With NCAA College Basketball’s March Madness in full swing I thought a post about “Cinderellas” would be particularly appropriate. I’m not referring to Cinderella the step-daughter turned Disney princess, I am referring to a dark-horse team, usually from a small conference, that knocks off the top seeds to make a run at the Final Four. It’s happened a few times, and when it does the team is instantly branded a “Cinderella” after the inspiring climb from obscurity to instant fame.
There are no Cinderellas. Some teams take offense to being called a Cinderella, because they felt they had just as much shot at the title as the other guys. The label is frequently used to slight their accomplishments by insinuating “they got lucky.” Sometimes luck plays a part in it, but most Cinderellas pull off the upset because they out-worked, out-hustled, out-coached, and out-played their opponent. The pinnacle moment in their sports careers comes as a result of hours of preparation, workouts, shoot-arounds, two-a-days, and film study.
How does this apply to finances? Many of the wealthiest people in our country are also some of the most envied. Sure, we all would like to be Bill Gates for a day, but why do so many people speak ill of successful people like Gates? Is it jealousy? Or is it the realization that they don’t have the fortitude, the work ethic, the determination to be as successful as those in the wealthy class.
“I guess it is easy if you receive an inheritance.” Believe it or not, most millionaires are self-made, first-generation rich. They do not stand to inherit a large sum of money ala Paris Hilton. They did not strike it rich in the lottery, or win a giant lawsuit. They worked every single day for many, many years at their craft. They built multi-million dollar businesses from card tables in their living rooms and heads full of ideas. They led large corporations of hundreds of employees. They spent hundreds of hours writing, editing and marketing their book ideas to anyone who would listen. These millionaires did not become overnight successes.
How can you become a financial “Cinderella?”
- Get out of debt, for starters. Carrying around debt is like trying to climb Mt. Everest with a fifty pound anvil tied to your back.
- Turn off the television and read to learn something. Knowing the last five winners of Survivor won’t make you a success, but studying these five winners will: Warren Buffett, Donald Trump, Zig Ziglar, Dave Ramsey, and Dale Carnegie.
- Stop trying to impress people at red lights you will never meet again. The average new car payment in America is $475 a month. Sell that sporty new car, buy an old, reliable, used car with cash and drive it until the wheels fall off. Keep driving used cars the remainder of your life and deposit $475 into a mutual fund every single month. In thirty years you will have over $1 million dollars. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
- Don’t mortgage away your future. Stay well under the 28/36 suggested debt-to-income and payments-to-income ratios (suggested by the lending industry, primarily). I personally wouldn’t tie up more than 20% of my take-home pay in housing. Doing so would mean less to save and invest, and that’s a trade off I’m not willing to make to score extra square footage.
- Practice frugality in all areas of your life. Buy clothes on sale; and only when you need them. Avoid paying for name brands when quality alternatives, or homemade solutions, exist. Be a frugal grocery shopper. Eat at home; it is healthier and less expensive. Invest in yourself; you will live longer and pay less for it in medical bills and insurance premiums.
Finally, after a couple decades of sacrifice, determination, and dedication you could become an overnight success, and be called a financial “Cinderella” yourself. Do not take offense, because you can proudly reflect on the effort you invested to reach your financial goals.
Watch the commercial that inspired this post: There Are No Cinderellas