I’ll never forget the moment when I made that mental leap — that sudden and forever fateful change in mindset in which I finally and abruptly understood that my financial future is in my control — that working until 70 is an option, not a fact of life.
Financial freedom existed for me in that moment… and not before. I’m sure that many readers here on BiggerPockets can recall similar moments. It’s a life changing shift in mindset.
That change doesn’t happen by accident. For me, it was the culmination of years of study and focus on financial well-being. The very concepts of investing, interest, reinvesting, and compounding had to be beaten into my head dozens or hundreds of times before things “clicked.”
But why don’t things click for everybody? Why is it that friends, family, and most of society can’t seem to see what I see?
The answer is this:
No one is born to be an investor. We learn to invest. Our motivation is derived from what we learn.
Motivation to Succeed Financially is Not a Natural Urge
Unfortunately, children are not born innately desirous of snowballing into millionaires or billionaires over the course of 50 years by harnessing the power of compound interest. Yes, some children are born with the will to win, some are competitive, and some are natural leaders. But no child is naturally born with the inclination to hoard something as intangible and (from a practical perspective) useless as money over the decades.
I’d invite you to try explaining the concept of the time value of money to someone who is financially illiterate. I do it all the time with an organization that helps locals in financial crisis here in Denver.
It is my judgement that these folks lack a compelling reason to intelligently manage their finances. For them, the concept of “investing” doesn’t register. It’s just not something that is readily comprehensible to these people without a background on the subject. It’s not that people are unmotivated in general — do you think that these famous athletes who declared bankruptcy all lacked the desire to be successful? If you do, why don’t you just go ahead and tell Mike Tyson about how you have more of a desire to succeed than he does… just make sure you film it!
Folks simply don’t understand how to be successful with money. They don’t know the basic rules of the game of finance, and therefore, they are unable to see that there is a way out of their cycle of debt and poverty, that there is a way out of leaving their financial destinies in the control of their employers, and that the way out is not that hard. I’ll repeat that: They just don’t understand.
What Difference Does Motivation Make?
Isn’t it as simple as “earn, save, invest?” you might ask.
We all know that basic finance comes down to three things: earning, saving, and investing. But that’s just not enough.
When someone with low financial literacy thinks of saving money, they do so with a very simple purpose in mind: to use that money to buy something.
On the other hand, when I think of saving money, I think of doing so with the explicit purpose of investing those savings to perpetually generate cash-flow and wealth for me forever.
The motivating force behind my savings rate and interest in investing is far different and far more powerful than the motivation of someone unable to grasp the concepts of investing and compound interest over a long period of time. Of course I have more discipline and control with my spending and investing — I’m saving for financial freedom, security for myself and my family, and the ability to direct my time in whatever manner I choose!
As soon as that concept is understood, motivation kicks in. It’s easy to behave correctly after that. It’s a no-brainer. It’s obvious.
I hate to break it to you, but just being on BiggerPockets doesn’t make you any more of a naturally competitive person than your neighbor down the block. You aren’t smarter, and you weren’t born with more self-control. The truly powerful difference in your accumulation of wealth over the long term is the reason behind why you invest. You understand that in a surprisingly small number of years, you can buy back your time, take control over your day, and have infinitely more opportunity by saving, investing, and reinvesting.
I’m lucky. I made a study of finance almost immediately after graduating college and had my moment of revelation as I began my working career. But the problem with finance is that you either get it or you don’t. It’s not obvious to everyone. It can’t be taught in an afternoon. It took me years to fully grasp the basics of earn, save, invest, reinvest.
Why Doesn’t Everyone “Get it?”
Now, I’m not excusing the grown men and women that I’ve worked with — or those professional athletes mentioned earlier — from their responsibility to manage their own lives and finances. A lot of those folks made decisions that directly resulted in hard times.
Those choices were probably their fault.
But how about the fact that folks are unable to grasp the totally unintuitive and complicated system of earning, saving, investing, and reinvesting that we all know and love here on BiggerPockets? Why don’t they understand that it is possible and that it can even be an automatic process to harness the financial forces that can allow one to “escape the rat race,” “retire early,” “FIRE,” etc.? Why don’t these folks feel the need to invest?
That is due to a lack of education.
Do you think I would be investing in Real Estate if I hadn’t learned about the concepts of compound interest and passive income? No way! I’d be spending every cent I earned living it up! Without the education I’ve accumulated with respect to personal finance, I’d be displaying a very different set of behaviors with my money. I’d still be my super competitive self in every other aspect of life, but it’s impossible to compete in a game if you aren’t even aware of its existence!
Financial success is not the result of innate motivation to succeed. Motivation must always have a source. Concepts must be learned, reinforced, and ultimately believed.
Related: The (Totally Unfair) Secret Advantage of the 1% — and How to Level the Field
That’s the power of BiggerPockets. Here, we teach, repeat, and inspire. It was because of BiggerPockets that I took action and invested in Real Estate. And it’s because of BiggerPockets that I was exposed to free, high quality education on one of the most important topics in our society today.
But often, we on BiggerPockets forget that we are too educated on matters of finance to relate to the people who just can’t get by. Their situation is unfathomable to us because we forget that we’ve grasped fundamental financial concepts that are so far over most Americans’ heads that it is incomprehensible to us that they spend too much, go broke, and can’t hold a job. We’ve got a ridiculously unfair advantage over most of the population when it comes to long-term wealth accumulation. We forget that we’ve got the ultimate reason to accumulate wealth — and not to spend it!
How many others have realized that it’s possible to control their own destinies because of BiggerPockets? Is it possible that they became motivated after they learned it was possible? Is it likely that the knowledge they gained from BiggerPockets encouraged them to take action to succeed financially?
I think it is wonderful that it is our job to inspire and teach as many people as possible. And I hope that with this piece, I can encourage at least a few of you to join us in pursuit of that goal.
What has your journey in financial education looked like? Have you ever had the opportunity to teach someone the basics?
Leave me a comment, and let’s discuss.
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.