Early Retirement Musings – Is It Worth It?

I have been thinking about early retirement a lot lately. Upon first glance, you might read that sentence as an indication that I am looking for an escape from my current day-to-day grind. On the contrary, I feel that Mrs. Superhero and I are in a good place at the moment. We enjoy our full-time careers in the classroom, and we feel invigorated by our side businesses in real estate and the music studio, respectively.

My thoughts on early retirement are admittedly impacted by a variety of influences. First and foremost, everyone in our family trees has opted for traditional retirements. On the other hand, nearly everything I read on a regular basis, from books and magazines to blog articles, touts the benefits of early retirement and financial independence.

What are my current thoughts about early retirement? I’m seriously pondering whether I am even interested at this point.

Retirement Basics

Any discussion of the pros and cons of early retirement should begin with a look at the purposes behind retirement at a basic level. Quite obviously, the cultural phenomenon of retirement exists because humans are not physically and mentally equipped to work forever. As a result, we work and save for four to five decades, on average, in order to survive when we are no longer able to support our basic needs through earned income.

To recap, the most basic life plan is as follows:

WORK 40-50 YEARS + SAVE MONEY = BASIC SURVIVAL AT AGE 65-70 

The above plan is a reality for an alarming cluster of the population. Yes, you can and probably should aim higher with your retirement goals. For example, you could save and invest more than is required to meet your basic retirement needs, allowing yourself to live a little in retirement. However, tomorrow is promised to nobody. Or you could save more and retire a bit earlier, say in your late 50s or early 60s.

So, we might describe the intermediate plan as follows:

WORK 30-40 YEARS + SAVE MORE MONEY = COMFORTABLE RETIREMENT AT 55-60

For a small number of renegades with their hearts and minds set on early retirement, even this sensible plan is insufficient. Thanks to mathematical breakdowns by Mr. Money Mustache and countless other bloggers, waves of people are targeting a much earlier retirement. How? They are aiming to increase their savings rate, as a percentage of net income, to figures which exceed 40 percent and approach 85 or even 90 percent!

Early retirement
The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement (Credit: Mr. Money Mustache)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to reduce this table to a formula, we might proceed as follows:

WORK 3-20 YEARS + SAVE LIKE THE DICKENS = RETIRE EARLIER THAN EVERYONE ELSE

The most beautiful thing about the chart above is that it is not income sensitive in any way, shape or form. It applies to you whether you earn $40,000 per year or $4 million per year. Of course, it should be much easier to save when you have an inflated income. Yet, that pesky thing called “lifestyle” tends to get in the way.

In essence, we might say that early retirement is a largely a choice.

Early Retirement Pros and Cons

Now that it is apparent that early retirement is mathematically accessible for virtually everyone, let us examine the merits of such a plan.

Among many pros of early retirement, the following stand out:

*Opportunity to spend increased time with family and friends
*Freedom to travel
*Reduced stress and improved health
*More time to pursue other interests or even a new career

Obviously, early retirement is not without its cons, which include:

*Possible negative impact upon health (possible loss of health benefits, decreased physical activity)
*Possible boredom and/or depression
*Increased stress (more time to worry; constant fear that your nest egg may be insufficient)
*Limitations due to fixed income

As with virtually all matters of personal finance, the pros and cons are largely situation-dependent. For example, my Grandpa retired only a few years early and came out ahead in nearly every manner possible: he increased his earnings and kept busy by working side jobs, gained the freedom to spend time with his children and grandchildren, and took several vacations each year with my Grandma.

On the other hand, I know a person (who shall remain nameless) who would quite likely suffer an early death if he were to retire early. He would spend his days and nights wasting away in a recliner watching television, despite being of able mind and body. Quite likely, early retirement would be an early death sentence for this person.

Our Current Plan

Back in June, I established 30 goals as I approached my 30th birthday. Goal 5 stated, “Set a target date for early retirement and formulate a plan to get there.” I have been dragging my feet on this one ever since; as I said, I’m just not sure what I want to do at this point.

Strictly based upon Money Mustache’s chart above, Mrs. Superhero and I could likely retire somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-17 years, or 2031, given our current assets and savings rate. Since I am a proponent of stealth wealth, that’s about as specific as I’d like to get at this point in time. However, we could make some changes in current spending and investing plans and possibly retire in approximately 10 years. This would not be achievable without significant sacrifice and postponement of other significant goals.

All of which has led me to an important conclusion: I simply desire to achieve other goals more than I desire early retirement at this point in time. Among other goals that I feel will bring me and Mrs. Superhero greater joy than early retirement, starting a family ranks at the top of the list. Additional goals include:

*Fund college for our future children
*Travel with moderate frequency
*Give and support missionary work beyond our current ability to do so
*Finish our basement (which is currently unfinished)
*Possibly own a second home

If our pursuit of these goals brings us increased happiness and slightly slows our pursuit of early retirement by 5-10 years, I feel I am OK with that. I would rather retire slightly later than mathematically possible and achieve more in life rather than retire with unfinished business.

In closing, let us consider one of the oldest retirement clichés, which says, it is better to retire to something than to retire from something.


What are your current retirement plans? Do you aspire to retire early? If so, how do you hope to achieve early retirement?

 

The Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 7

Each Saturday, The Legion of Super-Posts chronicles a number of posts which piqued my interest due to their uniqueness, insightful analysis, or emotional impact. I hope to share articles which you may not have read during the week while enhancing a sense of community and promoting other bloggers.

The Legion of Super-Posts

In this week’s issue:

Risk Appetite – Don’t Consume the Sh*t They Feed You – The Code to Riches

Paul writes, “Any financial advisor worth his/her salt is going to discuss risk appetite with you.  They’ll sit down at your dining room table, with a fancy briefcase and slight air of superiority. . .

And then they’ll talk about your investment options, expected return vs. reward, yaddah yaddah yaddah.  And then they’ll tell you one of the most detrimental things your finances will ever have to suffer through:

“Whatever investment choice you make, you have to make sure that the amount of risk you’re taking willallow you to sleep at night.”

…and that’s where they’ll get you.

3 Things EVERY Financial Plan Needs – Hope and Cents

Alaya writes,

There are many different worthwhile financial goals one can pursue.

And for each one of those goals, there are various paths that lead you there. Whatever your big-picture goal is, and whatever method you are using to achieve it, there are three essential things your financial plan needs.

In fact, I will be as bold as to say you likely won’t meet your goal UNLESS these three things are incorporated into your financial plan.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Successful People – Millennial Money Man

Like only he can, Bobby lays out what he has observed about successful people and how he aims to implement in his own businesses.

The Time Has Finally Come – The Mad Fientist

In an oldie-but-goodie, The Mad Fientist writes about his feeling on the precipice of leaving his job. “Even though it feels like finally crossing the finish line on this journey to FI, I realize this is only the first stage of a much bigger voyage. A self-directed life of freedom and unlimited possibilities begins for me on August 1st and I have to say, I’m very eager to get started.”


Enjoy the weekend everyone! I’ll be enjoying a relaxing weekend on vacation with Mrs. Superhero and our friends? What are your plans?

Entrepreneur or Employee – Find Your Best Career Path

What factors determine whether YOU are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee?

For more than four decades, my Grandpa awoke at the crack of dawn each morning and headed to work. He was an employee of Continental Motors, one of the largest producers of engines in the first half of the 20th century. After his hours of service as an employee, Grandpa underwent a daily transformation into an entrepreneur in a matter of minutes. While many of his co-workers went fishing or retired to their homes for the day, Grandpa could be found painting, flipping vehicles or utility trailers which needed repair, or even helping operate the family market. Grandpa likely never paid any thought to whether he should be an employee or entrepreneur; why choose just one role when he could pursue both?

I think of Grandpa’s example often when contemplating life as an entrepreneur or employee. He was a rare individual who could successfully manage both pursuits while remaining the ultimate father and husband.

The world was different in the 20th century. Yet today, as it did in the past, life as an entrepreneur or employee offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. This is especially true in today’s competitive, rapidly  changing marketplace.

Many factors determine whether you are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee. Your mindset, goals, personality, and habits are good indicators.

Personal Perspective

What qualifies me to write about the advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur or employee? I’ve lived both lives in the past, and I’m currently living them now. I am a public school teacher by day, a real estate agent in the afternoon, and I run FinanceSuperhero at night. I have experienced the joys and sorrows of being “the boss,” being an employee, and being my own boss.

What does all this mean?

You’re going to get straight, no frills insight.

The Entrepreneur Advantage

As an entrepreneur, you are in the driver’s seat 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Your business depends solely upon you, your vision, and your leadership. You are in full control.

An entrepreneur rarely faces the same slate of challenges day in and day out. In the role of entrepreneur, you will be the lead agent of change and growth of your business. Each day is unique. 

Furthermore, you possess the ultimate freedom to do as you please with your business. You are the lead creative genius. You may set your own agenda, work hours, and timelines. The world is your office, in many cases, so you can work anywhere!

Lastly, your profitability and earnings are largely determined by the success of your business. If you’re business thrives, there is often a direct correlation in growth of your income. Hard work typically pays off.

Employee Perks

As an employee, you find yourself in a world which is much more defined. Your job description, responsibilities, work hours, salary, insurance benefits, and retirement plans are all established when you are hired. These benefits are typically stable.

As a result of such definition, each day often follows a routine structure. Meetings, projects, and other tasks are assigned to you. Work is more predictable.

Additionally, the life of an employee often offers increased opportunities for collaboration and the development of relationships. Over time, you and your colleagues may develop strong working relationships. You may even be able to depend upon them in times of need.

Entrepreneurial Annoyances

While life as an entrepreneur has its benefits, the disadvantages are also plentiful. When you are in control of your business, the only throat to choke when something goes awry is your own. For some, this responsibility is a heavy burden to bear.

Many factors determine whether you are a better fit to be an entrepreneur or employee. Your mindset, goals, personality, and habits are good indicators.The entrepreneur also faces a bevy of additional challenges:

*Remaining competitive in a changing marketplace

*Building and maintaining a client base

*Marketing and branding the business with sensitivity to return on investment

*Maintaining focus and direction while being pulled and stretched at all times

*Maintaining personal relationships and boundaries

Employee Blues

Of course, life as an employee is not always full of rainbows and butterflies. You may be forced to deal with the insufferable demands of a clueless boss. Inefficiency in your department may create more work for you at every turn. Perhaps there is little motivation or financial incentive for you to work harder or increase your production.

Entrepreneur or Employee – Which is right for you?

I am a firm believer that your initial reactions to the above advantages and disadvantages of being an entrepreneur or employee, respectively, may be a great indicator of which role is right for you. For example, if the thought of being in full control scares you more than it excites you, perhaps the role of entrepreneur is not right for you. Similarly, if the idea of predictable, structured work sounds like a scene from Dante’s Inferno, perhaps the role of employee is not right for you.

With a few exceptions, the following personality characteristics, mindsets, habits, goals, and preferences may help you find the role which is best for you.

Entrepreneur Characteristics

*Highly-motivated to start new endeavors (A “Go-Getter”)

*Hard-worker

*Self-driven and motivated

*Mindset which asks “What’s next” and “What is it time for now?”

*Willing to make mistakes and learn from them (An entrepreneur always embraces failure!)

*Recognized by yourself or others as a “Jack of All Trades,” or a generalist

*More likely to have friends in all walks of life and professions

Employee Characteristics

*Enjoys following directions and orders to complete tasks

*Patient and accepting in the face of occasional mistreatment (your job depends on staying in line and doing what you’re told in most cases, yet this does not bother you)

*Values the safety of a guaranteed hourly rate or salary

*Fears mistakes and strives to maintain the status quo

*Tendency to be a specialist vs. a generalist (highly-trained in a specific niche)

*More likely to associate with people similar to them in lifestyle and professions

Entrepreneur or Employee – The Final Decision

Lee Eclov, pastor, author, and one of the wisest teachers I have ever known, is fond of reminding people to paint with the colors they are given. This metaphor is not only applicable in the context of ministry or other public service – it is equally valid in the business world. We should all strive to recognize our natural talents and abilities and seek to maximize them, whether we are an an entrepreneur or employee.

Ultimately, the choice to be an entrepreneur or employee – or both – comes down to knowing and honoring yourself and your abilities. Seize the opportunity that fits you best and aligns best with you, your values, and your goals. As Dave Matthews wrote,

Make the most of what you’ve got
Don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not
Fill up your head & fill up your heart, take your shot
Don’t waste time trying to be something you’re not


Are you an entrepreneur, employee, or both? Do you feel you are in the role which best suits you? If money were not a consideration, what would be your ideal role?

If you are interested in quitting your job as an employee to become an entrepreneur, don’t quit – engineer your layoff by following the tried-and-true advice of FinancialSamurai. 

How to START on the Path to Retirement

The average American dreams of a lavish retirement but has no idea where to start on the path to retirement. Simple research reveals that most workers are ill-prepared for retirement in every single age bracket. Some haven’t even begun saving for their Golden Years.

The educator within me developed the following acrostic, which is intended to remind you that it is easy to START on the path toward retirement:

Start as soon as possible
Target investments with low fees and strong track records
Aim to minimize risk
Rely on your strengths
Trust your plan and stick to it

The most important step on the path to retirement is to START. Follow these steps to set your course.

Start on the path to retirement as soon as possible

It is no secret that getting an early start on building your net worth is one of the most basic fundamentals of retirement planning. Consider the following illustration:

Ben and John are both 20 years old. Ben begins investing $250 per month in index funds, and he continues until he is 30 years old, at which time he never invests another cent, allowing compound interest to grow his money until retirement at age 59 ½. John decides to lease a vehicles for $250 per month during this same 10 year window, and wisely snaps out of it when he reaches age 30, at which time he begins investing $250 and continues until age 60. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that both gentlemen invest in similarly-performing index funds, which average a 10% return each year. Surely John must catch up to Ben? Take a look below:

Ben’s Investments John’s Investments
Age Contribution Interest Balance Contribution Interest Balance
20 $3,000.00 $300.00 $3,300.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
21 $3,000.00 $630.00 $6,930.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
22 $3,000.00 $993.00 $10,923.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
23 $3,000.00 $1,392.30 $15,315.30 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
24 $3,000.00 $1,831.53 $20,146.83 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
25 $3,000.00 $2,314.68 $25,461.51 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
26 $3,000.00 $2,846.15 $31,307.66 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
27 $3,000.00 $3,430.77 $37,738.43 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
28 $3,000.00 $4,073.84 $44,812.27 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
29 $3,000.00 $4,781.23 $52,593.50 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
30 $0.00 $5,259.35 $57,852.85 $3,000.00 $300.00 $3,300.00
31 $0.00 $5,785.29 $63,638.14 $3,000.00 $630.00 $6,930.00
32 $0.00 $6,363.81 $70,001.95 $3,000.00 $993.00 $10,923.00
33 $0.00 $7,000.20 $77,002.15 $3,000.00 $1,392.30 $15,315.30
34 $0.00 $7,700.22 $84,702.37 $3,000.00 $1,831.53 $20,146.83
35 $0.00 $8,470.24 $93,172.61 $3,000.00 $2,314.68 $25,461.51
36 $0.00 $9,317.26 $102,489.87 $3,000.00 $2,846.15 $31,307.66
37 $0.00 $10,248.99 $112,738.86 $3,000.00 $3,430.77 $37,738.43
38 $0.00 $11,273.89 $124,012.75 $3,000.00 $4,073.84 $44,812.27
39 $0.00 $12,401.28 $136,414.03 $3,000.00 $4,781.23 $52,593.50
40 $0.00 $13,641.40 $150,055.43 $3,000.00 $5,559.35 $61,152.85
41 $0.00 $15,005.54 $165,060.97 $3,000.00 $6,415.29 $70,568.14
42 $0.00 $16,506.10 $181,567.07 $3,000.00 $7,356.81 $80,924.95
43 $0.00 $18,156.71 $199,723.78 $3,000.00 $8,392.50 $92,317.45
44 $0.00 $19,972.38 $219,696.16 $3,000.00 $9,531.75 $104,849.20
45 $0.00 $21,969.62 $241,665.78 $3,000.00 $10,784.92 $118,634.12
46 $0.00 $24,166.58 $265,832.36 $3,000.00 $12,163.41 $133,797.53
47 $0.00 $26,583.24 $292,415.60 $3,000.00 $13,679.75 $150,477.28
48 $0.00 $29,241.56 $321,657.16 $3,000.00 $15,347.73 $168,825.01
49 $0.00 $32,165.72 $353,822.88 $3,000.00 $17,182.50 $189,007.51
50 $0.00 $35,382.29 $389,205.17 $3,000.00 $19,200.75 $211,208.26
51 $0.00 $38,920.52 $428,125.69 $3,000.00 $21,420.83 $235,629.09
52 $0.00 $42,812.57 $470,938.26 $3,000.00 $23,862.91 $262,492.00
53 $0.00 $47,093.83 $518,032.09 $3,000.00 $26,549.20 $292,041.20
54 $0.00 $51,803.21 $569,835.30 $3,000.00 $29,504.12 $324,545.32
55 $0.00 $56,983.53 $626,818.83 $3,000.00 $32,754.53 $360,299.85
56 $0.00 $62,681.88 $689,500.71 $3,000.00 $36,329.99 $399,629.84
57 $0.00 $68,950.07 $758,450.78 $3,000.00 $40,262.98 $442,892.82
58 $0.00 $75,845.08 $834,295.86 $3,000.00 $44,589.28 $490,482.10
59 $0.00 $83,429.59 $917,725.45 $3,000.00 $49,348.21 $542,830.31

At age 59 and approaching retirement, Ben will have invested a total of $30,000 and hold a portfolio valued at $917,725.45. John will invest $90,000 over 30 years -three times what Ben invested-yet he will only hold a portfolio valued at $542,830.31! John never caught up due to the avalanche of compound interest that worked in Ben’s favor.

What secured Ben’s advantage and prevented John from catching up?

Time.

Target investments with low fees and strong track records

Recently, I was talking with my Dad about his 401k. Fortunately, it is doing well, as he and I rebalanced his portfolio a few years ago in order to take advantage of mutual funds with more successful track records and lower fees. Simple awareness and diligence saved Dad money.

This, however, isn’t the norm. According to a 2010 AARP study, a staggering 70 percent of surveyed 401k participants were not even aware that they paid fees to maintain their accounts. More specifically,

When plan participants were asked whether they pay fees for their 401(k) plan, seven in ten (71%) reported that they did not pay any fees while less than a quarter (23%) said that they do pay fees.  Less than one in ten (6%) stated that they did not know whether or not they pay any fees.

Why are 401k participants so unaware of fees paid? It turns out, according to Kipplinger, that it isn’t entirely their fault.

Mutual fund returns in 401(k) plans are normally reported as net returns, meaning that fees for managing your investments are subtracted from your gains or added to your losses before calculating the annual return. Other costs, such as administrative and record-keeping fees, are often divvied up among plan participants but are not explicitly listed on individual investment statements.

My recommendation: Do not invest in anything unless you fully understand every component of the individual investment, including the structure of fees. When evaluating your options, seek funds with a strong track record and low fees. Most people should consider investing within an automated portfolio service, such as Betterment, which minimizes fees, improves diversification, performs automated rebalancing, and provides greater returns.

Aim to minimize risk

Of all the recommendations contained in the above acrostic, this one is perhaps the most difficult to act upon. To manage investment risk requires many steps: an understanding of what risk truly is and is not, an understanding of personal risk tolerance, and methods to evaluate risk.

In practical terms, risk is a phenomenon that most humans naturally seek to avoid. It is the reason that I personally do not drive 20 miles per hour beyond the established speed limit in inclement weather or eat fried foods at every meal of my day. I associate risk with a consequence which is to be avoided at all costs.

When it comes to investing, however, a certain degree of risk is necessary. As Investopedia notes, investment risk is commonly defined as “deviation from an expected outcome.” In the broadest possible terms, an investor expects to profit from her investments; of course, the risk is that the opposite –loss– may happen.

Generally speaking, while personal risk tolerance varies from investor to investor, the Prospect Theory asserts that most investors experience greater pain with investment loss than euphoria associated with gains. In other words, losses are far more emotionally scarring than ego-boosting gains.

As a result, risk tolerance is often dependent upon an investor’s past experience. For example, a relative who shall remain nameless recently shared that she and her husband are keeping all of their non-pension assets in low-interest bearing CDs because they cannot bear the risk of loss associated with mutual funds and individual stocks. As she explained it, they had been burned in the past decade and wanted to avoid a repeat occurrence at all costs.

Among many methods to evaluate risk, one of the most commonly utilized methods is standard deviation. As described by Morningstar, “Standard deviation simply quantifies how much a series of numbers, such as fund returns, varies around its mean, or average.” Based upon this information, an investor can examine a particular fund and weigh the risks of an investment by observing the fund’s performance highs and lows over a set period of time. The more a fund’s returns change over time, the greater its standard deviation. At the same, an investor who is armed with standard deviation data is hardly guaranteed to make money, as even funds with low standard deviation can still lose money, theoretically speaking.

For most investors, understanding risk, evaluating personal risk tolerance, and ultimately seeking to minimize risk will be vital to remaining on the path to retirement.

Rely on Your Strengths

While most people would prefer to reach financial independence early, few are willing to put in the effort and practice the self-discipline necessary to do so. An overlooked key to achieving financial independence is leveraging your strengths to maximize the likelihood of your success.

As a culture, Americans tend to strive to improve upon their weaknesses as a primary means of self-improvement. In graduate school, I read StrengthsFinder 2.0 and my paradigm was forever changed. Recent theory suggests that you should strive to improve upon your strengths rather than minimize your weaknesses because you are more likely to significantly build upon your strengths than you are your weaknesses. While marginal improvement in areas of weakness is possible and even beneficial, the overall impact of these improvements pales in comparison to building upon your strengths.

Related: Forget About Working On Your Weakness, Play to Your Strengths: Your (Overwhelming) Reaction To The Idea by Paul B. Brown

Trust your plan and stick to it

Lastly, while the path to retirement requires patience, it can be tempting to ditch your plan in favor of the latest and greatest investment trends. Don’t yield to the hype. It is important to formulate a plan based on your goals and desires, not those of someone else.

Conclusion

Whatever your life and retirement plans may be, I strongly advise you to find your passions and pursue them with enthusiasm. Perhaps the best example of this kind of life is runner Dean Karnazes. When reading Karnazes’s book Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, one  piece of advice given to the author by a friend stuck with me:

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intent to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skin in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!! What a ride!

While I note the extremism of this quote, particularly in its application to athletic pursuits, I have found that the underlying enthusiasm of this philosophy makes it applicable to all pursuits, even those which are financial. Pursuing the path to retirement may leave  us worn out, but we would be wise to enjoy the process every step of the way. All you have to do is START!


Are you staying on track with your chosen path to retirement?

Note: Today’s post was also featured as a guest post on StretchaDime.com – head over to the site to check out some of Michael’s excellent work!

 

Crafting the Key That Unlocks Life

Today’s guest post is written by Ricard Torres, the creator of Escaping to Freedom. He helps people stuck in 9-5 jobs to become financially independent by starting their own online business, investing what they save, and focus on happiness.

ricard_torres

Crafting The Key That Unlocks Life

Remember when you were a kid and had big dreams of becoming an astronaut, doctor or professional pizza eater? Things were simple back then; you had plenty of time to play and see your friends. As long as you did your homework and behaved well you had nothing to worry about. Life was easy, and you were convinced that it would be even better when you grew up.

Then real life happened. You grew up and were struck by the full force of adult life. A whole barrage of responsibilities had been thrust upon you: feeding yourself, paying taxes, changing the oil in your car and, of course, going to work.

You now realise that working takes up too much time from the rest of your life. The things that you had dreamed of doing now seem very far away. The life that you always wanted has been locked away inside a cage, held shut by tight chains.

But there’s also good news!

You see, I like to think of life like a Disney film. Everything seems perfect at first, then the big fallout happens, and a happy ending doesn’t seem likely. At least that’s what our protagonists think – we, the audience, know everything will work out in the end.

In the case of your life, the big, picturesque villain is money. But it’s a villain that comes to his senses at the end of the movie and ends up becoming the unlikely hero!

Let me explain. You need money in order to live, so you have to spend 40+ hours of every week working. Maybe more. You could reach the conclusion that money – or the need for it – is keeping you from your dream life…

But you’d only be half-right. Money can both make you a slave and free you, as contradictory as that sounds.

If you’re reading Finance Superhero I’m sure you already know that you can do more with your money than spend it. Saving money can make you free, as was eloquently explained in this article. Save enough and you’ll never have to work for money again. Once you know this, you’re ahead of the majority of your peers, and well on your way to becoming truly free.

Crafting your money key

If you want to free your dream life from that dark cage you’re going to need to craft a key. I also really hope that you like metaphors because there’s one coming!

key-618726_1920

 

Firstly, you’re going to need to know the lock inside and out. What is preventing you from living the life of your dreams? How much money do you need to live the life you desire – one with all the time to pursue only the things that make it better. Make sure you know that number.

Use the vision of your perfect life to carve a cast for your key. Make sure it’s the exact same shape as the lock, and that it’s nicely polished. In other words, learn as much as you need and get better at making money and saving it. This will be a long journey, so you’ll need to learn and improve lots of skills: frugality, investing, self-marketing, resilience and – forgive me for using a buzzword – hustling.

Next, you’ll need to gather the metal that will eventually become your key. You’ll need to make sure that you have enough to fill the entire cast and produce a solid key that won’t break on the first turn. In other words, you’ll have to accumulate money. Quite a lot of it. You’ll have to put your money-making skills to the test.

Finally, once you have all the components of your key, you can get to work. Melt all the metal you’ve collected, pour it carefully into the cast and wait for it to cool. This will take a while, so you’re going to have to be patient – very patient. You may feel tempted to use the key before it has fully hardened because a lot of time has already passed, but it’s always better to be extra safe. Put another way, it’s important to make sure you have accumulated enough money before you take the plunge and quit your job.

Money gives you choice

Luckily, on this journey to wealth and freedom, nothing is just black or white. You don’t have to wait until you have a full nest egg to start experiencing freedom – the more money you have, the more options and choices you get.

As soon as you save enough to cover around 6 months of expenses, you have a significant safety net that will bring more peace into your life. The fear of losing your job will be greatly diminished, as you won’t be in as much need of the income that it provides

When you get to a couple of year’s worth of expenses, you get some serious options. You could take a sabbatical year to explore your favourite part of the world, or to try a new career. Maybe you’d like to take 3 months off work to go and do some volunteering work. You won’t need money urgently, so even if you compromise your job, it won’t be the end of the world.

Money gives you options in life. Options give you the confidence to make bolder choices without fear. I’m sure you know someone who managed to get an amazing promotion because they had the courage to ask for it. Here is the best guide I’ve read about asking for a promotion, written by Ramit Sethi – you may be ready to ask for one now!

As you become more and more wealthy, you’ll win the freedom to change your lifestyle to look more like your ideal life – much more in line with the life you dreamed of as a child. After all, money causes many of life’s stresses, and is one of the leading reasons for divorce, according to this article in the Huffington Post. If money stops being a cause of worry and problems and becomes a source of freedom and happiness, life becomes a much simpler, happier, smoother ride.

Isn’t that what we all want?

I now want to hear from you. How has money given you freedom? Let me know in the comments below!

For more articles like this, and to follow my journey to financial independence make sure you head over to Escaping to Freedom.

Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 6

After a one week hiatus, The Legion of Super-Posts returns! This series chronicles a number of posts which piqued my interest due to their uniqueness, insightful analysis, or emotional impact. I hope to share articles which you may not have read during the week while enhancing a sense of community and promoting other bloggers.

The Legion of Super-Posts

In this week’s issue:

Fervent Finance – Everyday I’m (Not) Hustlin’

FF touches on an issue that has been on my mind a lot lately – charting your own path without concern for what others are doing.

$mart Family Money – Save Money and Time by Lowering Your Standards

Cindy writes, “I think oftentimes when modern conveniences make a chore easier, instead of enjoying the extra time created by automation, we raise our standards instead.”

The Wealth Junkie – How Do You Know When You’ve Made It Financially?

Brandon writes, “You’ve reached that milestone, achieved your goals, but do you feel you have finally made it financially? Remember, the accomplishment is totally subjective. We determine what is considered financially successful.”

The Millennial Budget – Actionable Ways to Change Your Life Financially

Stefan writes, “Most of the time the problem is ourselves but we hate to admit it. We always find something else to blame because it is the easy way out. Acknowledge that only you can change your situation and your money will thank you later.”


Enjoy the week ahead, everyone!

Investing is a Marathon – A Personal Training Guide to Win

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Aesop’s parable of the tortoise and the hare is a timeless, yet somewhat ambiguous tale. It chronicles a race between the slow-and-steady tortoise and the overconfident-and-lazy hare. The tortoise paces himself appropriately, while the hare opts to enjoy a mid-race nap. When the hare awakens, he discovers that his competitor has already won the race.

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.

I appreciate this wise lesson, but an alternative version of Aesop’s tale provides deeper wisdom.

In this iteration, the hare decides to provide the tortoise a head start. Throughout the race, the tortoise grows stronger and faster, a development which was unforeseen by the hare. Despite the hare’s eventual efforts to work harder and run at much faster speeds than the tortoise could ever imagine, the tortoise wins the race handily. In fact, the result is far from a photo finish.

As investors, many people are like the hare. They are always waiting and preparing for tomorrow. Others are like the tortoise. They invest slowly and boringly over time and maintain remarkable consistency.

When it comes to investing, the average investor would be wise to learn from both the slow-and-steady approach of the tortoise and the speed and intensity of the hare.

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint. Unlike running, you only get one chance to live and save. Will you be more like the tortoise or the hare?

Marathon Training

Following my first half marathon in 2010, I began training for my first full marathon in January 2011. The days are cold and nights even colder during Illinois winters, which made the beginning of my training extremely brutal, both physically and mentally. To make matters worse, I was still trying to master the fundamentals of distance running: proper form, hydration, nutrition, and the all-important techniques to avoid chafing.

However, I established a regimented schedule for both training and rest, learned to listen to the signs and signals of my body, and improved as a runner. Despite many mistakes and a few minor aches and pains, I pressed onward and completed my training.

Exploring the Parallels – Investing IS a Marathon!

Race day arrived much faster than I ever thought possible. Though I had prepared as well as I could have expected, as I stood at the start line with hundreds of other people, a thought played over and over in mind:

What did you just get yourself into?!

Getting Started is Hard

The race director fired his gun, and we were off and running.  The first mile was absolutely awful. I dodged slower runners left and right, expounding a lot of wasted energy in the process, and experienced my first doubts. I’m so far from the finish line, I thought.

Many people have these same doubts when they begin investing. They know they are beginning a long journey which requires patience and diligence, yet it is not uncommon for many beginning investors to experience waves of discouragement and doubt. So they work harder, save more, do more research, and re-read investment prospectuses. At first, their efforts barely move the needle.

As I approached the first aid station near mile 4, I felt satisfied. My body had finally warmed up, my doubts had dissipated, and my confidence was restored.

Achieving a positive net worth is much like a marathon’s first aid station. It is a milestone worth celebrating. This checkpoint is not achieved without hard work and sacrifice, yet it is only the beginning of a long journey.

Setting the Pace, Focusing on Your Goals

I settled down even more after the first aid station and found a comfortable pace. At times, running felt effortless during this stretch. Around mile 10, I passed by family and friends who were out to support me. They cheered me on and said I looked “very fresh.”

Investing is a marathon, not a sprint. Unlike running, you only get one chance to live and save. Will you be more like the tortoise or the hare?
Feeling great at Mile 10 of the 2011 Wisconsin Marathon

As I approached the midway point of the race, I noticed that many other runners were picking up their pace. I joined them for a moment, but wisely pulled back after a few minutes, as the pace felt unsustainable.

Moments later, I witnessed the jubilation of those same runners as they crossed the half marathon finish line. Unbeknownst to me, they had selected a different goal and adjusted their pace accordingly. As they crossed their finish line and celebrated the fruits of their labor, I began to feel sorry for myself. I still had 13.1 miles to go.

It is tempting for an investor to lose sight of the plan and pace and adopt someone else’s approach. However, their pace and goals don’t matter! Your pace and goals are important. Investing is a marathon, so be sure to run the race at your pace and aim for your goals.

Stay Strong, Finish Well

During the long stretch from mile 13 to mile 20, I found myself running alone much of the time. I was fatigued, yet I felt OK. I had experienced my fair share of emotional ups and downs by this point, but I trusted myself. I trusted my training. I continued to take one step at a time.

At the same time, I felt oddly apathetic. I didn’t feel much like drinking or eating gels, so I skipped an aid station. Instinctively, I knew this was a bad idea, but I just didn’t care anymore. I stopped thinking about the successful things I had done to get to this point.

The average investor is similarly susceptible to ups and downs, doubts, and apathy. When you have made sizeable progress toward achieving your goals yet still remain far from your nest egg target figure, it can be tempting to stop caring. It can be easy to rely on feelings and allow them to guide your choices and actions. You must remain consistent and continue to take the steps which helped your investments grow to this point! Investing is a marathon!

My experience from miles 20-26 was in direct contrast to the earlier stretches of the marathon. Up until this point, I was on pace to finish the race in 3 hours and 30 minutes. Everything changed at mile 20. While others whom I had passed earlier seemed to grow stronger, I was battling crippling nausea. I shouldn’t have skipped that aid station, I ruminated.

While this stretch was a slow crawl toward the finish line, it was a victory lap for one elderly gentleman. As this man who was old enough to be my grandfather passed me, he shared some sagely advice:

Just keep going. Keep your eyes on the finish line. Don’t give up.

For many investors, we experience the true ramifications of our mistakes during the home stretch. We wish we had started saving early, experienced more years of the wonder that is compound interest, and maintained greater consistency over the years. Yet the finish line of retirement is visible on the horizon.

As I passed the 26th mile marker and rounded a bend in the road, I saw the finish line for the first time in nearly two hours. I forgot about my nausea and soreness and began sprinting. I’m quite certain I must have looked like a geriatric patient gallivanting down the road, but I felt as quick as Usain Bolt as I crossed the finish line and received my medal.

Like an idiot, I awoke early the morning after the race and crawled out of bed to go for a short run. As I lumbered along under the light of the morning sun, I reflected on my training and race mistakes. Naturally, I was grateful to have learned many lessons. I was also eager to do better next time.

Recommendations to Win the Investment Marathon

However, there is no next time for investors. We all have only a single life to live, so it is important to act with wisdom the first time if we are to achieve the retirement of our dreams. Win the investment marathon by following these four recommendations.

  1. Start early! If you foolishly begin later, as did the hare, and think you can catch up, you are mistaken. Compound interest functions at its finest over long periods of time. Remember, as Warren Buffet said, “You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine different women pregnant.”
  2. Follow a plan. Remember, if you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.
  3. Keep it SIMPLE.
  4. Invest based upon your goals and desires, not those of anyone else. Your keys to happiness are not the same as those of others.

If you are looking to begin your investment race toward retirement, a number of routes can help you get started.

Disclosure: FinanceSuperhero recommends the following services and maintains an affiliate relationship with each. However, we only recommend services which we have reviewed and deemed helpful to readers.

I recommend opening an IRA (Roth, if eligible) with Betterment. At the time of publication of this article, over 175,000 investors have contributed more than $5 billion into their Betterment accounts and taken advantage of tax-efficient investing in low-cost index funds. You can even roll over an existing 401k. Open an IRA with Betterment today!

 

If you’re just getting started and desire a method to keep better track of your finances and investments in general, I recommend opening a free Personal Capital account. I trust Personal Capital to monitor all of my financial accounts in a central location, which allows me to see the big picture with a few simple clicks. Their instant calculations help me to ensure that I am on pace to meet my goals. If you desire, Personal Capital also offers advisory services should you wish to adopt a hands-off approach toward investing.


Do you believe that investing is a marathon? On a lighter note, have you ever ran a half marathon, marathon, or ultra-marathon? What other parallels do you see?

 

 

 

The Link Between Money and Behavior

The suggestion that money and behavior are forever linked is likely to elicit some very strong opinions on both sides of the debate. A majority of people base their position upon personal experience, as is the case with many debates.

Many people argue that wealthy people lack compassion and therefore do not behave charitably. Others protest that wealthy people make the vast majority of charitable contributions. The trouble is that both arguments are equally valid depending upon one’s perspective and specific circumstances.

Is there a link between money and behavior? The answer may surprise you.

Money Augments Existing Character

In 1940, during the early stages of WWII, a businessman acquired a company nicknamed “Emalia.” The company produced enamel cookware for the nation’s military. This businessman initially sought the cheapest labor available in an effort to maximize his profit margins. An already wealthy man appeared to grow even wealthier in the process.

When the violence and destruction of war threatened the well-being of his operation, the businessman sought government support to move his factory to another location. Many of his cheap laborers were rerouted to alternate locations, which caused the businessman to endure great financial loss to regain his labor force.

Following the factory relocation, Emalia ceased production of enamelware and began producing artillery shells to support the war effort. When the military questioned the factory’s low output of useful artillery, the businessman began purchasing finished inventory on the black market and reselling it as his own.

When government appointees caught on to this businessman’s deception, he sought their silence and secrecy through bribery. By the end of the war, this businessman had spent his entire fortune – reportedly in excess of $1 million – on relocation, bribes, maintaining his “cheap” workforce, and the purchase of black market goods.

Who was this man?

Oskar Schindler.

Schindler exemplified a positive connection between money and behavior.
Oskar Schindler (Credit: OskarSchindler.dk )

To Nazi sympathizers, Schindler was a traitor and war criminal who used his wealth to defy his political party and commit despicable acts of cowardice. To the rest of the world, he was a noble hero who, despite his flaws, used his position of wealth to save the lives of an estimated 1,200 persecuted Jews.

Despite living a life of drunkenness and adultery, Oskar Schindler’s vast wealth amplified his character and led him to risk his entire fortune, even his life, to save the lives of Jews. In his case, we may observe that money changes behavior for the better by bringing out a person’s true colors. After all, Schindler did what he was best at – lying, swindling, cheating, and bribing – while nobly sacrificing his wealth to save lives.

 

In the end, neither Oskar Schindler’s money nor behavior alone would have been enough. It was his money and behavior which saved the lives of Jews.

Admittedly, this is perhaps an extreme example, yet it provides a memorable illustration of an important truth: money augments existing character.

Money Does Not Change Everyone

For many people, money and behavior are linked, and often with negative consequences. However, money does not change everyone. Most of us learned this lesson at a very young age through literature and film. I learned it through a reading of Roald Dahl’s timeless book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the 1971 Gene Wilder film Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.

As you may recall, the film version takes liberty with the character of Arthur Slugworth, a candy-making rival of Wonka. Slugworth attempts to bribe all of the children who find Golden Tickets into providing him an Everlasting Gobstopper so he can uncover the secret formula and ruin Wonka forever. When Slugworth encounters our protagonist, Charlie Bucket, in a dark alley, he provides Charlie’s first test of character.

“Now listen very carefully because I’m going to make you very rich indeed… So all I want you to do is get a hold of one Everlasting Gobstopper. . . Think it over, will you? A new house for your family. Good food and comfort for the rest of their lives.”

Charlie and Grandpa Joe enjoy a fanciful visit to Wonka’s chocolate factory, and at the end, Willy Wonka probes Charlie for a link between money and behavior. After being informed that Charlie has lost his right to a lifetime supply of chocolate due to stealing fizzy lifting drinks, an incredulous Grandpa Joe shows his true colors.


CreditGIPHY

“How could you do something like this, build up a little boy’s hopes and then smash all his dreams to pieces? You’re an inhuman monster. . . Come on, Charlie. Let’s get out of here. I’ll get even with him if it’s the last thing I ever do. If Slugworth wants a Gobstopper, he’ll get one.”

In a shining moment in film, Charlie Bucket displays an uncommon display of youthful character and returns the Gobstopper. Willy Wonka drops his act and whispers, “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” After apologizing to Charlie for putting him through a trying ordeal, Wonka reveals that “Slugworth” is really Mr. Wilkinson, a Wonka employee.

Yes, perhaps I have gone to the opposite extreme now in pulling an example from film, but Charlie Bucket’s example reveals that money and behavior are not linked in all people.

Three Steps to Build Positive Connections Between Money and Behavior

In light of the previous analyses, it appears to be reasonable to conclude that people should strive to maximize the positive connections between money and behavior while minimizing or eliminating altogether the negative connections.  Of course, this requires tremendous personal discipline, but I believe it can be done by actively seeking to apply the following three action steps to build positive connections between money and behavior:

1. Do not withhold money from those in need

While I won’t advocate that you give away your entire nest egg a la Oskar Schindler, I will challenge you to increase your charitable giving right away. Furthermore, when your income increases, increase your giving in corresponding fashion. For example, if you currently contribute 2% of your annual earnings to charity, be sure that you continue to contribute that same percentage after receiving a raise.

2. Do not find your happiness in money

Despite our human instincts which seek to convince us otherwise, there is not a linear relationship between money and happiness. Researchers have not yet established solid proof that money can or cannot buy happiness; in fact, research over the past ten years reveals that behavioral psychologists may be more divided on this issue than ever before.

Perhaps the link between money and happiness does not lie within how much money or how many possessions one possesses, but instead lies in purposefully managing the money  and possessions which pass through his hands.

3. Do not allow yourself to be defined by money

If you allow money to define you, you are constructing a fragile glass house. Instead, live a life of introspection and view any excess money as a means to make a contribution to society.

Conclusion

Ultimately, whether you allow yourself to develop negative links between money and behavior is a personal matter. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, from rags to riches or somewhere in between, money will always seek to bring out the best and worst in you. By allowing money to augment but not change your existing character, you will be well on your way toward cultivating the positive connections between money and behavior.


What have your personal experiences taught you regarding the connection between money and behavior? What challenges do you face in cultivating positive connections between money and behavior?

Credit Consciousness is Key to Financial Health

This post, “Credit Consciousness is Key to Financial Health,”  is sponsored and authored by Ethan who writes for Readies.co.uk. It presents a clear message on the importance of credit consciousness as a component of overall financial health.


Credit Consciousness & Financial Health

Modern consumers face myriad borrowing and credit alternatives, tempting them to buy on margin. From daily-use credit cards to home equity financing (and everything in-between), existing credit options help users cover wide-ranging costs of living. Using credit is not only convenient, but access to loans makes it possible for consumers to make big-ticket purchases they otherwise could not afford.

With so much at stake, building and preserving a strong credit rating is an essential financial pursuit. If you are armed with a sturdy credit score; financing is at your fingertips. A troubled credit history, on the other hand, can limit your options. And since credit missteps are hard to overcome, keeping-up with bill payments and other credit obligations is the only way to ensure a healthy credit score. Whether you are in the market for a loan or simply strengthening your financial understanding, consider the following credit concerns.

When it comes to credit consciousness, there are many factors to consider in order to maintain overall financial health and well-being.

Borrow Only What You Need

Well-managed debt does not strain household cash flow. On the contrary, loan payments and other obligations are a natural part of personal finance. It is only when debt levels rise beyond your ability to pay timely, that you become vulnerable to financial difficulties.

Consider the long-term ramifications of opening credit accounts and taking-on debt. Building balances on credit card accounts, for instance, can rise to an unmanageable level, leaving you to pay interest only, minimum payments. Too often, the cycle becomes unbreakable, as income levels are insufficient to chip-away at the principle balance. Worse yet, adding new charges – even as oppressive balances linger, can lead to delinquent payments, default, and damaged credit.

In order to hold debt at reasonable levels, prioritize the way you use credit. In other words, apply loans and personal financing when they are most needed, paying cash for day to day purchases. By limiting credit card use to a convenience, rather than a bank account, you’ll stay timely with monthly payments, and remain on the right side of creditors.

Evaluate Lending Options

Financing options fall across a wide range of banking products. Long term mortgages, for example, serve high-dollar real-estate deals, extending low interest rates for decades. Short-term, fast cash loans, like payday loans are available at the other end of the spectrum, using your future pay as collateral for money today. Personal loans, consolidation loans and secured equity alternatives offer even more choices for borrowers, supplying funding for everything from home improvements to automobile purchases.

Whether you’re in need of quick cash or a 30-year fixed residential home loan, evaluating lending options from several providers is the only way to be sure the financing you select has a competitive rate and favorable terms. Before committing to installment credit, compare financing terms online. And don’t hesitate to shop around for the most affordable forms of revolving credit, protecting you from predatory interest rates and unreasonable credit card fees and penalties.

Use the Best Loan for the Job

Several distinct forms of financing are available to consumers, so it is important to match the types of credit you use to the jobs at hand. A credit card charge, for instance, would not be well-suited for a big-ticket purchase to be paid-off over time. In this case, an installment loan or low-interest equity financing would be a better alternative, resulting in lower interest payments.

On the other hand, day-to-day purchases you intend to settle at the end of each billing cycle are easily managed on a revolving credit account – often earning “miles” or reward “points.” Depending upon the urgency of your financial need, you may select a short-term, “payday” loan to help bridge a financial gap. This type of financing is issued without a formal credit check, so it doesn’t take long for applicants to receive needed funding. As long as you have a job and pledge to pay timely, payday lenders are willing to float a short-term loan. Late payment triggers penalties and fees, so this type of loan is not cost-effective, beyond a single pay period.

The way you manage credit has a meaningful impact on your financial health. By staying informed and evaluating credit options up-front, you’ll avoid missteps and build positive credit relationships. Turning away from credit challenges, on the other hand, leads to financial instability and can limit your options for future financing.


How do you maintain credit consciousness? 

Self-Control and the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

Today’s piece, “Self-Control and the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment,” is a guest post written by Ryan, the creator of Frugal Familia. Ryan’s site is dedicated to bringing families closer together while also teaching positive financial behaviors. Frugal Familia attempts to confront the shortcomings of personal finance in our educational system by shifting the responsibility to the family and by making concepts both easy and fun to learn!

Follow Frugral Familia on Twitter.

There are two types of people in this world: those who practice self-control and those who seek instant gratification. Which type of person are you?

Self-Control and the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

In my younger years I would have failed the marshmallow test miserably. I was all about the got to have it right now mentality. Fast forward to today and my mentality has changed dramatically. Now, I say bring on the marshmallow test, the Portillo’s chocolate cake test, or any other test for that matter! You may be wondering what has brought about such a change, and the answer is actually very simple. I’ve taught myself the importance of self-control and delayed gratification.

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment was a study conducted by Professor Walter Mischel at Stanford University in 1960’s. In these studies, a child was offered a choice of being able to eat a single marshmallow now, or if they were able to wait fifteen minutes, they would then receive two marshmallows. Some of the children were able to resist the temptation while others were not. The researchers continued to follow up with the children for the next several decades. The results found that those children who were able to wait the fifteen minutes for the additional reward tended to have better life outcomes. Here are a few of the unexpected correlations.

  • higher rates of educational attainment
  • higher SAT scores
  • lower body mass index
  • lower divorce rates
  • lower rates of drug/alcohol addiction
  • better social skills

The marshmallow test over the years has become synonymous with temptation and willpower. This, however, gives way to an entirely different discussion:

Can self-control and delayed gratification be learned, or are they genetic? 

One of the oldest arguments in history is the nature versus nurture debate. To address this concern, there was a follow up study done at the University of Rochester in which the marshmallow test was duplicated, this time with a twist. Before offering the children the marshmallow, the children were split into two groups.

The first group was exposed to a series of unreliable experiences. For example, the researcher gave the children a small box of crayons and promised to bring a bigger one, but never did. Then the researcher gave the children a small sticker and promised to bring better stickers, but never did.

The second group had very reliable experiences. They were promised better crayons and got them. They were told about the better stickers and they received them.

And the results…

In this study, it was found that the second group of children waited an average of four times longer than the first group. This shows that the child’s ability to delay gratification and display self-control was not genetically predisposed but rather a result of their individual experiences and environments. I do believe this assumption holds water. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I myself have also been able to learn these critical abilities over time.

Self-control
Frugal Familia says, “Bring on the Portillo’s chocolate cake challenge!” (Credit: ChooseChicago.com)

Self-Control and Delayed Gratification In Our Everyday Lives

As Madonna so keenly observed in 1984, we live in a material world. Life is constantly tempting us to indulge in our guilty pleasures which are so readily available. It is up to us as strong minded individuals to resist those urges and exhibit delayed self-control and gratification behavior.

We can choose to have something now, or we can choose to have something bigger and better at a later time. We can have a single minion today, or we can build an army of minions in the future. Every day we are faced with multiple decisions which test our ability to either receive instant gratification or delay gratification. Here are just a few examples;

If you delay the gratification of relaxing and watching television, then you will be more productive.

If you delay the gratification of ending your workout sooner, then you will be stronger.

If you delay the gratification of eating dessert or unhealthy foods, then you will be healthier.

If you delay the gratification of making an expensive purchase, then you will be wealthier.

Delaying gratification improves our willpower and ultimately helps us reach our long-term goals faster. For some people this behavior comes easier than for others; however, fear not – these are behaviors that anyone can learn.

Techniques To Improve Delaying Gratification

With consistent effort and practice, anyone can implement the following techniques to improve self-control and and embrace delayed gratification.

Avoidance

If you cannot resist temptation avoid it! As the age old proverb says, out of sight, out of mind. If you like to spend money shopping, don’t go to the mall. If you tend to crave fast foods, bring your lunch to work.

Distraction

The children who were able to resist temptation in the marshmallow experiment distracted themselves from eating the marshmallow by singing, playing with their fingers, closing their eyes and other techniques. If you are unable to avoid a particular situation, then it helps to find a distraction. One way of doing so is by focusing on another pleasure which is not currently available. The more you can take your focus away from the temptation, the better.

Visualization

Visualize the end goal. If you’re saving for a down payment on a home, print out a picture and keep it somewhere to serve as a constant reminder. If you find yourself tempted by dessert, visualize those calories going straight to your hips.

Conclusion

I’m sure most have heard the saying “good things come to those who wait.” Yet it seems so very few of us actually heed this advice. I imagine that with a little hard work and by employing some of the techniques above that anyone can develop better self-control and delayed gratification.

It’s important that we constantly remind ourselves that every decision in life comes with a trade-off. Every time we seek immediate pleasure we are stealing from our future selves, robbing ourselves blind of our future happiness, health, and wealth. I don’t steal from others, so why the heck would I steal from myself?

When we get down to it, there are two types of people in this world. There are those who seek instant gratification and those who are willing to resist their impulses in order to obtain greater pleasure in the future. Which type of person are you?


Do you think you would pass the marshmallow test? Do you naturally practice self-control or seek instant gratification?