Last night, on a whim, I ran in a 5k race at a local high school. Every Tuesday, hundreds of high school kids, and some brave, if not crazy, adults gather to run 5 kilometers on a local cross country course. To say that I’m completely out of my element at an event like this would be as much of an understatement as “mission accomplished” was an overstatement.
Although Mrs. Planner is a marathoner and a long time track and cross country coach, my running skills leave quite a bit to be desired. When running I try to harness whatever basic running skills that I posses and combine them with other important non-running skills to get the desired result. You see, you don’t have to be a running wunderkind to actually be productive as a runner. You just need to access non-running skills and use them to your advantage. The same can be said for your financial life. You don’t have to be “good with money”. You don’t have to be good with math. You don’t even really need to know what an ETF, a credit default swap, or put call is.
It’s in this spirit that I offer you the 3 best non-financial skills which could help lead you to a financial happy place.
- Problem solving skills – I’m always skeptical when people say things like “my dad always taught me”. I don’t know why I am, I just am. However, my dad really did always teach me the importance of good problem solving skills. He emphasized the importance of getting out of life’s little jams by simply using brain power. But more importantly he made sure that when I was faced with a problem that my first reaction was to try to find a solution. The last thing he wanted me to do was to sit there “in the problem” and just wallow around in self-pity. To this day, I refuse to be in a problem. I must solve it. Are you financially stressed or destitute? Don’t obsesses over it, just fix it. How should you fix it? Don’t get caught up in that, just start. Not knowing what to do is never a good excuse in my book. Act. Just don’t lie, cheat, or steal.
- Discipline – If you are anything like me, then you despise people with high metabolism. If I eat a double bacon cheeseburger with fries, then I literally will see it on the scale and on my waistline. Therefore, I need to have the discipline to either eat them in moderation, work out like All Sport Goofy, or simply not eat the death sandwich. It’s the people that say “the hell with those three choices” that I really worry about. Because a disciplined person has to make choices. Want that awesome pair of shoes? Want to go to your favorite band’s new world tour? Want to buy your child the coolest new toy? All of those are fine if you have the discipline to spend in moderation (which most people don’t do), earn extra income to pay for these things, or simply avoid spending the money on these things.
- Determination – Have you ever watched an athlete just absolutely refuse to lose? It’s such an amazing thing to witness. It truly is one of sports’ great gifts to us as fans. Whether it’s the US Women’s Soccer Team, a Tour de France cyclist, or your niece running the 100m dash at a middle school track meet, watching someone with determination can inspire you to do more. Simply put, heart kicks ass. I love receiving emails, tweets, and Facebook messages from people that used determination to accomplish financial goals. Don’t have any determination? Find some. Get inspired by others’ determination.
So, go ahead and suck at math. Go ahead and remain ignorant to financial terms and concepts. That’s okay. Just make sure that you are developing and nurturing your non-financial skills.
By the way, I beat at least 3 high school girls in the 5k last night. I felt pretty good about it until I was finishing the race and a pack of boys who had already finished the race started clapping for me and saying “great job, mister!” Screw you kids. I’m not a mister. But I did finish the race. Mission accomplished.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.