Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Keep a Knockin'

"Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7:7

While watching an interview featuring Tony Robbins and Joe Berlinger, a movie director who has recently produced a full length feature film documenting one of Robbins’ multi-day seminars, I was reminded of one of the key secrets to finding financial freedom. After pitching their movie, several people in the audience were given the opportunity to question Tony or Berlinger. In an answer to one of these questions Tony observed, “People over estimate what they can accomplish in a year, but they under estimate what they can accomplish in ten years.”

On numerous occasions, I have observed that the poor think week to week or even day to day. The middle class just wants to cover the monthly payments necessary to maintain their lifestyle. The rich are making plans that cover years. The very rich think in terms of decades.

For most of us, who do not win the lottery or have an indulgent rich sugar daddy, achieving financial freedom requires years of focused concentrated effort. Based on my personal experience, achieving a major financial goal will take about ten years of consistent work.

I paid off a thirty year mortgage in about 9 ½ years. I am afraid of debt. I wanted to get out of debt as quickly as possible. I was willing to make sacrifices in order to achieve this goal, but it was more than that. In my mind I was not a debtor. This was simply unacceptable. For eight years I drove a 1966 Volkswagen without air conditioning in order to make extra payments to principal. I maintained a spreadsheet detailing every payment that I made. As I made those payments, I watched months roll off the back side of that loan ultimately saving me well over $100,000. Every time I made an extra payment, I celebrated. When I made my last mortgage payment, I received the largest raise of my entire life. What could you do with an extra $1,000 every month?

About the time I turned 50, I started thinking about investing for retirement. Given that I was the totally debt free owner of a house and had some money in the bank and in my version of a 401(k) I was just about where Stanley and Danko, authors of The Millionaire Next Door would expect to find someone of my age and income. Then I went into savings overdrive. I gradually bumped up my contributions to the 401(k) to 14%, just below the recommended 15%. It was a mistake to reach that level so late in life, but I was suspicious after the Clinton administration “borrowed,” confiscated (?) all the G fund money in Government retirement accounts during one of the periodic Federal shutdowns. Of course Clinton returned my money, but after that, I never completely trusted that account. Instead, I went wild with my taxable investment account. On many months, my contributions to my taxable retirement nest egg were approaching 30% of my take home pay. It is amazing what can be accomplished if you don’t have a mortgage payment, a car payment, or carry a balance on a credit card. Over the course of ten years, I increased the liquid portion of my net worth by over 600%. At this point I was close to double the net worth expected for someone of my age and income.

I remember with some pleasure when during one of my annual performance evaluations my boss asked that silly question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

My answer, “Retired.”

You can do it. Set yourself a big goal. Then start to work. Record your progress. Celebrate your victories. Refuse to accept anything less than excellence in pursuing your dream. The day will come when other people will tell you that you are lucky. Just smile and agree with their evaluation of your success, reminding yourself that God does play a role in our lives.

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

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