There’s an interesting truth that I think applies to everyone. If you give yourself enough time, you can achieve almost anything.
As simple as that sounds though, the reality isn’t so simple. For many of us, time is a luxury we don’t have. Sometimes, it’s on us. We lack patience and we want things to happen fast. And when they don’t happen fast, we give up. We live in a world built on instant gratification. There’s no shortage of people out there willing to sell you on the belief that big things can happen for you quickly.
Other times, it’s about the fact that we can’t afford to give ourselves the time to achieve something. Practical realities might get in our way. We have family obligations. We have bills. We have a life to live and only limited time and resources that we can dedicate to other things.
Like it or not, time is the secret recipe for success. Big things don’t happen in days or months. They happen over years and decades. Give yourself enough time and you’re almost guaranteed to make it. The question is, how much time are you willing to give yourself. The more of it you can give yourself, the better your chances are that you’ll achieve whatever it is you’re trying to achieve.
The Long Game Wins When It Comes To Money
When it comes to money, time is undoubtedly our friend. Give money enough time, and it can grow to astounding amounts. Take, for example, this clip from Futurama.
Now, most of us don’t have 1,000 years to let our money grow. But what most of us do have is decades to let time work for us. If you start saving some money right now and you keep doing it for a long time, you’re going to find yourself with a surprising pile of money. Interestingly, it doesn’t take much money if you give yourself enough time.
You might be surprised to discover that you only have to save about $30 per day to become a millionaire in 30 years. $30 per day isn’t that much money – it’s $10,950 per year. It’s not chump change by any means, but it’s money that most people can save if they try. And if you can’t save that much from your existing income, you probably can figure out a way to earn an extra $30 per day doing something (I call this the Reverse Latte Factor).
$30 per day might not seem like much money, but 30 years is a long time to do anything. Most people won’t think about money in that time frame. They think of it in terms of years or even months. They want those big returns, not in 30 years, but right now. Everyone wants to get rich quickly. But unfortunately, that’s not the way you win the money game.
I’ve always opted to play the long game when it comes to money. No, my investments won’t make me rich tomorrow. But with time, I’ll probably do alright. In fact, I’m almost guaranteed it. When it comes to money, you’ll always win if you play the long game.
The Long Game Wins When It Comes To Success
Just like the long game lets you win with money, the long game also puts you in a position where you can almost guarantee some level of success at whatever it is you want to do.
I started this blog as a side hustle over 5 years ago. If anything, it was barely a side hustle. It was really more of a passion project – I enjoyed writing and felt like I had ideas and a story to share. For years, this blog didn’t earn much, enough for me to cover my blog expenses, but that was basically it. It wasn’t until 3 or 4 years into my blogging journey that I started to see something bigger. Not a huge amount to make me rich or anything, but enough that I could at least support my lifestyle.
Spending over 5 years doing anything is as close to a guaranteed recipe for success as you can get in our world. I expect that if I spend another 5 years on this little blog of mine, things can only go up. It’s not easy though. Every single day, I’m reading, writing, researching, and thinking of things that I can write about. The thing is, if you can put that much work into the world, it’s hard to imagine something doesn’t start to happen.
The problem for most people comes down to a practical one. Do you have the resources and the patience to keep going until you start to see success? 5 years is a long time to do anything, especially if you have a job, and bills, and a family, and other things to worry about.
I think you need two things if you want the long game to work for you in this area. The first is passion. If you do something you don’t care about, you’ll never stick it out. And the work you put out into the world will show your lack of passion too.
Second, you need resources. Whether that’s a day job, another side hustle that can create an income floor for you, or a working spouse that’s able to support your family, you’re going to need something to pay the bills while you continue to build or reach towards whatever goal you’re chasing.
Resources seem like a difficult thing to deal with – and it is. But it’s also something that you can deal with. You can save a lot early on and reach financial independence – then you can literally do anything. Or you can reach Coast FIRE or Barista FIRE, and suddenly, you don’t need to earn as much money to live. You have more options than you think.
Compounding Works With Everything
A lot of people think of compounding as something that only applies to money and numbers, but in fact, compounding applies to everything we do in our lives. Every decision we make, every action we take, all of it ripples down over time. The small things add up.
The work I do on this blog has a bigger impact than it did when I first started. It didn’t happen overnight. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words over the years. I may have written a million words for all I know. Each word I write is me building on my craft. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m a better writer and blogger now than I was 5 years ago. But it didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow trickle – something that happened because of the small amount of work I did every single day.
Most people don’t understand this. They start something and expect that they should be good at it from the beginning. Or worse yet, they decide they suck at it and quit before even giving themselves a chance to get better. Quitting is fine – we sometimes have to quit. But quitting because you suck at something shouldn’t be the reason. The truth is, we’re all terrible when we start. It takes time, practice, and a lot of the compound effect until we start to become good at whatever it is we’re doing.
Time Is On Your Side – But You Have To Do Something
Time is on our side. But the funny thing is, it can work against us too. Because for many people, the long game ends up being about inaction. So many of us say we want to do something. We tell ourselves we have ideas. We say we want to make a difference.
But then, we never act. We let fear hold us back. We keep waiting and waiting for that perfect moment. Eventually, the years pass by, and we’ve done nothing. I’m guilty of it too. I have a lot of ideas and things I want to do. But somehow, I never get going on them.
Here’s something for you to know. There’s never going to be the perfect moment. Whatever moment you’re in, start doing something, even if it’s just a little bit to get started. Start saving some money today, even if it’s just a few dollars. If you want to create something, start creating now. Let your skills develop. Think in terms of years and decades, not in months.
The long game will work for you. You just have to take advantage of it.
Impersonal Finances says
Ha–just wrote something similar about compounding. It really does apply to all areas of life, not just interest.
The I Series U.S. Savings Bonds are yielding 7.12% for the next 6 months. With inflation going up, it is almost a sure bet that the yield on the I-Bond will be secure for a few years. The minimum is $25 and the maximum is $10,000 for a year. To get credit for the entire month of November, buy the I-Bond by 29 November at treasurydirect.gov. Once on their site, you do need to establish an account. Interest for U.S. Savings Bonds is simple interest, not compounding, but it is a great place to park money.
Also, note that you have to keep the I-Bond for 1 year, and if you cash it before 5 years, you forfeit some interest. Even if time is not on your side, it is worth the gamble. The I-Bond can be set up for dual ownership by including the word ‘with’ after the owner’s name. To establish a beneficiary with only ONE owner’s name listed, then enter POD (Paid On Death) after the owner’s name and the beneficiary’s name. This instruction came from Treasury Direct via an email.
Here is their response to my email:
Fri 11/19/2021 7:50 AM
TreasuryDirect accounts must be set up in one person’s name and social security number. However, an account owner can buy and hold securities in various registrations in the account. There are three ways to register securities held in a TreasuryDirect account:
• Sole Owner: Only one individual is named as owner. The Sole Owner may grant View rights to any TreasuryDirect account holder.
• Primary Owner (with Secondary Owner): Two individuals’ names are recorded, separated by the word “WITH.” For example, “John Doe SSN 123-45-6789 WITH Joseph Doe SSN 987-65-4321.” Here, John Doe is the Primary Owner, and may grant View or Transact rights to the second-named registrant, Joseph Doe. Upon the death of either the primary or secondary owner, the survivor is considered the sole owner of the security.
• Beneficiary: Two individual names are recorded, separated by “POD” (Payable on Death). The first name designates the owner and the second, the beneficiary. The beneficiary will become owner only upon the death of the original owner of the security. For example; “John Smith POD Jane Smith.” “Jane Smith” is the Beneficiary. “John Smith” is the owner and controls the security during his lifetime. He may grant only View rights to the Beneficiary.
Accidentally Retired says
The older I get the more I know this to be true.
If you play the long game you’ll surely always win. Will it be easy? No.
You will struggle and second guess yourself, but if you keep at it you will get there. And it works for financials, relationships, career, side hustles, etc.
Compounding works with everything. I need to learn this.
I think it’s Angela Duckworth’s Grit – do you finish what you start? – that determines success.
Good Job FP.
Dividend Power says
The one game always work in investing due to the power of compounding. It just takes patience.
Scott Boone says
My long time mantra to clients was “Save early – save often.” It works, but requires a level of discipline and patience that many savers/investors can’t muster. The other facet of this life lesson is the willingness to expose what we save to reasonable levels of risk. $30 a day in a savings account will not achieve long term savings goals. Instead, savers must be willing to expose their savings to some level of risk (i.e., equities) – a level of risk they can live with and which is likely to provide reasonable rates of return over a long period of time.