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The World (Finance and Beyond) Isn’t All Sunshine & Palm Trees

In this week’s PhREI guest post, Daniel Shin of The Darwinian Doctor will share his heartfelt reflection on the world, not even necessary about finance, to his children. This is such an important thing on my mind as well as I raise two boys so I really loved this post and think you all will too!

P.S. Daniel, you gotta learn to love the cold, embrace the snow! Signed, Jordan from Buffalo

Take it away Daniel!

Today’s post is about the privilege of growing up in SoCal with resources, and my advice to my boys as they enter the world.

The world isn’t all sunshine and palm trees | Letters to my sons

My kids love the beach

We live pretty close to Santa Monica, so most weekends, that’s where you’ll find my family.  After snacks, we send the kids to dig a hole in the sand, while the Dr-ess and I sip coffee and enjoy some downtime.  As we bask in the sun, we joke to each other that our kids will grow up soft and won’t be able to live anywhere except SoCal.  

Boys playing in the sand

Aside from intolerance to cold weather, I often wonder if my kids will lack resilience in life because they’re growing up with a lot of privilege.  Since they’re mixed race, I don’t know how much racial privilege they have. But financial privilege? They’re likely going to have plenty

Although I never went hungry growing up, the financial scarcity of my childhood left marks on my psyche.  Even now, it pushes me to build an unassailable financial position to ensure a high quality of life for my family. 

But for my sons, will a childhood of financial abundance create a rude awakening when they leave the nest?  How do I make sure they both appreciate their privilege and have empathy for those who grew up without similar resources?

I think it’s time for another letter to my sons.  This is a series of posts where I write to my sons from the perspective of my future, financially independent self (about a decade in the future).

Read the last Letter To My Sons:  Why I’m home for breakfast these days

Dear sons,

It’s hard to believe that you’re both teenagers now!  This part of your lives is really tough; I’m not gonna lie.  High school kids can be mean, judgemental, and insecure.  But you’ll get through it, I have no doubt.  It’s just four years, then off to college.

Today I want to talk to you about the world you’ll be entering when you leave high school.  I’m not sure where you’ll end up for college, but if it’s out of SoCal, I’ve got news for you:  

The world isn’t all sunshine and palm trees.

I mean this both literally and figuratively.  

The blessed climate of southern California is pretty unusual for our country.  Summer in many parts of the country feels like a soggy steam bath, even at night.  The winters of the midwest and northeast are also insanely cold.  

You know how people in Los Angeles walk around in puffy coats and ski caps when it gets down to 50 degrees?  That’s the same gear they wear in Boston when it’s -2 degrees.  

Aside from the weather, there’s a lot of variability out there in the financial position of the people you’ll meet both in college and in life. 

Do you know you’ve grown up with financial privilege?

How do I say this in a way that resonates with you?  

When I was your age in high school, my family struggled with money.  Just a few years before high school, we lost our house because we couldn’t make our mortgage payments.  Sunglasses were a luxury that were too expensive.  There was even a time when we couldn’t afford to buy a meatball sub as a treat.  

It sounds pretty dire, right?

Yet even in the worst of times, I was better off than so many kids in this country.  I always had a roof over my head, loving parents, and access to education.  

It’s been a different childhood for you two.

Even in the first years of your lives, when I was just making a resident’s salary, your mom was also supporting us with her job.  Together, our income was much more than enough to meet our needs.  

Your mom’s parents also helped us buy our first house a few years before Theo was born.  To own a house in Los Angeles so early in life was a huge luxury.  And then when I finally graduated from residency training, all of a sudden we were making more money than 99% of the country.

Our income afforded us a quality of life that was beyond my wildest dreams as a kid.  

This income, combined with our real estate and other investments, allowed our family to become financially independent. Through careful planning, saving, investing, and high incomes, we hit FIRE decades earlier than most of our peers. 

A lot in life is luck. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that our lifestyle was deserved or guaranteed by virtue of some intrinsic worth.  There are plenty of smart, hard working people who struggle their whole lives without gaining financial stability.  There are plenty of awful people who have much more than us, too.  

We’ve made good choices, sure.  But we’ve also had help and been incredibly fortunate.  

So what’s my advice?  

First of all, don’t be scared by cold weather. You can get used to anything. 

More importantly, have empathy for those who don’t have the financial blessings you’ve had your entire life.  Don’t ascribe personal worth or relevance just based on someone’s clothing, car, or where they spend their summer vacation.  

Be open minded.  Be kind.  And be compassionate.  

And never believe that the sunshine and palm trees will be everlasting.  

If your income is coming just from one job or business, (or your parents,) you’re not secure, no matter how great your lifestyle seems.  Work hard to create multiple streams of income to guard against the inevitable financial storms of life. Prepare your finance world for turbulence.

That’s it for now, boys. I’ll let you get back to your lives now. 

But always remember: Keep hustling, keep dreaming, and make your own mark on this world.  

— TDD (The Darwinian Dad)

Thoughts from The Prudent Plastic Surgeon

Again, I really love this post. Resiliency is a key characteristic for success in this world, both the world of finance and just the world in general. Failure is a prerequisite to success. It’s important that our children learn these skills. But is a comfortable life a detriment to that?

Honestly, I have to say no. And I’m saying this from experience. I grew up certainly in a middle to upper middle class fashion. My life was comfortable as a kid. But I learned that my upbringing did not guarantee my success. I learned that things were not all palm trees like Daniel says. It became very important for me to establish myself by myself. Establish my personal, professional, and, yes, finance world.

My wife and I certainly will work to instill the same values in our children!

What do you think? How do you hope that your children will interact with the world of finance and in general? How can we ensure they develop the resiliency required to have success? Let us know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

    4 thoughts on “The World (Finance and Beyond) Isn’t All Sunshine & Palm Trees”

      • Hey Tom, thanks! I intend to reach FIRE within the next 10 years, so I’ll need my portfolio to continue to do some heavy lifting in the stock market. So it’ll probably end up being 80% well diversified stocks and 20% bonds indefinitely. By that point, though, a significant portion of my assets will be in cash flowing real estate.


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