For the past 6 months I have led an accountability group for health and fitness. One of the things I have learned during my time with these folks is that weight loss, fitness and general health comes down to a strong mental game. In fact, I’d dare to say that success in this area is 90% mental, 9% food and 1% exercise. Finance is no different. I have been a financial counselor or adviser in some form or fashion for the last 20 years. While there is no question my passion is stocks and studying the financial markets, my business centers around helping folks identify and achieve their financial goals. Whether that is paying off debt, buying a home, paying for college or securing a safe retirement, the mechanics of achieving these goals are all rooted in the same mental game and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, if you do not have a sound mental game when it comes to money and the material items money buys, money will destroy you.
I am often asked how to achieve wealth. My answer is always the same. “Live on less than you make, invest the rest, and do it for a very long time.” You see this is not rocket science and everyone wants to skip to the end of that equation, spending their time studying just what the investment is as if there is some magic pill or formula that will overshadow a poor savings plan.
When my wife and I were first married we bought a starter home on Appian Way in Lexington Kentucky. I believe we spent $47,000 and at the time I felt like we spent too much. I only reference the street since I have many Kentucky readers and those that know the area will appreciate the location. At the time this was not an easy purchase for us. Not in the financial sense as the banker kindly told us we could afford $200,000 (He had no idea I was a financial adviser and there wasn’t a chance in France I was buying that much home) but rather our struggle came from the fact that it was truly difficult to buy such a small home that required lots of work when our friends were buying new large homes in fancy subdivisions. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this bothered me but it did. We pressed on and worked hard to turn that place into a home. I recall throwing a ‘painting party’ where I gathered a group of friends to help paint all the walls. I simply told them we were doing a painting project and invited them along. At some point during the day when around 10 friends were knocking out all the interior painting a buddy said “I really like that we’re doing this and helping these folks out. Quint, tell us about the family that lives here.” We shared quite a chuckle when they learned we were the family.
The goal at that stage of life was simple. Get out of debt. When we were married my wife and I had credit card debt, car debt and some student loan debt. I was starting a new business and she was working long hours as a PT. We had dreams of having children and her staying home. It didn’t seem remotely possible at the time but we knew that without debt it would be much easier. When friends took vacations or ate out, we sat at home and ate in. It was not an easy first couple of years and I’m not going to hide the fact that many times I wanted to throw in the towel. We never did.
We sold that house a few years later as we embarked on our first of many entrepreneurial journeys. To this day it remains the best real estate deal I’ve ever been involved in and laid the foundation to a practice of being completely debt free, we’ve followed to this day.
When someone asks me how to get out of debt or build wealth the answer does not lie in some sort of high flying stock, investment theme or sector, it lies in the hard work and discipline of humbly living within your means, setting aside the ‘keeping up with the joneses’ mentality and doing whatever is required, without sacrificing your character, to achieve your goal.
Over time these efforts begin to compound themselves and the momentum is amazing. When one debt is paid off, the payment can be rolled onto another. When you become accustomed to living below your means and debt is tackled, more money becomes available for the finer things in life or investing for your future. When you begin to make the correct mental decisions your financial world will literally change before your eyes.