The summer school break is as good as over. Teachers and school personnel are hard at it today, preparing for another new opportunity for our children to become more civilized, hopefully, and to learn the concepts and content necessary to be productive citizens in our society. I thank God for educators because they have a difficult task (and they generally have much more patience than I could ever have!).
The song of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young says Teach Your Children Well! It also reminds us to learn from them too. What we know from experience is that in the past decades, our society has not generally done well at teaching personal financial responsibility to our young. As with many things, we learn most from what we observe our parents doing, whether that is healthy or not.
So today, please bear with me as I mention a few truths that can make an incredible difference in our lives. First, I believe what the Bible says about all true wealth coming from God. We are to be productive, but he is the one who makes it possible for us to work, to live, to give, to save, and to pay taxes. If you are really intelligent and industrious, what did you do to get those genes or perhaps even the will to use them for your betterment and that of society? Be grateful for whatever you have been given.
Second, money in itself is not a very good goal, but having it certainly does make life more comfortable and perhaps enjoyable in the long run. It is only a tool to use in building the life you desire for yourself and others.
Third, details and small habits matter over time. I try to pick up all the litter I can around my neighborhood. If you came along any road with me, you would be amazed at how many little empty plastic bottles of Fireball Whisky we will find. I don’t think I have ever had any, but looking online, I see that you can either buy a ten pack of 50 ml bottles for $12 or you can buy a 750 ml one for $13.
The small bottles are convenient to drink or to spike your drink (and obviously to throw out the car window!), but the little ones are 38 percent more expensive than buying the full bottle, $1.20 versus 87 cents. The same principle applies to your coffee or even your soft drink. You can buy in volume and add your own ice to your own glass or you can buy at a ridiculously expensive rate a Styrofoam cup with ice and the same soft drink. (Much more eco-friendly too!)
After you buy a Keurig or similar coffee maker, your pods will cost you less than 50 cents as opposed to being in the line of cars or inside the store to pay $5 to $7. Over a little time, the cost of the maker will be amortized and the marginal cost is down, down, down.
I observe that people who do not save any money seem never to realize that even a few dollars each day make a huge difference to their future well-being. No one has shown them that saving $1.65 per day, $600 for a year, at age 25, will produce $13,035 by age 65, all by itself with 8 percent average gain.
If a person invests that $1.65 a day, $50 every month for 40 years at 8 percent, they will have $175,714. The person who will not save will probably reach retirement age and have nothing but a Social Security payment.
Fourth, it is never too late to make changes to help your future self. The question is, What is the next right (wise) thing to do? The investing process is relatively easy compared to the heavy lifting required to save the raw material to input. It is even more important to save at zero interest rate than it is to spend time worrying about your rate of return.