Starting September 1, both of my kids will be in school for the first time. It’s just kindergarten and Pre-K, but we’re ready. We’ll drive up to their little school, where a staff member will conduct a wellness check before they get out of the car. Then they’ll unload: little uniforms, little backpacks carrying little lunchboxes.
My husband and I have invested daily in our kids’ education since the first was born six years ago. Up to this point, that has meant reading at least two books per child most days. (That’s about 7,000 stories, if you must know.) They’re well acquainted with our Boyce Ditto Public Library here in Mineral Wells. We have also spoken to them like they’re regular people, too, not little kids or babies. These common-sense efforts seem to be paying dividends in their verbal skills and vocabularies.
What we’ve accomplished with our kids is nothing special, but I’m still proud of how we’ve helped them learn. This is what I kept telling myself would happen if I just read A Picnic with Monet one more time.
As Annie Dillard has written, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I can’t read 7,000 books to my kids today, but over 6 years, it’s doable. Little daily actions=big results.
In the financial planning world, where I spend most days, time works exactly the same way. Almost no one retires at 65 (or any age) having accidentally saved $1.5 million. Most people who have achieved that level of wealth have been working at it for a long time.
Just like our home-centered education efforts, financial planning happens in real time — days, months, years. The years are what surprise us. We can be pleased by how much we accomplish in a given year or decade, or disappointed in how little.
But the only way I can think of to start turning bad years into good years is via daily efforts. Just like reading to your kids makes a difference over time, little daily actions like brown bagging your lunch, outperforming at work, or starting and sticking with a side hustle help clear the way for you to improve your situation.
The weeks and months are the in-between period. Once you have some extra money, this is where you invest via your paycheck or a checking account draft. Not the most glamorous path to wealth, but it’s tried and true.
Wishes are just that. Just as there are many people who wish they had saved or could save more, others want to spend more time with family, get in better shape, or read for pleasure.
We started with reading, so we’ll end there. I read something I want to read every day for at least 30 minutes. To me it is necessary, just like workouts are for my friends who “have” to get them in. Despite “obstacles” of two little kids, a busy volunteer schedule, and a full-time job, I am on my 17th book this year. Others who’d like to read more choose to while away the hours “reading” their Facebook feeds or the news online.
My little bit of reading each day for fun, just like the reading I do with my kids, pays far greater dividends than any “Book A Week Challenge” you might undertake with no prior habit in place. Daily investments=lifetime results.
On a very recent night, I observed this season starting to end. While my kids go to sleep in their room, I read on my Kindle in front of a window. The quantity of daylight I have at 8 o’clock has dropped. This gentle, barely perceptible sensation acted as a rare, palpable reminder of time’s passing. Summer is slowly turning into fall and fall into winter, whether we’re ready for it or not.
Beth Henary Watson is a Certified Financial Planner professional with Corner Post Financial Planning in Mineral Wells. Securities and Advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor.