Jimmy Wales Gives One Huge, Important Piece Of Advice To Us Kids

Most of you probably know Jimmy Wales as the founder of Wikipedia, which is quite possibly the single greatest repository of human knowledge ever created.

All of us who have had to write research papers in the past probably have Jimmy (along with the army of contributors to Wikipedia) to thank for getting us started. Even though our teachers always told us not to use Wikipedia, we did anyway.

What you might not know is that Wales is also an adviser for – and investor in – another great website: the question/answer site Quora.

Quora, along with other sites like the Stack Exchange network, has been a big help to me in the past. Before question/answer sites like these, I’d often have to go digging through forums when I wanted an answer to a question. For that reason, I’m a big fan of Quora, and I used to be a frequent contributor as well.

Anyway, I recently stumbled across this question on Quora: What advice would Jimmy Wales give to the next generation?

I absolutely loved Jimmy’s answer to this question. Here’s a snippet:

“I think one of the most important pieces of advice I can give young people is that you should try to arrange your life in such a fashion that you minimize your consumption expenses as much as is practical so that you take on as little debt as possible.

Why?

If you want to do something interesting with your life, you will need a certain degree of financial independence, by which I mean, the ability to make choices without thinking about the immediate money involved.

Let’s say you start your first job and immediately make various spending choices to spend all or most of your paycheck, going into debt to do it.  A popular way to do this is to buy a car and rent a nice apartment.  Now, 6 months later when your boss is a jerk and you wish to change jobs, you’ve got a big problem.”

I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read Jimmy’s full answer to the question on Quora.

Jimmy’s advice reflects the way I’ve been trying to live and the advice I give everyone when it comes to managing money. Living below my means enabled me to pay off all my students loans before even graduating, and now I’m able to start saving for the future without worrying about debt.

This is the way to live. Regardless of how much money you’ll be making once you get out of college, it doesn’t make sense to go buying tons of crap just because you’ve got the cash (or, more realistically, the credit) to do so.

The New York Times recently profiled TreeHugger.com founder Graham Hill, and he recounted how he went crazy after receiving a huge influx of cash from the sale of his internet company in the late 90’s.

Hill bought stuff just for the sake of filling his house, and even went as far as hiring a buyer – some dude name Seven (not even kidding) – to buy things for his house when he was too busy working.

In the end, Hill wasn’t happy with any of it. He ended up selling almost everything he owned, and now lives in a 420-square-foot studio apartment. Even though his living area is much smaller now, he’s much happier.

I hope you’ll take to heart the advice from Jimmy, Graham, and myself. It’s not worth it to bog yourself down with tons of stuff and needless debt.

Things can be fun to own – especially if they provide some utility. But freedom is worth more than stuff. 

Freedom is worth more than stuff. | Tweet This

The ability to wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and know that you’re not constrained by a huge monthly credit card bill is amazing. We weren’t meant to live with the perpetual stress of owing something to someone.

Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you need to own lots of stuff to be happy. Or thinking you need a huge house to impress your friends and justify your years in college to your family.

Do what you enjoy, stay out of debt, and keep yourself free. It’s worth it.

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

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