Most folks are convinced the wealthy know some big financial “Secret” the rest of us don’t.
Like, they went to “the right” school and met “the right” people. Or they heard about Tesla before anyone else did, or got in on the ground floor of Amazon. Or somehow, they cracked the code on those free trading apps like Robin Hood and made a fortune buying and selling penny stocks.
I think there is a “Secret.” But it’s not any of the stuff I just mentioned.
In his excellent book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear tells the story of Dave Brailsford. For the record, Dave’s the guy who lifted British Cycling out of obscurity some 20 years ago.
Quick history lesson: For the entire 20th century, British cyclists defined mediocrity in competitive European cycling. No Olympic gold medals. No Tour de France victories.
Then Brailsford came along with his “relentless commitment” to a philosophy of tiny marginal improvement in everything. Instead of looking for a singular breakthrough improvement, Brailsford broke down every aspect of cycling. Then he set about improving each component by 1%.
Instead of one giant leap to glory, 100 tiny steps in the right direction.
The result of this relentless approach to incremental improvement? After, literally “spinning their wheels” for an entire century, in one decade (2007-2017), British cyclists reeled off 178 world championships, sixty-six Olympic medals, and five Tour de France victories.
Clear concludes, “It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.”
“One defining moment.” That’s the idea behind the widespread belief in a big “Secret” that is guaranteed to get you to financial success. You may as well go looking for Sasquatch.
What’s the real “secret”? It’s those 100 tiny steps, those little 1% improvements.
“Success is the product of daily habits,” says Clear, “not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.”
Friend, it all comes down to habits. Little, simple, smart financial habits.
Let’s say, for example, you realize you’d be smart to save 10-15% of your income…but you currently have no plan for saving anything. Think it’d be a good idea to immediately slash (and stash away) $1,000 a month from your budget? How long do you think that would last?
But what if decided to get “1% better” in different areas? (I’m speaking figuratively, not literally. Please don’t write me about my math in the following examples!)
Could you save $150 a month by eating out half as often as you do now? Could you cut your tax burden by moving $5,000 out of savings into an IRA? Or spend $100 less each month on groceries with a bit of planning? What if you paid off a debt and redirected those regular debt payments to savings? What if you committed to saving half of your next raise?
You’re unlikely to get to $1,000 per month in savings by one grand action. You can get there by taking eight or ten small, strategic steps.
Next week we’ll talk more about how to put such habits to work in your financial life.
Until then, get a jumpstart by reading my new e-book. It’s titled “How to Put Money Worries in Your Rear View Mirror.” It’s for anyone who wants to establish healthier financial habits. Best of all, it’s FREE (see, you’re already saving money!) to anyone who emails me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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