Monday, January 12, 2015

Nobody Ever Said it Was Going to Be Easy

Important things are usually pretty simple. The money equation that dictates the outcome of our financial life can be stated as:

Money In = Money Stored + Money Spent

That equation integrated over the course of your lifetime is all there is to it. If you want to be free from debt (negative Money Stored) or build savings for retirement or a child’s education (positive Money Stored) there are only two things that will do it. You can increase Money In or decrease Money Spent. At least at the beginning you will need to do both at the same time.

Since I was a child I have had a problem with my weight. Those of you who are slim and fit can look at people like me and think, “What’s wrong with him? Doesn’t he know about the fat equation?”

Food In = Fat Stored + Exercise

They could tell me, “There are only two ways to lower Fat Stored, eat less or exercise more. You probably need to do both.”

And they would be right. I could say, “But I am a few days shy of my sixty fourth birthday, I have arthritis in both my knees, and I suffer from a heart arrhythmia.”

What I can’t do, my excuses, don’t matter. Nobody is interested and excuses will not improve my condition. At one point I asked myself what I could do. I could walk. The first day is the hardest. What you need to do is get dressed, put on your walking shoes, and open the front door. Then let your feet decide what to do next.

Over the course of three years I have dropped about 40 pounds by increasing Exercise. Although I have improved my diet, it is still pretty lousy. Fat meat, carbohydrates, and beer are not recommended for a weight loss diet. You don’t think I know that? Living on Romaine Lettuce and vegetable smoothies just doesn’t appeal to me.

If you drop 40 pounds by increasing Exercise, that will not be the only benefit. My blood pressure has improved. Last week my cardiologist told me that for the first time in twelve years, I no longer need to be on prescription blood thinners, an aspirin a day is good enough. I view that as an enormous victory.

I am still something on the order of 40 or 50 pounds overweight. It is my intention to preserve in my exercise program, maybe improve my diet some more, and hopefully, someday, get off the prescription medication I take to lower my heart rate. Will I succeed? I don’t know, but just for today, I am going to try to do better.

If you have a problem with the money equation, there is something you can do to improve your situation. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are a victim of the economy, sneaky bankers, or the machinations of the Government. No matter what is going on in the economy, somebody is making it, without cheating their brothers and sisters or scamming the system.

If you live in the United States, there is a pretty good chance you can find a way to spend less money. Do you really need to spend $100 a month on a cell phone? Do you really need to spend $150 a month on cable? How about the amount of money you are spending on restaurant and convenience food? Any room for improvement there?

Some personal finance teachers such as, Trent Hamm, author of the Simple Dollar has turned frugality into an art form. His financial choices are allowing him to enjoy a high quality lifestyle with his wife and children. One of the old classics, Your Money or Your Life, by Joseph Dominguez, challenges the reader to calculate the cost of items in terms of hours rather than dollars. Let’s say that after deducting taxes, rent, utilities, and a reasonable amount of money for food from your salary, you are left with $4.00 an hour in discretionary income. Do you really want to work for 25 hours every month for your cell phone provider? Think about it.

You can make yourself a more valuable person. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. I am not talking about more valuable in the eyes of God. We are all equally valuable in the eyes of God. He died so that we can live. I am talking about value in the eyes of the market. Unless you are a thief, an embezzler, a scammer, or a skimmer your paycheck reflects the value of the service you provide to your neighbors. If you want to increase Money In, become a more valuable servant. Don’t worry about Kobe Bryant’s $48 Million contract extension. You are not Kobe. His job is being the best Kobe Bryant he can be. Your job is being the best you, you can be.

If you don’t believe you are earning enough money in your current job, find ways to be of greater value to your boss or find a different job where your personality, values, and skills will be appreciated. If you don’t have the skills necessary for life in the new millennium, go back to school or just go to the library and learn how to fix toilets or program a computer.

I never said it was going to be easy. It isn’t easy. Anything worthwhile requires effort, but ask yourself, “Do I want to spend the rest of my life working to fulfill somebody else’s dreams or do I want to work to fulfill my dreams?” You are not in this alone. God will give you wisdom and strength if you ask. Look for people who will be an encouragement. People who will push you rather tell you, “Poor baby.” Find people who have been there, people who have faced the same difficulties and obstacles that you are facing; people who are overcomers. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Just for today, do something that will improve your situation. If you fail and some days you will fail; decide in your heart, “I will try again tomorrow.”

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