(Guest Post by Stu at Pennywise 2 Pennyworth)
The Miami Heat have already had an up and down year. They struggled to start the season, and of late have come to dominate their opponents. I’ve been following them a little more closely ever since Lebron uttered the words “I’m takin’ my talents to South Beach.” I knew it would be an entertaining ride watching three superstars try to mesh their individual skills in the team oriented sport that is professional basketball.
Now that it’s the mid-point of the season, I’ve had some time to reflect on their early struggles and recent success. Early on in the season they were still feeling themselves out and I saw that they were definitely still used to “being the man” on their own teams. Now it looks as if they’ve figured out how to work together.
As I was thinking, it occurred to me that we (those of us who struggle with our finances) could learn a lot from the Miami Heat this season. A wise man once said, “sports are a metaphor for life,” so as basketball goes, so does your finances (I think it might have been former Vice President Cheney who said, about the slow progress in Afghanistan, “”It’s sometimes 3 yards and a cloud of dust. There’s no home run…ur, touchdown”).
In other words, a successful team should exhibit the same qualities that a financially successful person would, if we look close enough, that is.
So what can we learn from the struggling Miami Heat basketball team?
1) You can’t just freestyle with your budget and go “one-on-one” with your finances. What does that mean? You’ve got to have a written budget or spending plan, telling every penny of your income what to do. You have got to have some discipline here too. The budget is your game plan month in and month out, so once you’ve created something that works for you, stick to it.
2) No matter how good your individual talent is, you have to work as a team in order to win.. If you are married, or share expenses with someone, you’ve got to work together or even the best game plans won’t work. Having secret spending habits, or keeping credit card purchases from your partner, will spell disaster sooner or later…and not just for your finances.
3) You can’t just go out and “get your own to pad your stats” and expect to win (or make your teammates happy). Once personal finance becomes all about “you,” you’ve lost sight of the big picture. Yes, you should keep track of your progress and make sure you spend within your means. But don’t lose sight of the big picture.
Sticking to a budget, living frugally, and saving money consistently makes the future more sustainable for everyone. Cultivating and honing your frugality will lessen your impact on the planet’s resources. Saving consistently for your own future will lessen your impact on financial resources of future generations. Its not all about “your stats” or “getting yours,” its about living a more sustainable life and that benefits everyone.
4) Making progress takes time, especially if you have new teammates. If you are just starting to track your spending, making a budget for the first time, or figuring out just how much damage you’ve done by borrowing money, seeing progress takes time and you are likely to fall down in the beginning.
In other words, you can’t expect immediate results or to be “good” at the game of personal finance right away. Especially if you are $50,000 in debt and only make $30,000 a year, have never tracked your spending, or can’t resist the daily latte. Don’t give up. Keep plugging away at your debt until you’ve conquered it. Work harder, two jobs if that’s what it takes, just keep at it. If budgeting is your problem, keep refining yours it until it works for you. The point is to keep going until you succeed.
5) Finally, its never too late to get back on track. The Miami Heat may have struggled early in the season, but now that its mid-season they’ve gotten it together and by the time the playoffs begin they will be among the favorites to win it all.
If you are struggling with your finances right now and feel hopeless, just remember everyone has to start somewhere. Whether you are $500,000 in debt or just inherited $500,000, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. So if you are frustrated, hopeless, or just don’t know where to begin…
just start. Too often we become paralyzed to start something because of the enormity of the task. Just by starting though, you can begin to find your direction.
6) *Bonus lesson*: You’ve got to play great defense. No matter how good your offense is (your ability to create an income), you’ve got to play good defense to win. Good defense means watching your expenses, eliminating unnecessary purchases (defined as superfluous purchases that don’t give you any real personal value or fulfillment), and saving for your future while meeting your current responsibilities.
There was never any need to panic over the Heat’s early struggles. They always had the tools to be a great team and succeed.
I suspect too, that you have the tools to succeed financially and you can, and will, succeed if you use these 5 principles in your own life. Stay in the game and don’t give up, and eventually you too will win financially.
Guest post by Stu at Pennywise2Pennyworth.com — a teacher who decided to blog about personal finance after trying to teach high schoolers how to become millionaires… and decided he’d better up his game to make personal finance more interesting. He wants to help you to grow your financial worth through wise decisions and have fun while you do it. Check him out at pennywise2pennyworth.com.
(Photo by StuSeeger)