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Someone Needs to Do the Work Thumbnail

Someone Needs to Do the Work

 Austin Colby, CFP®, MBA

Earlier this year, we examined the concept that, while economies go into recessions, good financial behaviors do not. This is a continuation of those thoughts.

This past weekend, my family and I did some post-summer/pre-fall outside work. We were digging through a bed of rocks that surrounds our house, which meant tearing through the lining underneath and burrowing 4-6 inches deep into the soft dirt in order to transplant a number of plants and bushes from different gardens in our yard.

My 13-year-old, drenched in sweat, with mud streaked across his face and dirt up to his elbows, paused for a moment and asked, “Isn’t there an easier way to do this?”

I looked down at my blackened hands and took note of the pangs in my aching back before responding, “I wish there was, but if we don’t dig past all of this, the plants have little chance of being successful.”

My 6-month pregnant wife, shovel in hand, paused to add, “It’s a lot like making good financial decisions. People want the easy way out, but you have to do the work to have a chance at success. Like budgeting: you can’t leave the weeds and rocks in the way and expect your budget and cash-flow to go well.”

She is 100% correct, although usually I’m the one using personal finance metaphors and she is the one using gardening illustrations.

It was one of my proudest moments as both a husband and a professional personal finance expert.

Personal finance success means different things to different people, but every client I have served over the past 20 years has wanted to achieve something with the dollars they earn. Creating repeatable, excellent financial behaviors will always help you achieve those goals.

Step one is understanding what a good financial behavior is. At The Wealth Group, we define a good financial behavior as a habit that impacts your chances for long-term success in a positive way.


  • Spend less than you earn. Always.
  • Avoid debt like the deer avoids the hunter. 
  • Invest a meaningful amount on a systematic basis. 
  • Give away a portion of what you earn. 
  • As you experience increases in income, do not increase your lifestyle until you have first increased your savings, giving, and debt paydown plans.

These habits don’t sound fancy, but neither does taking a shovel and stabbing it through rock and plastic liner over and over... but it sure is effective.

As different life circumstances occur and necessitate adjustments to your financial plan, you will never hear us discourage a good financial behavior that is already in place. Rather, we will always encourage continuation and improvement upon any existing good behaviors and advocate for adjustments in other areas as needed.

Let’s pretend that it is day one of your working career. Saving is a relatively new concept, and you are intimidated by the notion of putting away a fifth of your hard-earned money. So, you invest 5% of what you earn on day one and increase that amount by 1% of your total wages each year until you are investing 20% of your income. This strategy builds better behavior each year and would prove to be a very effective tool in your retirement garden.

Just to illustrate the power of this behavior, let’s assume a 25-year old earns $45,000 and begins investing 5% of that income. Each year, our 25-year old earns a 3% raise and saves an additional 1% of income, keeping 2% of the increase for other uses. He caps his savings rate at 20% of his income at age 40. Assuming an 8% per year return while earning and investing these dollars, below are the amounts this young investor will have accumulated at different ages*:

  • 40: $200,000
  • 50: $690,000
  • 55: $1,153,000
  • 60: $1,865,000

Again, creating repeatable, excellent financial behaviors will always help you to achieve your financial goals.

At the end of our many hours of working outside, I looked at the finished project (for that day, anyway) and felt a deep sense of gratitude and accomplishment knowing that the work we put in now will reap rewards down the road. As long as we continue to tend that new garden, it will continue to bless us with fruit, veggies and a landscape of beauty, just like the power of your invested dollars working for you.

While it may be challenging—and perhaps uncomfortable at times—the outcome will be worth it. 

Because The Wealth Group, Austin B. Colby & Associates is independent of Raymond James, the expressed written opinions above are our own and not necessarily reflective of Raymond James’ opinions.

This commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints and analyses of the team members providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by The Wealth Group or performance returns of any client of The Wealth Group.

The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person.

Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. The Wealth Group manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

*The above is a hypothetical example for illustration purpose only and does not represent an actual investment. Actual investor results will vary.