Getting rich is like playing the guitar well, or winning a marathon. As cool as you may think it is, your body disagrees. So does the part of your brain which moans at the thought of work. That’s why it’s so impossibly difficult for us to get off our butts, and start training to do these things. Our new guest columnist Lionel Yeo tells us how to trick our weak, weak spirits into hoarding the dollars:
The Problem With Willpower
A funny thing happens to me around my birthday: I suddenly start exercising. It happens every year – I’d wake up, realize that my IPPT window is about to close, and then start training for it in a panic. It’s like an annual exercise in self-torture.
But here’s my confession – I’m actually secretly grateful for the IPPT because it tricks me into staying fit. You see, I’m terrible at willpower. If I wasn’t forced to exercise, I’d probably end up looking like Moses Lim on a binge diet.
Most experts agree that willpower sucks. It doesn’t help you to get fit, and it certainty doesn’t help you to get rich. Think about all the people who tell themselves, “I’ll get rich if I just try harder.” Yet, the majority of those people are still depressed when they check their bank statement.
Even though willpower doesn’t work, most personal finance advice out there focuses almost exclusively on it. Think about advice like:
- “Try to save some money every month.”
- “Try to pay off all your bills on time”
- “Try to invest consistently”
But the truth is, it’s not about trying harder, it’s about doing things smarter. If you’re young, smart, and have time on your side, you don’t have to rely on willpower. Instead, you’d be much better off if you trick yourself into getting rich. Here’s how:
1. Trick Yourself into Saving More
It’s totally easy to save more money every month… if you live in a cave in Uzbekistan. For the rest of us, growing our savings is a real struggle. Ever checked your bank statement at the end of the month, only to wonder where all your money disappeared to?
Keeping your savings in your spending account is like serving a plate of hot, steaming prata to a guy who hasn’t eaten for three days – it’s way too tempting. Sooner or later, you’re bound to spend it on an iPhone, an iPad, or heaven forbid, a Singing Bone Hello Kitty.
The solution? Remove that temptation altogether by separating your savings from your spending money:
- Step 1: Open a separate bank account
- Step 2: Make it as inaccessible to yourself as possible (no ATM cards, internet banking, etc)
- Step 3: Set up a standing instruction to automatically transfer a fixed amount of your salary into that separate account every month. You can do this easily via your bank’s Internet Banking service.
Bam. Instant, guaranteed savings. With your savings taken care of, you’ll be able to spend the remaining money on whatever you want, guilt-free.
2. Trick Yourself Into Building Your Credit Score
How’s that supposed to help you become rich?
Take two friends: Jane and John. Jane has a high credit score while John has a low credit score, and they both wish to apply for a 30-year housing loan of $300,000.
Jane approaches the bank because it offers an interest rate of just 2%, and her loan application gets easily approved because her credit score is awesome. Unfortunately, John’s loan application gets rejected by the bank because his credit score sucks, so he has no choice but to take a loan from a non-banking financial organisation, which charges him a higher interest rate of 3%.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The difference between a 2% and a 3% interest rate doesn’t sound like much, but Jane would actually end up paying a whopping $56,142 less than John over the course of the loan. She also gets to retire 4 years earlier and live happily ever after.
|Difference||$455,332 – $399,000 = $56,142|
Having a high credit score is a lot more valuable than most people realize, and you can easily build it up by consistently paying off your credit card bills on time. But pay your bills late just once – and risk destroying your credit score.
Don’t take that chance. Set up a GIRO arrangement with your credit card so that the full amount you owe will be automatically paid off on time every month. That way, you’ll never have to worry about being late.
3. Trick Yourself into Investing Constantly
Once, I took the Mummy ride at Universal Studios – and it was so scary that I screamed like a little girl. Yeah, I’m macho like that. But you know what’s even scarier than an undead Egyptian pharaoh? Investing when everyone around you is panicking.
During a financial crisis, your instincts will urge you to run as far away from stocks as possible. But that’s a mistake – if you’re holding out for the long-term, that’s the perfect time to pick up stocks at cheap prices.
Back in March 2009, everyone was terrified of investing – people were dumping their stocks and stuffing their money into Milo tins. Yet, those who continued to invest consistently despite the doom and gloom saw spectacular returns of over 100%.
So how do you overcome your emotions to invest consistently, even when it’s terrifying? The answer: Do it in small amounts every month. This is known as dollar-cost averaging, which spreads out your risk over a period of time. You can also automate it to make it easier:
- Step 1: Set up a standing instruction to transfer a small amount of cash to your brokerage account every month.
- Step 2: Set a rule to consistently invest that amount every month, no matter what
Dollar-cost averaging tricks you into being a contrarian: You’ll automatically pick up more stocks when they’re cheaper, and fewer stocks when they’re expensive.
Ultimately, it gives you an advantage over those who make their investing decisions based on fear and greed.
The steps to getting rich aren’t rocket science: Save more, build your credit score, and invest consistently. Yet, so many people fail because they rely on their own willpower to do them.
Instead of trying harder, do things smarter: Automate those behaviors and trick yourself into getting rich.
Lionel Yeo is a ramen slurper, bathroom dancer, and financial hacker behind cheerfulegg.com – a personal finance blog for college graduates and young professionals.
Click here to check out two exclusive bonuses for MoneySmart readers:
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See you on the other side 🙂
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