[Every once in a while, Mr. Nickels likes to take over the keyboard. Enjoy!]
— Mrs. Nickels
When I first began what would become a 20-year career in the photofinishing industry, I remember looking at compounding interest charts. The charts came with the literature about contributing to the company retirement plan. I specifically remember looking at a chart very similar to the one below. The concept of compounding interest was intriguing. “Ben” only invests a total of $16,000 between the ages of 19 and 26. He ends his career with $2.3 Million. Arthur doesn’t start investing until he is 27, and invests a total of $78,000 until his retirement at age 65. He ends his career with $1.5 Million.
Recap? Ben invests $62,000 less, but ends his career with $756,830 more than Arthur. All because Ben started early. Amazing.
I did end up contributing to my 401k, but it was more out of obligation, than desire. I didn’t act on this new information with passion. Why not? I’m not really sure. Looking back, I’m fairly sure that if I had made a similar chart using my own numbers…what I could have saved, what interest rates I could have realistically expected, what I needed to retire…I may have acted. Would my life be different? I don’t know.
Do I have regrets? Not at all! I am where I need to be. I’m a sci-fi nerd and have seen enough time travel episodes to know that a small change in my past can drastically change my future (sorry, off topic).
I admit I have made some HUGE financial mistakes in my past. I have also made some very smart moves. It all led to where I am right now. This post is about finding the motivation to change your future. But, just like history class, we can often look to our past for clues. So, what motivates me? What is it in me that makes me give up so much now to invest for a better future? I began to think of some goals I accomplished in the past. What motivated me to reach these goals?
It’s a Sunday afternoon in early December, 2011. The family and I are at my favorite Mexican restaurant, enjoying a few tacos. Out the window, we watch as the back-of-the-pack stragglers running the California International Marathon start to pass by. The wheels in my head started spinning…I want to do that! Back in high school, I hated running. So why did I want to run a marathon? I think it was just the fact that not many people can run 26.2 miles.
When I first started running, I couldn’t run half a mile without stopping. I kept at it. Within a week or so, I finally ran a full mile non-stop. Pure joy! My first goal was accomplished. Soon, I was running three miles, three days a week. By that summer I was ready to start training for the marathon coming in December. I went online and found a conservative training plan and started the 18 weeks of progressively longer runs in preparation to run 26 miles + 385 yards.
That December morning in 2012 finally came, and in the middle of one of the worst storms of the year. The rain was blowing sideways as I exited the shuttle bus. What am I thinking? The gun went off and I crossed the starting line. In the pouring rain, my emotions got the best of me at the half mile marker.
I was actually running a marathon.
Me, the one that hated running, was running with 8,000 other people toward the finish line 26 miles away. It was a once-in-a-lifetime feeling. At the halfway point, I was feeling really good. My legs felt great, I was breathing steady, and I was confident I would finish strong. Then the bolt of pain hit me. I had pulled a quad muscle at mile 17. But I was still going to finish! I limped, walked and jogged my way to the finish line. It took everything in me to get there, but I reached my goal. The rain was gone and the sun was shining by the time I finished 5 1/2 hours later.
What was my motivation?
Climbing Half Dome
I’ve been to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite three times, but I will never forget that first trip. It’s about 7 1/4 miles of uphill hiking to the base of the dreaded cables that lead to the summit. There were people standing at the base, refusing to climb those cables. I admit, they are a little overwhelming and daunting to look at. From the bottom it looks like a vertical death trap. But after all the energy it took to get that far, there was no way I wasn’t going to finish.
I put on my gloves, grabbed the cables and started the climb. About every four feet there are two-by-fours across the path so you can rest. As it got steeper, I remember thinking, “just one step at a time…stay safe for my kids…I can’t die here.” So with each vertical step, I said the names of my daughters….. Kelly…… Lindsay……Kelly…….Lindsay, all the way to the top. It seemed like hours to get there. Fifty to seventy-five people caterpillaring their way up, stopping every four feet to rest for a few minutes. Finally, I was there and the views were spectacular. Worth all the effort and fear to get there.
What was my motivation?
Side note: I would love to climb Mt. Everest, but my wife assures me I will be a single man upon my return. [Mrs. Nickels’ Editorial Comment: For the record, he wouldn’t be a single man when he came home. My fear is that I’d be a single woman when he DIDN’T come home. So there.]
So why am I only now, at this stage of my life, using my money wisely? What changed in my mind?
The only difference between then and now is a GOAL, a PLAN, and a DEEP DESIRE to reach that goal. The biggest motivator for me was seeing on paper a plan to save with an end date just seven years from now. I believe if I’d had that information in my early 20’s I would have had the motivation to retire that much sooner. But I’ll never really know. However, now I know what we want and what it’s going to take to get us there. Everyone is motivated in different ways. Look at other parts of your life where you have succeeded in completing a goal. What was your motivation? In the two stories above, I had a goal in my head, a desire to accomplish that goal, and a clear, no questions asked, plan to get there.
So what motivates you? Find your motivation and use it to change your life for the better.