Six months ago I signed for my first sprint triathlon. I was excited. This has always been “a thing” I wanted to do. What better present could I give myself for my 36th birthday? Side note: I can think of about 245 better ways right now. In November, I started training. In December, I became discouraged and two weeks ago, I changed it to a duathlon. Last Sunday, I finished the race in way better time than expected and yet, it feels like a failure. This is just like our money life. We all set expectations in life, we set goals and then we fail and give up. So today, I want to talk about the few things that I learned from my “failed” triathlon. I promise it has lots to do with your money.
- We see our financial situation as mostly black and white. It’s either “we have this under control” or “I don’t believe I got this”. But the truth is always somewhere in between. For example, do you have 3k in credit card debt and feel like a failure? Guess what, you are not, as long as you have a plan how you will pay it off. Having a well-defined plan that takes you 3 years down the road to the last penny of that credit card debt is success. Just like biking and running for almost two hours is.
- We give up way too easily. Hard things require commitment. Unless you are person who has amazing self-discipline and gets a kick out of doing the right thing all the time.. but really, who does? Humans are predisposed towards doing the easy and pleasurable thing. Do you really want the effort to look at your Mint account once a week, making sure you are on your budget track? Do I want to spend my days swimming when I don’t enjoy it? Nope, we do not. But this is how you eventually accomplish your goals, be they financial or personal. And at the end of the day, I promise that the control you gain by knowing that you are improving your life financially outweighs any kind of high you might get from a temporary impulse purchase. So get on looking at your financial life today.
- Nevertheless, it is ok for us to give up on some things. Some things are just too painful. Too unpleasant. If doing what is right financially ends up making you so miserable that you give up altogether, then it is not a win in any way. If instead, you give up that one thing that makes you cringe and focus on the things you can do, I am OK with you going down that path. As I was thinking about the outcome of my race, it was pretty obvious that I am still better off by finishing 2 out of 3 events than giving up altogether. Same goes for you. If giving up lattes is never happening (who came up with that nonsense anyways?)… screw it. Go and focus on increasing your income, cutting off something else that you don’t care about or even improving another financial aspect of your life. 67% done is better than 0% done. Do your thing.
- Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there is one right way to do things. There is no one way to approach your financial life. There is no one best way to train for marathons, to climb mountains or raise your kids. Everyone has her own issues and things to deal with. Figure out what you want from life and what you need to do to get there, one step at a time. Then, make it happen. Get to that 401(k) finally and allocate it properly. Look at your spending and decide how you want to change it. Compare your health insurance plans and see if there is a better choice. Pick something that you care about, that you need to do or that is important to you and start working on it.
- It’s never too late to fix your money life. The 30k you have in credit card debt, the no money post-divorce problem, the I don’t have time to deal with this issue… it is all a starting point. Today is the day you can start. That lady who had 78 painted on her calf and who zoomed passed me on her bike doesn’t care that she is 78, she IS making this race happen. I believe you are the same way and you just don’t know it. So put all the excuses in a box (actually, write them and then cross them out; it’s supposed to be more effective). Start improving, optimizing, and making the financial aspect of your lives better. It will bring peace in your life. I promise.
And next year, I am resigning for the Las Olas sprint triathlon. I’d better go learn how to swim soon.