The time is now
Conner is starting his final fall semester of college and will essentially be done with his degree at the end of this semester. The spring will bring his capstone class, graduation and the start of being fully on his own.
It is the dream of every parent for their child to grow up and exceed the life they have lived. We want our children to have an amazing life with a good job, a loving family, financial success, adventure, service to the community and a heart for God.
I grew up without strong dreams for all of these things and yet somehow ended up blessed to have much of them. Could I have done more and could I have been more? Absolutely! Nonetheless, we have done our best to live our lives as a positive example for our son and fully expect that he will move on to excel in his own way on his own journey.
The path to this point has not come without adversity. Conner is a survivor after having experienced the great trama of his cliff accident his senior year of high school. The scars of that time and the rods in his back will stay with him as a reminder that he is different. He is a miracle to be here. The blessing to have survived comes with a positive burden. It will serve him as a reminder of the frailty of life and the responsibility to live it with gusto. Thankfully, I know he understands this burden and will use his story to stay strong and to inspire others.
The truth is that the vast majority of people take the easy path and chose to be average. Being different is hard. It kind of sucks at times to skip the shiny object and instead stay out of debt while saving for a reward that is 20+ years away. It sucks at times to work the extra hours and put in the extra effort when others are just skating by and are getting the same benefits. It sucks at times to pass up time on the couch and instead hit the gym. It sucks at times to spend a day in service of others when instead you could be hanging out and just relaxing. It sucks at times to spend hours a week on your own learning in an effort to grow as a person.
Everything worth having and everything that leads to excellence takes effort and time.
For Conner, we have seen the positive desire to do the work, give the service, and live with a long term mindset during these college years. We have no doubt that his future will have many challenges and opportunities. We also have no doubt that he has the talent and the drive to make his dreams come true and live to the potential that has been intended by God.
I am so very thankful for this moment and for the blessing of being a father to an amazing son and a husband to an amazing wife.
The time is now and the future is bright.
I still remember the day I realized that my daily diet coke habit was stealing my retirement dreams.
At the time, Coke was running a promotion using a code from a bottle cap to get prizes. You would save your cap, enter the number on a website and points would add up for something fabulous. I kept these caps in a desk drawer and it did not take long for these to really pile up since I had a long time frequent habit of visiting the machine at work several times a day. There was the before work Coke,mid-morning Coke, lunch Coke, mid-afternoon Coke and usually something towards the end of the day.
One afternoon I looked at the pile of caps wondered how much in cost that represented. Next, I began to think about cost over time and if I continued this pattern what it would mean in the long term. The final kicker was when I plugged in my average monthly diet coke spending into a savings calculator and considered how much $5 a day applied to retirement could mean if saved for the next 20 years.
The result was mind blowing. Over the course of 20 years these drinks would cost me $59,307 in opportunity. That is real money and a real chunk of change.
I decided at that moment to dig deep into my spending habits to find savings anywhere I could and then apply that savings to my get out of debt, save for kid college and retire comfortable plan. That was close to 20 years ago and I bet I have not visited a coke machine more than a few times at work. The savings redirected over this long period of time has made a real difference in the direction of our dreams.
We all have our cap pile spending excesses and most people put little thought into how these seemingly minor everyday expenses can add up to steal our future. This can be retirement, college for the children and more.
Here is a typical pile for the average person in a month:
- $100 sodas or fancy coffee ($5×20)
- $160 lunch ($8×20)
- $80 Snacks ($2×20)
- $50 Gym Membership
- $12 Netflix
- $10 Spotify
- $12 Premium cable channel upgrade
=$424 a month
These “small” charge items if instead invested with an average return over time:
Would equal $251,463 total saved in 20 years at 8%
Would equal $622,495 total saved in 30 years at 8%
Would equal $1,423,526 total saved in 40 years at 8%
Notice that on this list I am not including things like expensive vacations, dinners out, designer clothes, new cars, weekend fun or any other items many people tend to overdo. For many, these are just the basics.
If you are in your 20’s and 30’s listen to me now and wake up! Your small choices here and there to ensure you are saving will compound and open doors that only a savings calculator and your mind can imagine. You must start now if you want to have the freedom to do what you want as you get older and not live in poverty at retirement.
My journey to the golden exit is coming quickly and I am thankful for that day so many years ago when a pile of Diet Coke caps helped trigger a dream.
You can do it too. You just need to educate yourself, write down where you want to be financially in the future and start today making the changes today that will secure your future tomorrow.
What is one thing this month you could give up and then re-direct to saving opportunity? Even a 1% increase to your 401K or IRA will make a huge difference over a long period of time.
This week is Thanksgiving and there is no doubt that many folks will take time to reflect and be thankful. That is a very good thing.
The truth is that the spirit of thankfulness is something we should have every day of our lives and there is no need to make it a holiday. At the same time, the coming together of family and friends plus a chance to eat three slices of pie in a day is something I do not plan to pass up.
Daily thankfulness and an attitude of gratitude are important for a happy life. Gratitude or “the state of being grateful” would seem like a simple thing, unfortunately, there are way too many people that just do not get it.
When we place ourselves in a grateful state the world seems less burdensome and the future is brighter. I believe that anyone can dig deep no matter their current situation and find a reason to be grateful.
Not only does this state feel good but there are many studies which show people who live with a spirit of gratitude experience healthier and happier lives. This is one of the “duh” type revelations yet for some reason I do seem to find a lot of angry people.
What if the person flipping you off on the drive home were to instead focus on gratefulness about having a car rather than to be walking? Just having a car will put you in the top 10% of the world population. That is a pretty cool thing.
I see little items of gratitude as bricks to build my house of happiness. That is why I keep a list of my thanks. Over the years this list has grown and when I have a down moment I pull this list up and reflect on the hundreds of blessings I have captured. How in the world can I possibly feel down when there is so much good?
Some examples right from my list
My wife’s smile
Dirt between my toes
My gratitude list is long and as I look at the words in most cases I can go back to when I added them and for just a few seconds return to that grateful moment.
So here’s the deal. Be thankful this week, eat your pie and enjoy the holiday. After, start a list and consider every day to be Thanksgiving. Happy is easier than bitter and far more fun.