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SO YOU STARTED LATE– GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK ALREADY!
Of all the things people say to me after they've read my books, attended one of my seminars, stopped me in an airport, or called in to my radio show, there is one comment I hear more than all the others put together:
"If only I had started saving when I was younger."
SOMETIMES LIFE THROWS YOU A CURVEBALL
While some of you may blame yourselves for not having started earlier, I also know that many of you are starting late not because you were shortsighted or lazy or irresponsible, but because life threw you a curveball. I hear from people all the time who are starting late because of divorce, death, illness, disability, bankruptcy, poor career choices, lack of education–and on and on. Either way, it's time to cut to the chase. What's done is done. You can't go back and fix the past.
THE PAST IS OVER
Oh, you say, if only I knew then what I know now, my whole life would be different.
Of course it would. But guess what–you didn't know. Or if you did, you didn't do what you knew you needed to be doing.
So it's done. Finished. Settled.
Sometimes life is unfair.
But that's okay.
You can move on.
You can get over it.
Stop asking yourself why you didn't do what you should have done. The real question is: What are you going to do about it now?
NO MORE SAYING,"IF ONLY"!
For a long time now, you've been beating yourself up about what you haven't done or should have done. Some of you have been beating yourselves up for your mistakes for decades.It's unreal how tough we can be on ourselves.
We all do this. I'm no exception. I can't tell you how many times I've said to myself, "Oh, if only I hadn't sold that house in Danville, California."That house was the first house I ever owned. I bought it for $220,000 and sold it nearly five years later for $225,000. (Not exactly a Donald Trump real estate flip.) Today, that house is worth more than $700,000.
If only. . .
Or how about this one? If only I'd bought Dell stock when I bought my first Dell computer. A $10,000 investment in Dell back in 1994 would have been worth $963,000 at the end of 2003.
If only. . .
I could go on and on. But none of it matters. What matters is that with all the amazing mistakes I've made over the years, I still managed to become a multimillionaire. That's because rather than looking back, I focus on going forward. And here's the bottom line: If you are not yet as rich as you want to be, stop focusing on what you haven't done and start focusing on what you want to do. And if you're not yet who you want to be, get over that, too. You can become the person you really want to be. You start by letting go of all of the old stories you keep replaying in your head like a broken record or scratched CD.
YOU CAN'T COULDA-WOULDA-SHOULDA YOURSELF TO WEALTH OR HAPPINESS
You know what I'm talking about. So stop "shoulda-ing" all over yourself. It's messy and makes you unhappy. I know. I've been there.
Instead, decide today–right now–to let it go. We all make mistakes. I've made them. You've made them. Your parents and friends have made them. We are all human. Mistakes hurt. But let's not waste one more ounce of your energy, spirit, or time thinking about them, because all that will do is hold you back.
Keep this in mind:
The past will continue to be your future if you drag it along with you!
THE FASTEST WAY TO LET IT GO
Here's an exercise I recommend you do. (Not this minute. Right now I want you to keep reading. But try it when you finish reading this chapter.) If you really want to get over something you regret, the fastest way to do it is to acknowledge the regret–and then burn it up. Literally.
Here's what you do. Get yourself a blank sheet of paper and write down a list of as many of your personal "if only's" you can think of.
If only I had saved more money.
If only I hadn't quit that job.
If only I hadn't taken the job I have.
If only I'd had kids.
If only I'd not had kids.
If only I had bet on the Yankees.
If only I hadn't bet on the Red Sox.
I'm serious about this. Really go to town with it. Free-flow. Let it all hang out. Be honest with yourself. You've been beating yourself up over this stuff for years, so you might as well as get it down on paper.
When you're finished making your list… set fire to it! I'm serious. Light a match and BURN IT UP. Let all those damn "if only's" turn into ashes.
Have a "Goodbye If Only's" party. Invite a friend over and do it together.
Just make sure you burn your "if only's" somewhere safe. We don't want you setting fire to your house. If burning them seems too extreme, then just tear up your "if only's" into little pieces and toss them in the garbage can.
YOUR BRAIN IS HARDWIRED, BUT IT CAN BE REPROGRAMMED
The fact is that your brain is hardwired. You wake up each day, and for the most part you rethink 90% of what you thought about yesterday! Now think about that! It's really quite amazing. You use the same words, you go through the same motions, and you often do the same things over and over and over again. What's ironic is that we do the same things over and over and over again and then hope for a new result. This is called insanity!
Watch a fly try to fly through a window sometime. The fly is hardwired to think that the harder it tries, the better its result will be. Well, you and I both know that the fly is not going to get through that window because it is impossible to fly through glass!
YOU REALLY NEED TO GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
I started off trying to convince you to give yourself a break because I know you really need it.
The one thing I've learned from coaching so many people on their lives and money is that we are just too brutal on ourselves. And what do we do when we actually make some progress? We beat ourselves up for not doing everything perfectly.
Take it from me. You've been way too hard on yourself over the years. If a friend or relative ever said the things to you that you've been saying to yourself, you'd stop talking to them. You'd end the relationship then and there. You'd cut them out of your life.
It's a fact that no one will ever be as tough on you as you are on yourself. So give yourself a break.
OK, now let's focus on what really matters: how money can help you buy your freedom.
IT'S ABOUT YOUR MONEY, IT'S ABOUT YOUR FREEDOM
If I could give you only one gift, it would be the gift of freedom. The gift to be the person you were put here to be.
Why? Because you are a very special person. In fact, you're unique. There is no one like you on the planet. You were put here for a reason, and I promise you it wasn't to struggle through life.
What does any of this have to do with achieving financial security and independence? In a word, everything. If you are worried about money and your future, it's more than likely you're not living as free a life as you want. And if you're not living as free a life as you want, how can you be living the life you were put here to live?
YOU EITHER GET IT OR YOU DON'T
It may not be politically correct to say so, but the brutal reality of life is that in almost every case ,if you sit down and get honest with yourself, you will find that 90% of your problems can be fixed with money.
Yes, I know we're supposed to believe that money doesn't make you happy.There are entire schools of philosophy built on that premise. Well, here's what experience has taught me: Money may not make you happy, but LACK OF MONEY can certainly make you miserable.
When all is said and done, the way you get your freedom is to buy it. You don't lease it. You don't wish for it. You buy it, and then you own it.
THE HANDWRITING IS ON THE WALL
In 2002 and 2003,the American Association of Retired Persons sponsored an in-depth study of baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964). It revealed some amazing things about their attitudes and experience. Perhaps its most significant finding was this:
Personal finance and work are among the least satisfying aspects of baby boomers' lives.
• While higher-earning boomers tend to be more satisfied with their lives than lower-income boomers, only about 20% of all boomers (one in five) are satisfied with their finances.
• One in four says the worst thing about their lives right now is their finances.
• One in three names personal finances as the one area of their lives they would most like to improve.
• Lack of finances makes it hard for baby boomers to enjoy leisure activities.
• Higher education is no guarantee of financial well-being. Only 20% of college-educated boomers are satisfied with their finances.
• Less-educated boomers are equally unhappy; only 22% of them said they were satisfied with their finances. Perhaps the single most eye-opening finding of the AARP study is this:
In terms of their single largest ambition, both men and women mention dreams ofan improved financial situation.
Read that again. The AARP surveyed thousands of baby boomers and found that their single biggest dream is to get their financial lives together.
Why? Because millions of them have put off saving–and now that they are getting older (and living longer),they're realizing that they face a huge problem.
What's the problem they face? Well, according to the AARP:
When contemplating their personal finances, slim majorities of younger adults (58%) and boomers (54%) and just half of older Americans (50%) believe they are likely to reach their goals in the area of personal finances.
In other words, nearly half of us–old, young, and in between–DON'T believe we'll be able to achieve our financial goals. What makes this finding so shocking is that the same AARP study found that most boomers and younger adults are confident about just about every other area of life. They believe their lives are bound to improve over the next five years in terms of relations with family and friends, mental health, religious or spiritual concerns, work or career, and physical health.
This is why it is so important for you to decide right now that even though you are starting late, YOU ARE GOING TO FINISH RICH. The race of your life is already on. You can continue to sit on the sidelines, moaning about how you should have gotten started last year or 10 years ago or 30 years ago. Or you can get up and start running.
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS
OK, are you ready to be motivated? Well, consider this: We are totally blessed in this country. As a society, America has achieved more financially over the last century than the entire world has in all previous centuries combined. Our standard of living is higher, our life expectancy is longer, and our educational and recreational opportunities are greater today than they've ever been.
Within your lifetime, the wealth of the United States has increased by a staggering amount–jumping from about $6 trillion 50 years ago to some $30 trillion today. And while many people are broke and struggling, a whole lot of other people are LOADED.
Indeed, never before in our planet's history have so many people been so wealthy. According to Merrill Lynch & Co.'s 2004 World Wealth Report, the number of millionaires in the United States (which the report defines as people with at least $1 million in financial or liquid assets) jumped by 14% to 2.27 million in 2003.In other words, one out of every 125 Americans is now a millionaire.
By way of comparison, back in 1900 there were fewer than 5,000 millionaires in the United States–or only about one out of every 15,000 Americans at the time.
And it's not just the number of millionaires that has increased. Since the 1960s, median household wealth in America has nearly tripled, growing from $29,000 in 1965 to $86,100 in 2001 (the most recent year for which data is available)–meaning that while half the nation's households were worth $29,000 or less back in the 1960s, today half are worth more than $86,100.
WHICH LIFE WILL YOU CHOOSE?
When you contrast the bad news (the paycheck-to-paycheck struggle that kills freedom) with the good news (the phenomenal wealth and opportunity that is all around us),you begin to realize that life is not fair. The fact is, you don't get in life what you wish for. You get in life what you go for.
People choose their lives.
People choose their actions.
People choose their outcomes.
Life is a cause set in motion.
And life is not over until you quit.
MEET SOME PEOPLE WHO STARTED LATE AND FINISHED RICH
Before we get to the specifics of exactly how you can start late and still finish rich, I want you to meet some remarkable people. What makes them remarkable is not that they did something difficult. Rather, it's that they discovered how easy it is to do something that most people think is difficult.
I hope their stories inspire you to really believe that it's not too late for you. Because it isn't.