Your Problem Is More Related to Your Behavior.

The Bible says in Hebrews 12, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time . . . . but later produces a harvest of righteousness.” – paraphrased.

I have read a few articles recently about the net worth of Americans at various age groups. I’ve noticed, as have others I’m sure, how the average is much higher than the median for every cohort. Which only means that the data is skewed by the higher income/high net worth folks. But in all these articles the conclusion is the same. Our net worth as a whole in every age group is too low.

And of course there are presented a variety of reasons for this low net worth. In my age cohort (35-44), and the one younger (25-34) than me, student loans are a huge problem. This is the excuse that many millennials give as to why they are struggling with their finances. And new cars seem to be the shiny penny that many of us gravitate toward. For the older generations, it’s the burden of their kids moving back home, or perhaps aging parents that need medical care. Or maybe they’ve been the victim of corporate downsizing.

Whatever the age group, there is always an excuse why certain individuals can’t get ahead of the curve, and why they can’t have a higher net worth than the average or even the median. Why can’t they be one of the high net worth households that skews the data? Why does it seem that these folks have the deck always stacked against them?

Of course you may have your own ideas, but I believe that it all comes down to behavior. Specifically, discipline in this case. Nobody likes discipline, but having some of it in your life can lead to tremendous results down the road.

No Discipline Seems Pleasant at the Time.

When I was in high school, my parents decided they wanted to put a concrete patio behind their house. And of course, because there wasn’t an abundance of money laying around, they decided that my Dad and I would do it. Notice that I didn’t have much say in the matter.

The first step was to dig a footer to pour a foundation for the concrete slab. Now, we could have rented a ditch digger machine (ditch-witch) to crank out the footer for us. It would have taken a day or so, but not us. We procured some sturdy shovels and got to work. Believe me when I say this, “It was not fun.” Digging ditches in hard dirt and clay is hard work. It seemed like it took us weeks. It was probably more like days.

Every night after dinner, my Dad would give me a look that quietly yelled, ” Get your digging clothes on, We have work to do.” And every night, we’d toil in the back yard digging that footer with shovels and pickaxes.

We did finally finish it, and then the concrete guys came to set the forms and pour the slab. And that concrete patio is still in great shape at my parent house by the way. But that experience taught me one important lesson. No discipline seems pleasant at the time.

Could my parents have saved more money and hired someone to build the patio for them? Probably. But my Dad and I wouldn’t have had the experience of hard work, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Discipline is Learned, You aren’t Born with It.

My Dad instilled in me the discipline to take on a task, and then see it thru. He taught me by practicing it in his own life, and by some work experiences like digging the footer. This discipline is something that I hope to pass on to my kids. And this is what I think is missing in adults today. This is why folks’ finances are a wreck. They don’t have the discipline to buckle down and clean up the mess.

Is it hard? Yes!! Is it worth it? Yes, Yes!!!

But discipline is something that you have to learn. Some of us are blessed with great parents that teach it to us early in life. And others have to learn it later. But in the end, those that succeed, have the discipline necessary to delay pleasure and make decisions for the future instead of the now.

They make good decisions, like buying a car in cash, because they know that a driving a crappy car now is worth staying out of debt. And because they have little to no debt, they can save and invest more for retirement. Or they’re able to put more extra money on their mortgage.

They have the discipline to not go on nice vacations now, so that later they have enough to do whatever they want.

Having No Discipline Seems Even More Unpleasant.

Those without discipline will find themselves in a similar situation as millions of Americans. Their net worth is low. They have thousands of dollars in consumer debt, and a bloated mortgage. Their job is their lifeline. Without it, they would not survive more than a week or so. They live paycheck to paycheck (or payment to payment) And there is never enough money to last the month. Sound familiar?

To me life with no discipline is even more hopeless and miserable than enduring a few short months or years of discipline cleaning up your mess.

Having been on the other side, I can say that things are much easier with a little discipline.

Practical Tips . . .

So if you want some practical tips to help instill some discipline in your life, how about this?

Start tracking your spending. Do it for a month. Record every transaction you make, either using Excel, Quicken, Mint, or even paper. Make yourself note every. single. one.

Then start a budget based around your spending, and spend only within your plan. Do this for a few months, and keep tracking your transactions to make sure you’re spending on plan and on purpose. If you can do this you’ll be amazed at how much more in control you feel about your finances.

Most people start a budget and don’t stick to it, because . . . News Flash – It’s hard!! And they don’t have discipline. You see, your debt isn’t really the problem. And your job or income isn’t the issue. Those are just symptoms of a bigger crisis. An alarming lack of discipline. Once you address this behavior modification, you’ll start winning with money.

Welcome to freedom.

Do You think You have the discipline it takes to be a success? How did you come by this discipline?

Tell me about it below in the comments. Thanks for taking the time to read and share.


Chris is the original Cash Dad. He's a father of 3 and a mechanical engineer by trade.

1 Comment

  1. I have student loan debt and it seems as though I need to get my doctoral degree as I advance my practice in medicine. Do you have any suggestions? I was looking for a job that would cover my student loan debt if I work for them , but with Covid I have failed trying to find that opportunity. I only have 20 years and I have started investing, but my financial recovery requires baby steps.

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