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FP Article 34 (For a FREE eReport on Dollar-Cost Averaging and Value-Cost Averaging, click here.)

The Awesome Power of Incremental Growth

by Rajen Devadason

Inch by inch, it's a cinch.

Robert H. Schuller

  Even though we are completely different individuals, it never ceases to amaze me that the problems we face are often identical:

How many of us are packing too many pounds around our middle? How many of us aren't saving and investing as much money as we know we should?

Even if you happen to be among the minority who exercise enough and who manage their money well, I'm sure you know many who don't.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The triggering idea for this article was a deeply depressing thought I had a few days ago. I've been trying on and off over the last 14 months to regain a modicum of fitness. About a quarter of a century ago, I weighed 50 pounds less and participated in - and finished - 3 half marathons. Those road races, and others of shorter distances, plus countless training runs were completed in both the UK and Malaysia.

During that period and also during the preceding years when I ran middle distance races in school, I recognised that I was completely lacking in natural ability and talent. So I made up for that absence by doggedly training and ever so gradually rebuilding fitness after inevitable layoffs for injury or laziness.

The depressing thought I entertained for 30 seconds the other day before my usual optimism kicked in was: "Why, oh, why did I ever let myself get so fat and unfit?" I quickly realised, though, that the long journey back to physical fitness is similar to the slow trek back to fiscal health. Both require a slow, gradual push to harness the awesome power of incremental growth. As preacher Robert Schuller once pointed out: "Inch by inch, it's a cinch."

 

This is an article on how to embed a culture of incremental growth in our financial lives. I hope you enjoy reading it. But if it isn't what you're looking for, you're welcome to search for something that better meets your needs. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Rajen Devadason

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If you are anything like me, then you will find that sudden large-scale changes in any aspect of life are unlikely to be followed through with sufficient consistency to result in long-term improvement. However, tiny incremental moves in the desired direction often can yield fabulous results. So, permit me to tell you first about how I set about training for my maiden half marathon in the UK when I was a student there in the 1980s. I will then fast forward to the present and share with you a strategy I have used with success to help many financial planning clients move toward financial freedom. Finally, I will share some embarrassingly microscopic steps I'm currently taking to try to lose weight and regain the ability to run further than just a few lumbering steps!

Because of the way I'm wired internally, the best way for me to pursue any new interest is to read about it. So, while I was studying for my A Levels in London, and then for my degree at King's College, University of London, and later still when I worked in accounting firm KPMG in Basingstoke, about 32 miles out of London, I would buy magazines and books on running. The extensive reading helped me glean ideas on how to gradually condition my body to run longer and longer distances. If I remember correctly, I probably began with a 5-minute jog and kept at it for a couple of days before increasing the time by one minute. That way it was only a few short months before I was able to run a full 30 minutes at a stretch and then a few months more before I could handle a full hour's running. It probably took me a little over a year to condition myself for my first 13.1-mile half marathon.

I never forgot that lesson and used the same principle to gradually ratchet up my personal saving and investment rate from a mere 1% of net income over the years to my current 50% net savings-investment rate. When I work with my financial planning clients, I often share with them a principle I've internalised... to great benefit:

Money saved acts as a magnet for money earned!

Not everyone is keen to put such pressure on themselves in a bid to become a millionaire or a multi-millionaire, but for those of my clients who are eager to work with me over a decade or longer the journey is often a great deal of fun and replete with opportunities to discover latent abilities for learning and earning.

Having reached an optimal 50% net savings-investment rate for myself some years back, I made a conscious choice NOT to ratchet that up further. Life is so much more than just an exercise in the accumulation of money. I believe God alone knows how long we have on Earth and there really is no point in being miserly - with ourselves and with others. So, the 50:50 equilibrium point between storage and consumption is what seems right to me. Therefore, that's what I also teach my clients and audiences of my seminars and workshops on financial planning and retirement funding.

Unfortunately, in the many years it's taken me to learn those lessons, I failed miserably in maintaining an adequate level of physical activity. And so over the last two and a half decades my weight has moved from 140 pounds to 150 to 160 to 170 to 180 to 190 and beyond. To the best of my knowledge, I never reached 200 pounds, but you can imagine the level of physical decrepitude I've permitted myself to sink to!

On January 1st 2009, I decided enough was enough. I began walking two or three evenings a week to gradually get my joints and muscles reacquainted with the vague concept of exercise! By the middle of that year, I felt strong enough to attempt to run for perhaps a minute or two. My feelings were wrong.

In July that year, in the middle of a super-brief run sandwiched in the middle of a walk, I tore a muscle in my left calf. The pain was unbelievable! It took a long time to resume gentle walking.

It then took me another five months to get to the point of being able to jog ever so slowly. Then in early February 2010, at the end of a meagre 5-minute jog, 'something' in my left calf starting hurting again, thus forcing another layoff.

The way I deal with the inevitable results of more than a decade of almost complete physical inactivity and ballooning weight in the months and years ahead will determine whether I am ever able to run effortlessly again. In hindsight, I wish I had never let my body deteriorate so badly.

My two sources of consolation now are:

1. At least my experience might be of help to you... in the realms of finance and fitness; and

2. The proven power of small, slow, gradual incremental steps can be harnessed to reverse the destructive effects of both laziness and neglect.

Remember: For as long as there is breath, there is hope.

In closing, if you need specific guidelines to set life-altering goals, then my ebook Unleashed might be of use to you. You can check it out, along with other possibly useful information products here.

(If you live in Malaysia AND believe you might require my help in the realm of financial planning and retirement planning, you're also welcome to learn more about me here.)

© Rajen Devadason

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Rajen Devadason, CEO RD WealthCreation Sdn Bhd & RD Book Projects
349, Desa Rasah, Jalan Bayan 7, 70300 Seremban, NS, Malaysia
Tel/Fax: +606 632 8955

 
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