Tuesday, August 9, 2016

When to Lower Your Standard?

A couple of months before I retired I became sufficiently unhappy about my weight and physical condition that I was ready to do something about it. If I wanted to do it right, I would have checked myself into a hospital for a couple of days so that the doctors could perform a complete physical. Even though there was no compelling reason for such a thorough examination, I remember my father had that done a couple of times back when he was somewhere around my current age of 65. I would then take the medical report to an experienced certified personal trainer who would study the results. He would then likely test me using a number of different kinds of exercises and weight machines to determine my current limitations. After developing an appropriate exercise and diet regime, he would then supervise my physical training and my food intake. I expect this would cost somewhere in the low to mid thousands for the doctors and maybe $50 an hour multiplied by 4 hours a week for the trainer.

Instead I put on a pair of walking shoes, opened the carport door, and walked twice around the block, a distance of 1.1 miles. Now over three and a half years later, I am walking 5.25 miles or 6.25 miles 4 to 6 times a week. I have lost about 35 pounds and I am in much better shape. There is no way I would have ever chosen to go with the best. Even if I won the lottery I doubt I have voluntarily gone into a hospital, but good enough is much better than nothing.

While running tests in the lab, I would sometimes work with a fitting room mechanic who was perhaps the most naturally funny human being I have ever met. I really don’t remember much about the quality of his work, but it was a pleasure to have him on my job because he was a source of constant entertainment. He was a divorced man in his early forties, who was always on the lookout for women. His philosophy was summed up on a bumper sticker found on the back of his truck, “When all else fails, lower your standards.”

He once told us, “No self respecting ten would ever have anything to do with me. I might get lucky with a seven every now and then, but if I settle for a four or a five they will go out with me every time.” His appraisal of his “dateability” was probably just about on target.

While different authors tend to focus on different aspects of the money equation, they all pretty much agree what kind of behaviors lead to financial freedom. However, if you are unwilling to put forth the level of effort needed to get dramatic results, please do something to take your first steps toward financial freedom. This isn’t rocket science. Just as there are only two ways to lose weight, exercise more or eat less, there are only two ways to improve your financial condition earn more money or spend less. Start looking for a better job. Volunteer for overtime. Quit making that morning stop at Starbucks for a $5.00 latte. Brown bag it at work instead of going out for lunch. For heaven’s sake, pay yourself first. It doesn’t matter what you are earning, every time money crosses your palm, put some of it into savings, ten percent right off the top of your take home pay is almost a universal recommendation, but if that seems overwhelming, commit to 5%. If your employer offers a 401(k) start contributing something to fund your retirement.

Sir Isaac Newton told us that a body at rest will remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. Once in motion, a body will continue to move at a constant velocity in a straight line until an external force changes its velocity or direction. If you sit and do nothing, don’t expect anything to happen. Once you are in motion you are likely to stay in motion. Adding what I know about human psychology to Newtonian physics, I think I could say a body in motion that is heading towards a desired goal will tend to move faster as it grows closer to its goal.

Set a realistic financial objective for yourself, one you believe that you can obtain. Whether it is one lap around the block, asking the woman in the next cubicle out for dinner, or saving 5% of your take home pay, do something.

Do it today.

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