Baseball fans love to see what a big hitter might unleash at bat. Babe Ruth, the Great Bambino, won an astounding seven World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. He had a career slugging percentage of .690. The home-run race in 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa caught the attention of every kid with grass-stained knees. So you might ask, what makes a world-class hitter? Ted Williams said that the key “was the right swing, studying the pitchers, studying the situations, waiting to get your pitch, and just plain working like hell at it.”
Focus, strategy and discipline are the same fundamentals behind growing your wealth. And it all starts with getting to know the best money coach on the field: You. You’re the only one who can prioritize your goals, build the playbook that works for you and, ultimately, deliver the hits.
First: Think About What You Want
The temptation, like mighty Casey, is to put everything you’ve got behind the swing and let it rip. But sadly, most of us don’t make the connection, and we end up out of the game before we know it. Before you get up to bat, know what you want to do. Is it to earn enough money for retirement, go back to school or buy a house? Write it down. You are 10 times more likely to accomplish a goal if you write it down than if you don’t, according to Shad Helmstetter in Who Are You Really and What Do You Want? Also, defining your goal will help determine your timeline and the options that make the most sense.
Second: Determine Your Strategy
With your goal in mind, plan how you’re going to save the money you need. If your goal is to put away $1,300 so you can head to Florida with your buddies for spring training next year, you’re probably going to want to put the cash you set aside into a stable, interest-bearing account like a money market. If it’s to save for retirement 30 years from now, you’ll want to consider a more aggressive investment of stocks and bonds. Scan the field, process the information and make the call.
Third: Put Your Plan and Strategy into Action
Like any good hitter, you know what you want to do at bat and where to hit the ball. Now you have to summon the skill and strength to do it. If you’ve sworn off coffee and a muffin at Starbucks every morning to save the extra $110 you need each month to get to Fort Myers, you need to summon a dose of personal discipline. But each day you do it will make the next day that much easier.
Last: Score the Run
Board that plane to the Sunshine State and say good-bye to a week of cold weather and endless March Madness hype. Experiencing the reward of your achievement will give you the energy you need to accomplish your next set of goals. Like any batter on a hot streak, it takes only one hit to start it off.
[Paul Wilcox is at work on The Sports Guy’s Guide to Money: Winning Strategies for Your Hard-Earned Cash. He previously published a magazine on careers and money for young professionals.]
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