They’re the vital lessons that can help maintain your work schedule and keep you motivated to push on and continue taking steps to improve your financial and business life. It was a brilliant read, one that I couldn’t recommend enough, even if just to pique your interest in business for the first time.

Read. It opens your mind to more things than you can imagine. Books will teach you things you never thought you wanted to know, alongside the best and most important lessons you will ever learn. If you stop reading, then you stop learning, and as you should know, you should never stop learning.

Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma at University

With the University of Nottingham recently sending a powerful message to those refusing to spend money on help for mental health, and vast numbers of supporters coming out to try and decrease male suicides, it’s only right that this is a time to talk about mental health.

Some of you may think they’ve seen too much of this sort of writing, clogging up their news feed, and to those people, I urge you to read on. You are the ones who will benefit most from understanding this. Mental health at University is an ever growing problem. The stresses of work on top of tackling other commitments, relationships and judgement pile on top of many people. They’ve affected me, those close to me, and thousands if not tens of thousands of students across the country. We are provided with so many social challenges and pressures that we have to manoeuvre, so it’s great to see all Universities really striving to help that change. Right? Right?

As if. Many Universities are shunning the opportunity to truly help their students. At the University of Birmingham, there are only 6 trained counsellors available for students. No wonder the waiting list is so long, so long in fact that the Uni has previously suspended “Mental Health and Wellbeing” appointments due to overbearing demand.

With absolutely no respect at all, is it not a wake-up call to the institution when there is overwhelming demand for COUNSELLING that maybe they should employ more COUNSELLORS, or even still, actually acknowledge that we are facing a problem in this day and age that needs to be tackled head on instead of vaguely responding to student demands to try and maintain a solid cash flow. But that’s none of my business.

Ironic

It’s absolutely crucial we talk about mental health with regards to University. We get sold an image when we apply of a great social sphere, with the subject you love and all the open doors you could wish for. Partially true, but with an amalgamation of confusion, pressure and constant stress thrown into the mixing pot to make a fun three or four years for some, and a nasty fucker of a cocktail for others. What makes this worse, is that University is often the time where you have your most free time. Sounds great, but for a sufferer of depression or anxiety, that alone time can be horrible, hours of self-deprecation with what feels like no one around to help. Mix that with drugs or alcohol and it can be a very, very dangerous situation. Will Universities take notice at that point?

What will it take for Universities to take notice? It took the University of Bristol 11 student suicides in 2 years for them to take notice. Despite this, they now appear to have one of the best facilities available for mental health. Is that what it takes? 11 deaths per Uni? You’d think not, or at least hope not, but that appears to be the current benchmark. I understand University is about independence, but there has to be more support and welfare available for students. We are advertised strong welfare support before University, but that appears to be a pipe dream.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

Winston Churchill

Finally, I want to address those who have been struggling, fear they may be starting to struggle, or anyone who ever needs support. You are not alone. You deserve support, and you deserve your own happiness. There are people out there who love you, and they will support you if you need them. My tips for helping anyone who has suffered are as follows:

  1. Confide in someone you trust – it can be scary talking to anyone, but the closest people to you are often the ones who will help the most (family/friends)
  2. If your Uni’s facilities are useless, use the NHS – many of the NHS mental health clinics are very good, and can judge what is the best support for you
  3. Mental health hotlines can be very useful – as a starting point or as a continuous aid, someone on the end of the phone to talk to is always useful, especially in the worst of times
  4. Be honest with yourself and rationalise your thoughts – despite being difficult, this is the thing that could save you when you’re alone with your negativity. Realising you are suffering, and that you are allowed to feel this way can often lift a pressure off your shoulders

These are all from my own experiences. I urge you to leave comments with other methods to help your mental health issues. Everyone struggles in a different way. The only way we can truly start to help everyone is by breaking the stigma. It’s okay to open up. It’s okay to talk. It’s okay to feel. Most importantly, you deserve happiness. Everyone does.