As we progress in life there are different stages that most of us go through.
Many of us have gone through all four stages, some of you are getting started and others are right in the middle of it.
They go something like this:
Struggling – this is the fun one, right? Haha
If you’ve ever had to go through this stage then you know how difficult it can be. It’s the time in life where you lose sleep at night wondering how you’re going to pay the bills.
My wife and I had the privilege of going through the struggling years. We didn’t have parents who were very interested in helping us out and making it easy for us.
My parents weren’t in a position to help even if they wanted to. My first job was as an assistant manager at a new restaurant. The good thing was they let us eat there, any time, and all we wanted.
As I wrote in my book, this was a horrible way to run a restaurant and the owners did not understand money. Neither did I at the time, but it was one of my first lessons in life about business and money.
Then I became a financial advisor. The problem is I was in a new city, without a circle of influence, and no one really to talk to. Doing business is tough if you don’t have someone to talk to.
The sad thing about the struggling stage is that debt seems to accompanying the struggle, and in fact might be a big reason for it.
When I see, young couples borrowing for everything it literally turns my stomach and my heart aches for them.
What really gets me is if I see someone going into the “fast cash” places. Talk about getting yourself in a no-win situation.
It’s about as close to legalized theft as it gets. Interest rates in the 30-150% range.
The problem with struggling is that if you don’t have some discipline and dig yourself out of the hole, is that those years can get even worse, and they can last much longer.
I remember how easy it was to get into the mess. As an assistant manager, with very little pay, I could not see a way we could buy anything without using debt.
Back in 1984, the big technology was a VCR – video cassette recorder. What was even better, is if you had a portable VCR. This way you could plug in this monstrous Video camera and walk around videoing things.
My Dad had won a video camera. So, he would let me use it. We just had our first child and of course you want to record memories.
Anyway, the cost of a portable VCE was $1300. Can you imagine! 1300 bucks for this beastly piece of equipment with a battery pack that might last 20 minutes.
It took me nearly 2 months to make $1300 dollars.
I had no business even looking at one. No one counseled with me and I had no understanding of money, so it was easy for the salesman to talk me into 35 bucks a month for the next 20 years….haha, actually it was only supposed to take 48 months to pay it off.
Now folks, who would buy a VCR that takes 48 months to pay off?
Sounds silly, right? But did you know that there are millions of people who buy flat screen TV’s, phones, theatre projectors and all kind of technology using payments.
It’s still as common today as it always has been. And who’s doing the buying – those that are in the struggling stage.
Getting out of this stage will give you so much more peace of mind – but it’s going to take some discipline. You can do it, dig in, save some money, snowball your debt and get out of the struggling stage.
Okay, not that we are all sufficiently depressed thinking about that stage in our lives – let’s move on to the next stage.
This is the surviving stage.
Now surviving is that time of life where you have a job. Maybe it’s your first career job out of college. You have enough income to at least keep your head above water.
The problem with so many your families is that they went into debt for school. As soon as you get a job the payments begin. There is no way out of them.
My first recommendation would be to avoid school debt like the plague. We’ll talk about some ways in another podcast or video, but be cautious and do all you can to keep your school debt as low as possible.
So, you’re surviving. You still can’t save much if any, debt is looming over your head each month, but at least you sleep better know you have the income to pay your monthly bills.
You also have to be careful here.
Any kind of a setback can put your right back into struggling again. A lay-off at works, and injury where you can’t work, getting into further debt because you just gotta have that car or a thousand other things.
The best way out of the struggling stage is to make yourself a valuable and irreplaceable employee. There is a saying that says something like, you can work yourself into a better job.
If you are an irreplaceable employee, you’ll always have a job and other jobs will open up as well as opportunity for advancement.
Sadly, way too many just do what they have to do to keep their job. Never do any more than what’s necessary and are never noticeable and are easily replaceable.
That’s not going to take you to the next stage! Do all you can to be so valuable that management has to give you more money to keep you around.
When you learn, grow, and become the best of the best in whatever it is your career choice is, you’ll soon be arriving!
Arriving is a great time of life! This is where you are becoming the leader, the go to guy or gal, the person in charge, the person other look to.
Your pay increases, you can save money, invest, and now have your money work for you. It’s a time where you get to enjoy life, some vacations, and some fun stuff.
If you are wise, you’ll put away money to be used for opportunities, maybe your own business, maybe an investment opportunity.
When you are arriving, your progress is unlimited, you can take a direction in life that gets you where your dreams have been taking you.
Arriving is a lot of fun, the peace of mind that financially you’re doing great, you have choices, and along with that comes opportunities.
The final stage is where we all want to be – it’s called Thriving.
Now you’re clicking on all cylinders, you’ve defined your path, your objectives in life and you are flying down that path at 90 miles an hour.
You are an example and someone people like to be around and want to be like.
You are making a difference. A difference in your career, a different in your family, a different of friends and associates who are around you.
It’s okay to go through the 4 stages. Most of us will or are in the thick of one of the stages right now.
There is something to learn and take with you from one stage to the other.
I remember hearing a quote many years ago, it’s said, Joy in the journey.
I know, there are times where you wonder how you can have joy in the struggling stage in life, but often times its at that state where we have kids.
I remember the joy of those kids coming into our lives, those were some wonderful times and memories, so even when it’s tough, financially speaking that is, there are other events to give us some joy along the way.
There is a song that kind of gets to me when I hear the lyrics. It’s going to date me a bit.
It was by Neil Sedaka, The song was, I miss the hungry years.
To tell you the truth, when it came out I didn’t appreciate the words, nor understand their significance, as I was a punk teenager at the time.
But later, after I’d been through a few of the stages, I heard the song, and suddenly I understood the words and I could relate.
The message of the song is during those “hungry years” you’re setting goals and dreaming of your future and planning your life and excited about where you’re going to be someday.
You are struggling, but also excited to take on the world.
Then when at some point in life you arrive.
Years later, believe it or not, you can miss those years where every day was a challenge where you pulled together as a family.
Where the only other person who could understand the struggle, was your spouse.
So, you relied on each other and pulled each other up during the down days, sometimes you wondered if life would ever get better.
Then it does, and as life progresses, it’s true, you can actually miss the hungry years.
So, enjoy every stage, but know this, you can and will be at the thriving stage if you set your mind to it and work hard.
They say, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Make your own luck!
Then at the very first chance that you have to become a saver and an investor, take advantage of it. Build that wealth tree!
Compounding your money is what Einstein calls the eighth wonder of the world. It truly seems to be magical the way it works, but you’ve got to save and give it time.
The longer you can grow and compound the better off you’ll be and the longer you will be thriving.
Well, that’s about it for this video – maybe that song took a few of you back and sparked a few memories. Those who don’t quite have the memories yet, you will, that’s the circle of life.
Those are the four stages –
Where are you? How do you get to the next stage?
Are you thriving, but worried about the economy taking you back?
That is a legitimate concern. Last thing you want to do is go backwards, right? Don’t let that happen there comes a time where protecting your pile of money is critical especially if you don’t have time to wait for another recovery.
As always, if you have any questions – feel free to reach out and I’ll answer them as quick as I can.
Oh, and by the way, I’ve had to change the email address for your questions.
Although I love your questions and answer most of them myself, and will continue to do so, there are times where it’s overwhelming and I need a bit of help – so please, send your questions, keep them coming, but send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, and if you are inclined to do a strategy session with me personally – where we can talk about your situation and how to make it better – you are welcome to request that in your email as well.