A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step.
For those that are new to the concept of financial independence, here are 10 baby steps on The Path to becoming a millionaire.
Re-programming our habits eventually creates incredible results. The magic is in the aggregation of marginal gains.
1. Go one day without spending
For thousands of years, our ancestors lived without money. But these days most of us have fallen into the habit of almost continual spending.
So break the habit just for one day by not spending anything. Not a single penny.
The purpose is to experience a day when your financial blood stays in your veins, rather than spurting out of your neck like a sword wound on Game of Thrones.
It turns out that it’s possible to live without spending money every day. And yes, you are allowed to enjoy yourself. You can have friends over for drinks or food at your house…or go to the park. You are allowed to have sex (but not to pay someone for it). You are even allowed to eat at a restaurant…but only if you pay by washing up.
2. Cycle to work
Cycle to work for just one day.
“My work is too far away! There are no bike-sheds! My co-workers might think I’m too fit. Its too dangerous because my Bee Gees style white flares might get caught in the chain. I can’t because the dog ate my bike etc etc”
Be aware that your current definition of “too far” may be miscalibrated. If your work is less than 10 miles away, then its easy. If its less than 5 miles away, you could crawl it with a broken leg if you were really trying.
If you work at home, use your bike for a trip you would otherwise have used the car for. If your work is too far away to cycle just once, you may want to reconsider either 1) your mindset 2) where you live or 3) your job.
3. Ask for a discount
I got this from Noah Kagan who calls it The Coffee Challenge. Go to a coffee shop and ask for a 10% discount on your coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, no problem, you can try it at any other retail establishment. Not asking is an automatic no.
Different people will learn different things from this. You may learn that you have a fear of asking for what you want. You may learn that you worry what other people think of you. You may learn that some people are stuck in soul sucking jobs with no discretion. You may learn that everything in life is potentially negotiable.
The point is that not that saving 20p on your coffees is going to get you rich by itself. Its not even that you are going to save huge amounts over your lifetime if you negotiate a discount every time you buy a house, car or holiday.
The point is learning the confidence to ask for what you want. How can the world know what you want if you don’t ask for it?
4. Buy your first share
Many people have a deep-seated mistrust of stocks / shares, based on misconceptions inherited from parents / the media / others. For example, people on the left may feel guilt at owning shares, worried they might turn into The Man. Some people on the right may be terrified of tax and communism. Others are just overwhelmed with information.
Whatever the reasons, lots of people get stuck sitting on surplus cash. These people should worry less about whether they have the perfect platform, fund choice, asset allocation etc and instead just get used to the feeling of “pulling the trigger”.
You can open a low cost broker account online in minutes. The Share Centre have a free practice account where you can “buy” shares without using real money. This exercise is even more powerful using real money…but it only has to be a token amount.
You are allowed to buy a Vanguard ETF or a blue chip share that Granny has heard of. But no exciting Bolivian platinum miners or tech concept stocks please.
5. Come up with 10 ideas a day
I stole this idea from James Altucher, who I’m sure wouldn’t mind me paying it forward. If you commute, this is a great way to spend the journey. Funnily enough, I found this worked best when combined with a break from alcohol.
Get a sheet of A4 paper and a pen. Split your life into broad categories and divide the paper accordingly. For example I might split it into, say, 4 quadrants such as 1) Family 2) Health & Fitness 3) Cutting spending 4) Boosting Income. Do whatever makes sense for you.
Then come up with 10 new ideas and write each one in the appropriate quadrant.
You don’t have to follow through on all these ideas (although if they are good, you should). The important thing is to exercise your creativity muscle and get used to the habit of generating new ideas. When brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. Sifting the good from the bad comes later.
To illustrate, here are some ideas I had just now:
- Take Karate lessons with son #2
- Buy second hand bench press and weights on Ebay using Goofbid
- Research local wine tastings
- Improve my French by lessons or watching House with the subtitles on
- Run a marathon without training
- Overcome fear via a parachute jump
- Insert Paypal button on webpage for my financial coaching
- Fix date to bike to see my friend Paul
- Go to Ibiza
Like I said, they don’t have to all be good ideas. As you can see, the examples above range from perfectly sensible to irresponsible.
6. Eat like a caveman for 2 weeks
This is not a silly or complicated diet. You just eat natural food…nothing made in a factory. If The Flintstones could have eaten it, then it’s in. If not, then it’s out.
You don’t have to make fire with a stick and a piece of twine, you are allowed to use the cooker. You are also allowed cutlery, plates and folded swan napkins if you want.
7. Track your spending for a month
Have you ever wondered: where does it all go?
Well now its time to find out! Pay for everything using a debit card from one bank account. Then download all the transactions for a month into a spreadsheet and group every purchase under a heading (food, utilities, transport etc) to see where it all goes.
This should start to change your behaviour. As any CEO knows, what gets measured gets managed.
8. Go a week without complaining
You may not have realised it (especially given all the shite in The News) but we’re living through the greatest period in history.
The world is full of good things (see above) but it can also seem unfair. Especially in the Prison Camp.
It is what it is. The trick is to focus on what you can control. Every unit of energy we spend complaining is energy that we’re not spending on taking action. Unfortunately the cavalry are not coming, so it’s down to us to improve our lives.
So go a week without complaining.
Imagine there is no “they”…as in what will they come up with next? To hold yourself accountable, tell your partner / family / BFF what you are doing and get them to hide your favourite treat for a week. If they catch you complaining, the clock starts again for another week.
9. Calculate your investing costs
If you are paying into a pension, do you know what funds you are investing in and what the total charges are? As an actual number of £s / $s / €s?
People who use a financial adviser or wealth manager are often clueless as to how much they are paying in total investment costs. For example, I have asked people this question who guessed less than £200 a year. When we then dug into it, the actual amount was closer to £20,000 a year. Doh!
Although financial advisers have to disclose their own fees, the investor is not provided with a total figure for fees that includes the expenses charged by the underlying funds, dealing commissions, stamp duty, the bid-offer spread, price disturbance etc etc.
A good rule of thumb is that clients of financial advisers invested in active funds are usually bearing costs of 2 to 3% per year all in. Given that the income yield on a portfolio may only be 3%, this means that the customer may be paying ALL their income away in fees.
Would you go into a car showroom and tell the salesman you’d like the red one but you don’t want to know how much it costs? Would you then allow them to deduct whatever they like from your bank account? Fuck no.
Instead of taking the children to Megabowl, Alton Terrors or Dismalland, why not go for a walk in nature? Its free and you are even allowed to do this if you don’t have children.
Yesterday the 5 of us went for a four mile walk in the nearby countryside. It was raining and the children moaned beforehand about being torn away from their Nintendos and other assorted electronic crack cocaine.
But the countryside was beautiful. The children came back calm and grounded. We got time to talk as a family. I find walking in woods particularly therapeutic. If you are in the UK, you can find your local woods by clicking here.
Our bodies are incredibly complex systems. Taleb suggests that walking has hidden benefits for health and creativity that we don’t understand fully. Walking may be as important to our health as sleep.
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