WE all know the importance of planting seeds, waiting for germination and growth, harvesting a crop, consuming a part of our yield, and later replanting new seeds so Mother Nature may do what she does best: perpetuate life.
There are stunning parallels between the sequential processes of putting food on our tables and cash in our farmers' bank accounts, and the best way for regular people to manage our finances.
Let's consider five phases of the agricultural and financial cycles:
1. Planting seeds = Working hard for our income, be it salary or revenue;
2. Waiting for germination and growth = Waiting for our scheduled payoff;
3. Harvesting the crop = Receiving our hard-earned money;
4. Consuming part of that crop = Spending our money to maintain a chosen lifestyle; and
5. Replanting new seeds = Holding back some of our earnings to boost our next cycle's total income.
If you're clear on the parallels between those two processes, we can then dive deeper into our own financial (or economic) cycle.
PHASE 1: WORK HARD FOR OUR MONEY
There is a (translated) Chinese rhyme I appreciate:
"This one makes a net;
This one stands and wishes.
Would you like to bet
Which one gets the fishes?"
In these horrific economic times, I suggest those who need to ramp up their regular 40 hours of work a week (assuming they still retain jobs) should consider overtime or additional part-time gigs to raise their crisis-ramped work-weeks to 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90 hours.
Work hard — perhaps harder than you have ever worked before — to make more money now so you won't have to work so hard in the future. I'm advocating only a medium-term season of imbalance, perhaps over the next five years; we don't want to perpetuate workaholism as a permanent way of life because partway down that pernicious path lies family disintegration.
PHASE 2: EXERCISE PATIENCE
As you work more and more, don't focus on the money. Instead, fixate on providing great service to more people while developing internal expertise.
When we pour our energies into serving more people, money usually follows.
So set a goal to be the best at what you do; ideally the best in the world, but along the way, set intermediate goals like gradually becoming the best in your office, company, city and nation.
Understand this: Those are tough goals to achieve, so be patient.
The late publisher and author William Feather once observed: "Successful salesmen, authors, executives and workmen of every sort need patience. The great liability of youth is not inexperience but impatience."
Are you patient or impatient? My advice today, regardless of your answer, is nurture patience tomorrow.
PHASE 3: GET PAID
Despite being wise enough to not fixate on money like a miserable miser, do keep tabs on the regularity of your flowing income. Track it carefully because the way you manage both your cash inflows and outflows will determine your financial — and overall — destiny.
PHASE 4: LIVE WELL
A foundational principle of my financial planning practice is delayed gratification: Sacrificing some good things today to be able to afford many great things tomorrow.
Only God knows how much longer we have on this Earth. So, don't underspend so much that you miss out on the great joys of life; and don't overspend because that leads to mountains of debt which force us to sacrifice our future quality of life as we pay and pay and pay for past excesses. Instead, choose a middle path of balance.
As first and second century AD Stoic philosopher Epictetus said: "Fortify yourself with moderation; for this is an impregnable fortress."
PHASE 5: SAVE AND INVEST
While I've entitled this Phase 5 (clearly after Phase 4), in my consulting and training professional work, I teach clients and students to save and invest first before giving to charity (because we can't prudently give what we don't possess) and to only then spend on ourselves.
In secular financial planning a powerful dictum worth adhering to is "Pay Yourself First". Save and invest before you pay everyone else who bills and invoices you: The butcher, the baker, the grocer, the tailor, TENAGA, TM, Maxis, and the banks, of course, for a slew of loans that have become the bane of our lives.
Use a written budget — on paper or in Excel — to gain a firm handle on your expenses and to scrutinise how best to save and invest money in a diversified portfolio that's structured to grant you greater future wealth. Such a portfolio should be built to yield you both capital gains and passive income.
And for as long as you toil to earn your active income (see Phase 1 above), your passive income can be intentionally cycled back to the top of the five-phase process to incrementally boost your wealth through each iteration.
Note: To ask me questions on this virtuous cycle of wealth creation, you're welcome to attend my free webinar The ABCs of Financial Planning with Rajen Devadason on Aug 2 (sign up link: https://learn.rajendevadason.com/webinar-abc-of-fp/).
I recommend you start implementing some of the guidelines I've suggested if they suit your circumstances, compulsions, capabilities and convictions. Over the next five weeks, we'll take a deep dive into each of the five phases of our personal financial cycle.
© 2021 Rajen Devadason
Rajen Devadason, CFP, is a licensed financial planner, professional speaker and author. Read his free articles at www.FreeCoolArticles.com; he may be connected with on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/rajendevadason, or via rajen@RajenDevadason.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @Rajen Devadason and on Clubhouse (Rajen Devadason).