I have great intentions! Ah, I’ll get to them eventually. When life comes by in a rush it is easy to keep old habits and hard to develop new ones. I intend to step through the Nine Step Program
developed and popularized by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Back in the late 90s, the program helped me gain confidence in the way I managed my finances. As I’ve said before, it is time to do it again. Progress since the first time I mentioned it on August 6th equals zero. If you find that managing your finances is easy to procrastinate around, know that even from someone who knows its value, getting started is the hardest part.
Distill most personal finance texts down to the basics and they become, “Spend less than you make. Invest the rest.” Eight words, yet bookshelves are filled with variations on that theme, including my book, Dream. Invest. Live. The variety exists because there is variety within humans.
How you spend is determined by your values and your necessities. Some people would never buy a gun. Some people would never be without one. Some people live alone. Some people have dependents that extend beyond family and acquaintances. Some people learn to be so frugal that they can meet their needs for less than some are compelled to spend on appearances and dining out. Some people have to pay for bad luck through medical bills.
How much you make is determined by your skills, talents, opportunities, and luck. Even Warren Buffet acknowledges that he has become one of the richest people on the planet because of luck.
“I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions.” – Warren Buffet
Invest the rest are three simple words, yet the range of investment possibilities extends far beyond More Than Stocks; and each possibility is worthy of volumes of books and years of study. Be lucky enough to live in America, and many opportunities are available – if you’re making more than you spend. Tens of millions can’t afford both food and housing, and may be in debt. They aren’t investing. Yet, get on the other side of that balance and compound interest proves Warren right.
I intend to step through the Program because it helps systematize each of those steps, and adds 6 more. Mentally I am preparing for them again, looking ahead to the various exercises, and knowing that none are onerous though a couple are tedious while being instructive. And yet, I have yet to begin.
Life is nothing but time. Life is real. Time, at least for now, is non-negotiable. Money is abstract. I can make more of it, predominantly through spending time. The trade of time for money is improving, but the balance is fragile enough that any relaxation in effort is met with a shortage of resources. The notion of taking time off to better enjoy time puts too much pressure on my future time. Spending money to make more money is a fact of American life, but when there is no extra money to spend the extra money can’t be made. The US Government defines poverty by a yearly income, but a truer dividing line is that point where there is no extra money and no extra time.
Our lives are never totally out of our control. I can decide to risk bankruptcy by only working the hours I want; but, that is a risk that entails much more trust in serendipity than is prudent in a society that bases food, shelter, clothing, and health on wealth. Even as I type this post I am making a choice. I post twice a week, which takes about 3-4 hours each week. An extra 3-4 hours would help me get a lot done with at least a few of the tasks on my long list, including the Nine Step Program. I’m willing to make that trade because I know that I’m already on the right track to regaining financial independence. The Program will merely help me better estimate how long it will take. This blog, however, is evidently useful to a widely scattered international audience because so few people are able to articulate what it is like to live through such financial turmoils.
If you are on a similar path, congratulations. Even if you’ve only made as much progress as me, that is to set the intention, congratulate yourself on being far ahead of the millions who avoid, ignore, or live in fear of managing their personal finances. Every step may seem onerous, tedious, or innocuous; but, whichever path you take, deciding to place yourself at the start is the necessary first step. And then step. And celebrate. And step. And repeat, and realize that you’re heading to a goal that you defined. Get there and celebrate again. And don’t be surprised if you find more steps after that, but that’s another story.
Considering what I just suggested you consider, I am going to close this post now, a bit short, so I can take the few extra minutes saved to take at least the tiniest of steps: getting a copy of the program and reading page one.
For those of you who want to help me along with that balancing of time and money, keep in mind that I am happy to consult (for a reasonable fee) about such things (few have seen the swings through America’s economic classes as I have), or help me with that passive income that comes from sales of work I’ve already conducted (buy my book(s)!). History suggests that we’ll both benefit.