They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.
To be honest I had no idea if I was going to succeed or fail.
Nor did I know where this journey would take me.
What I did know was that if I didn’t do something and take ownership of my life and money, my future life in retirement was going to be a lot like it was now (at 24 years old) i.e. no savings, limited choices and probably dependent on some form of government assistance.
So it was in that moment and having no idea; other than the thought of “it’s better to have tried and failed than not tried at all” I took my first step forward.
My first goal was not some lofty ideal life vision or to be financially independent.
It was simply a test I gave myself to spend less and use my savings to build up an emergency buffer of money in my bank account.
The goal would require me to save $3,000 over three months ($250per week).
That was twenty four years ago and it is still one of my proudest achievements.
Because I stood up to my fears and I was so afraid to not be a failure to myself that it called every cell of my being into action.
I asked for extra shifts at work (at the time I was a casual worker at Novotel Hotel). I made all my own meals with no frill labelled food and I spent my down time reviewing my budget, tracking the progress to my goal and sleep. There was no going to the pub, buying pizzas, buying magazines or hiring videos.
The thing is, while the struggle is no fun, I discovered that it’s in our struggles we gain greater clarity of who we are (not think we are) and the opportunity to grow stronger from the experience.
Another realisation was, humans are incredible at adapting to change and more than surviving, they embrace new ways to thrive, in the face of adversities.
It was a real challenge! And looking back, if I hadn’t passed I’m not sure I would be where I am today.
Not only did I achieve my goal, by the end of the three months I had save $5,000.
The thing about momentum is that it’s easier to keep moving forward once your're moving. So filled with the self-confidence and evidence of my achievement (my bank account balance) I planned my next goal.
This next goal would take longer but have a “bonus reward” only if I could achieve it.
The goal was to save $15,000 by my 26th birthday (9 months’ time).
The momentum I had was the already saved $5,000. Any money I saved above $15,000 balance I could spend on whatever I chose, guilt free.
I had no idea about investments As such I stuck with what I knew best i.e. work more hours, earn more per hour, spend as little as I could and constantly benchmark my progress along the way.
By my twenty sixth birthday (12 months from my taking that first step) I had saved $19,687.
WOW!!!! With my 4 weeks holidays accrued over the last twelve months, I headed off to back pack SE Asia for a month. First Singapore, then Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Burma. Total cost $4,500.
Refreshed, inspired and back from my holidays I now knew the ideal life I wanted to live. It was to fund a lifestyle of travel and financial security. The cost $52,000 per year.
Sitting down with my legal pad, pencil and calculator in hand I wrote long hand each year saving $12,000 at a 10% annual return. It would take me 22 years to save $1,050,340 to achieve this goal.
I remeber thinking twenty two years and feeling very depressed. I would be 47 by then!