Q28: Why does it take so long?

Working towards your goals takes time and patience.

Take it slowly

Christmas is done, New Year celebrations are over. For some it’s resolution-time. The feeling that a new chapter is about to start can make us feel like we need to make a new beginning. So, we vow to stop — or start —certain habits: cut down drinking, eat less chocolate, go to the gym more, look for a new job… The options are endless, and we choose what we feel is right for us.

Then the reality strikes. Some resolutions are harder than others, and none of them takes effect quickly enough. Two typical resolutions are to save more and to lose weight. These two share some common features: they both require discipline and they both require time. You can neither lose weight nor get rich by the end of the week. Both feel like a slow, endless grind. But both can be worth it in the end.

I like to move it, move it

Let’s start with weight loss. It’s hard. But the simple mathematics of it makes it easy to understand what’s involved. Say you want to shed 5kg. Each kilogram of excess body weight contains 7,700 calories of energy. So all you have to do is burn off that energy and your goal is reached. The trouble is that it takes a bit of work to burn off 38,500 calories. 

If you’re running on a treadmill at a reasonable pace you can burn 10 calories per minute. Do the calculations and you’ll find that it takes over 64 hours to burn off 5kg. Calories are hard to shift, and they stack up fast. A 50g chocolate bar has 260 calories: that’s half an hour of running. A Big Mac is 565 calories: slog it out for about an hour to burn that off. As you can see, loading up on calories is easy to do and getting them in is much easier than burning them off. How easy is it to hoover up a load of muffins, chocolate, delicious salty chips and then have dinner when you get home? Add some wine or beer to the mix and you’ve really blown your daily intake. 

To put input and output into perspective, think of it like this: you can run for an hour and a quarter but burn off the equivalent of just 100g of body weight. That’s why losing weight takes time, and it can’t be done before next Saturday when you want to look good in your clothes. You have to just take off very small pieces which, over time, add up. In a month or two you’re looking fab in your jeans again.

Fatten your bank account

Saving is kinda like weight loss, except in reverse. You start small hoping to get bigger. And, just like when trying to slim down, it is usually done with small steps. Imagine filling a bucket one drip at a time; that’s what saving is all about. 

One interesting thing about saving and investment is that as you save more, the magic hand of compounding adds a little bit extra to your balance. Over the long term the combination of saving and compounding can achieve great results.

We’ve written about compounding in another post which is worth a read. The great thing about it is that the more capital you build the greater the effect of compounding. Mathematicians would say that your money grows exponentially; all you need to care about is that it gives you more for no effort.

Building your wealth doesn’t have to be hard, although it will take time. It’s the continual addition of money into your investments that is important. Read this post, or try some of these ideas:

  • Don’t save what’s left of your salary after expenses, spend what’s left of your salary after saving
  • Invest your tax return, don’t spend it
  • If you get a payrise, salary sacrifice half of it to super

What’s important is to keep to your plans. Whether it’s weight loss or saving money, staying the course is vital. Keep your eyes on your objective and think long term. Results don’t happen overnight. Understand that taking it slowly is the key to success.

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