Regain power over your life by acting decisively and consistently
I remember the first time I saw Suze Orman on TV. She was a striking blonde lady who spoke directly into the camera, almost as if she could see her viewers. I was probably 22 years old, living on my own in Chicago and very much in need of guidance in the matters of personal finance. Her message was simple: there are a myriad number of ways to fix your finances. At the time, I was familiar with many of the concepts, being a recent graduate from an American university with a degree in Economics. She talked about 401Ks and IRA’s, budgeting and investing. This was all before the days of index funds and budget apps (way before smartphones). She was fast-talking, but she knew her stuff, gave out tough love to her numerous callers, and ended each broadcast with strong words of encouragement. I was hooked. I tuned in as often as I could. On the face of it, I really had nothing in common with this lady. She was a white, 50ish, hugely successful TV personality, author and finance professional. I was a young, black student-immigrant from the Caribbean, just starting out my working life. Still, somehow, I found her hugely appealing. She made me think that where my money was concerned, anything was possible.
Want to know what I did next? Nothing. I didn’t follow one damn thing that lady said to do. I didn’t track my spending, I didn’t get a budget, I didn’t start investing. And more importantly, I didn’t get comfortable talking about my money. Looking back, I think that I was attracted to her message (perhaps because of her super bubbly style of delivery) but I wasn’t convinced that I needed to do anything about it. It’s likely that I was distracted by whatever distracts 22-year olds. Having a social life. Dressing well. Getting ahead at work. Finding where you fit in life. But it’s more likely that I felt I had A LOT of time ahead of me. Maybe, somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought that Suze’s advice would really come in handy later on in life, like her callers, who were in the 30s and beyond…dealing with the realities of ADULTHOOD. Not me, I was just getting started.
Fast forward another 10 years or so, I was in the depths of money struggle land. Years of bad spending behaviour, racking up pointless debt and no real attempts at saving or investing left me with a money hangover. I was committed to start somewhere and there seemed no better place than my spending. I started using a budgeting app called You Need A Budget (clever, right?), which led me to a weirdly-titled blog called Mr. Money Mustache. This guy LITERALLY changed my life. To say his blog was like a kick in the gut would be an understatement. This guy talked like that obnoxious acquaintance or family member, who didn’t pull any punches, loved to use foul language and had a confidence that bordered arrogance. What he advocated was an extreme approach to money that meant living way below your means, aiming for a savings rate in the high 50s and planning to retire young enough to enjoy life and travel while your body still allowed you the flexibility to do lots of things.
He absolutely disdained consumerism and the “typical” American way-of-life, that featured unsustainable gas guzzling monster trucks, excessive food shopping (and food wastage) and just spending for the sake of it. Again, I was captivated. Each blog gave me a stern reality check and insight into another life. The guy seemed kinda nuts, but also really sensible and smart. And I bought it. I didn’t like the idea of out-of-control spending that seemed to be the hallmark of American consumerism that I had easily adopted as a young student and professional, which led to the vast majority of my money woes. I was encouraged to spend because money was readily available (credit cards) and there was tons of useless stuff to spend it on. While I don’t read the blog much anymore, his teachings became permanently lodged in my money brain, so much so that I still unconsciously practice many of his suggestions: monitoring my spending regularly, preferring well-cared-for, second-hand big purchases instead of brand new ones (like homes and cars), thinking long and hard about impulse purchases, etc. All these years later, I’ve come to acknowledge many of these concepts as some of the key principles of the F.I.R.E. movement (Financial Independence Retire Early), which has become increasingly popular over the past decade.
“You can read the books and blogs, listen to the podcasts and attend the workshops, all day, everyday. But NOTHING will change until you begin to take consistent action.”
So what’s the point? Look, there are many people out there giving out advice on how to improve your life, retire early, get rich, etc. And depending on your outlook, you might think they’re really onto something, or untrustworthy salespeople. Either way, there’s no shortage of advice and I’ve admittedly consumed lots of it. I make no secret of the fact that some of my favourite books are focused on getting wealthy: Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (Wallace Wattles); The Science of Getting Rich (T. Harv Eker); and, The Compound Effect (Darren Hardy). These authors have given me principles that I’ve incorporated into my life and that I’ve shared with people in my life, and that I’ve used to develop my own coaching programme. But here’s what I really want you to get. You can read the books and blogs, listen to the podcasts and attend the workshops, all day, everyday. But NOTHING will change until you begin to take consistent action.
I’m guilty of getting excited about an idea, then dropping it when the next one comes along and I know that many if not most people are guilty of the same. But I only really started to transform my life and my way of thinking when I started applying the principles that I learned over the many years of following these experts. This is not to say that I don’t put value on following many different types of teachers and experts, who all approach these topics from their own particular angle. The big benefit of consuming all this information on a regular basis is that it forces you to get really comfortable talking and thinking about money. However, the real game-changer is when you start to take steps in your personal life. One of my major first steps? Studying my spending. I got really obsessed with checking my bank account on a regular basis, which got me in the habit of questioning what I spent my money on and it gave me the insight to change my behaviours the following month. Maybe for you, it’s making the decision to open all your bills when they arrive and paying them on time. These might seem like small changes, but they cause major shifts in your money energy.
What small change can you start to make today? Make it something that’s easy to do and hard for you to postpone. Set a reminder, and start doing it. The future you will thank you.