When others learn that I maintain a bit of an “alter ego” existence as a fitness trainer, many will waste no time asking about the best way to lose weight; when I immediately shoot back with “By sticking to a good diet and exercising regularly,” that response is often greeted with a dismissive look. In fact, I now deliver that line with sort of a smirk, anticipating the eye-rolling I’ll get in return. Tried and true ways of doing things are not exciting, and people are too often looking for something that’s clever – they want the “secret.”
Just as there is no trick to weight loss, there is no trick to growing your net worth. It is a matter of spending less than you make, and using that difference to both pay down any existing debts you have, as well as investing in assets that have a real chance to appreciate, like securities, real estate, small businesses, and the like. The good news part of that is that life can remain simple as you pursue your financial goals; the bad news is that, alas, you have to face up to the realization that there is no trick, no magic bullet…and no complex component to which you can affix blame if you fail.
Despite all of the stock market’s more-recent painful gyrations, the benchmark S&P 500 has recovered, at this writing, to a point where it’s about 20 percent below its all-time high reached in 2007. 20 percent down from that time is not an insignificant level of devaluation, but it’s hardly indicative of the stock market collapse toward which many were convinced we were headed just a couple of years ago. What does the current state of affairs tell you? In part, it tells you that if you maintain a diversified portfolio of mutual funds in an IRA, 401(k), or some other long-term retirement account, and you add to it regularly, that doing so is still a pretty good idea. Same thing with paying down debt; apply a sum each month to a targeted obligation that you can whittle away systematically. It’s not clever, it’s not sexy; it’s just effective.
I’ve heard it said that when someone gripes that “things are complicated,” the truth is that this person is unwilling to see “things” as simply and as clearly as they can be seen. I’m convinced that many of us actually like it when “things” are complicated, because it makes it easier to contrive excuses when we fail. People are free to play whatever mind games they want on themselves, but you cannot escape reality, and the reality is that countless numbers of people continue to achieve financial stability and independence doing nothing more than the simple things that have always worked over the long term.
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Bob Yetman, Editor-at-Large at Christian Money.com (www.christianmoney.com), is an author of a variety of materials on personal finance and investing, as well as on topics of fitness and self defense, to include the book Investor's Passport to Hedge Fund Profits (John Wiley & Sons, Inc; www.investorspassport.com) and the unarmed combat training DVD Thunderstrikes – How to Develop One Shot, One Kill Striking Power (Paladin Press; www.mikereevesonline.com).