What are the two things we all want?
Money and health. Enormous industries exist around each, guiding us through the confusing journey to wellness and wealth.
What makes for a healthy person? How much money is enough? Even if you figure out what the end goal is, getting there is hard. Do you buy real estate? Invest in the stock market? Do a juice cleanse? Take up yoga? It’s enough to make anyone throw up their hands and give up completely. At least, that’s what I did.
After my first year of working in New York City I tackled head-on one of those big goals: Health. My college days were over and suddenly I found myself with a bit of disposable income and a job that ended every day at six. I’d visited the school gym in college a couple of times a week, usually to swim or walk on the treadmill, but I’d always been fairly mediocre at anything athletic.
I decided my first big adult initiative was going to be getting in Really Good Shape.
I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly, but I had this picture in my head of someone who maybe went to Pilates and drank green juice. Those people are a dime a dozen on Instagram, how hard can this be?
The first stop on the Really Good Shape express was to start running marathons. This seemed like a healthy person thing to do, so I signed up for a half marathon, killed it, and then ran three full marathons after that.
As my days as a financial PR pro wrapped up, I spent my evenings exploring all sorts of avenues to Really Good Shape. Maybe a lot of yoga? Crossfit? That’s when I read a book about muscle building for women. In scientific terms, the book laid out the fact that building muscle is kind of a one way ticket to Really Good Shape. Actually, if you build up enough of the stuff, you can burn more calories while doing absolutely nothing. Finally! I was 100% onboard.
Building up muscle basically requires two actions: eating a lot and lifting weights a lot. So I did both. I purposely gained about 8 pounds while doing a bodybuilding program. The ice cream and peanut butter were fun, the not fitting into my pants was not. But by the end I had achieved my goal -- a DEXA scan a year later revealed that I was burning 200 more calories a day doing nothing. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but that really adds up. Burning an “extra” 1400 calories per week means you can eat a huge ice cream sundae with no effects. All while sitting on the couch.
That’s all well and good, but how can you apply these muscle-building lessons to investing?
Funny you should ask. Putting money in the stock market when you’re young, much like slamming iron and peanut butter, is a one way ticket to building a better you. Lifting is a lot like investing because over time you build a body that works well for you with very little input.
Sitting on the couch and eating a huge sundae is an example of compound interest at work. Putting the work in early to reap rewards later and delayed gratification are a part of the building blocks of success.
Did you know that if you invested $10,000 when you are 20 in a vehicle returning 6% and reinvested the returns, in 40 years you would have more than $100,000? Think about all of the green juice you could buy.
But, I know what you’re thinking. What 20-year-old has an extra $10,000? I sure didn’t when I was living on an entry-level PR salary. That’s where discipline, and the value of small efforts over time comes in. Can you invest $10,000 in a lump sum? Probably not. But could you negotiate down your gym membership fee and invest the difference? Or pack your lunch and put away the $30 a week you would have spent? Maybe.
I wouldn’t say I ever achieved my 23-year-old vision of Really Good Shape, but I did learn a lot about health and fitness. One of the biggest learnings was that the small things really do add up. Walking more, building in more time to relax, working out three days a week consistently rather than every day for a few weeks at a time. The little things really do add up to build a better future you over time.