The Millionaire Next Door

Spending Non-Financial Resources

How will you spend your time, emotions, and brainpower in the new year? From becoming emotionally involved in politics to the drama in what neighbors are buying, my father recognized that distractions could be a key source of why many struggle to become financially independent or achieve other goals. He gave us this advice on financial fitness last January:

Most importantly building wealth takes financial discipline in a country highly populated with the undisciplined.

As 39% of us begin a new year and a journey to achieve resolutions that seem so clear on January 1st, only 8% of us will actually achieve them. Those who make the cut, so to speak, necessarily avoid distractions. Below are a few that could easily cost you some of your precious non-financial resources this year:

  1. Change for change’s sake. I’m not talking about a necessary change but a frivolous one. Large-scale change can be financially expensive, as well as costly from an emotional and cognitive perspective: moving, renovating, changing schools/colleges. The time and emotions required to implement a whim can displace that which is required to meet other long term goals. Is there an alternative to the change? Or is the change even required at all?
  2. Becoming engrossed with competition. Politics, sports, reality shows, or even social competition closer to home: we can easily shift our attention to the strife, challenges, pain, and other emotions of watching others compete. By becoming engrossed in ongoing competition, you’re necessarily taking time and emotional energy from something else: your business or education or some other worthwhile activity. If that competition lives out on TV, you may be spending more than the average two hours that Americans watch.
  3. Being tethered to a device. From social media to texting to gaming: how many hours a day do you spend on your devices? Likewise, from a health perspective, texting and driving gets much press, but what about just being so engrossed that it ends your life? The headline from a pedestrian in California should serve as a warning. More often, they are simply interfering in our relationships with one another – a high cost for wanting constant technological stimulation.
  4. Fixing everything. For caregivers, namely parents, teaching children to do for themselves requires resources (time, emotions) up front, but once the child can take care of him or herself, the work pays off for both the child and the caregiver. I discussed the implications of helicopter parenting related to future success in college and in the workplace. We’ve really gone too far when experts have to remind us to stop allowing kids to win at board games. Spend your resources up front to teach, and watch this emotional and cognitive investment grow as your children become more responsible.

Successful individuals are keenly aware of how they spend their resources, including their emotional and cognitive resources. The time between each “every once in awhile” is getting smaller…and the more distractions we add to that list, the fewer meaningful things we’re going to be able to accomplish. If the distraction is a habit, then we will be even more challenged to avoid it.  Changing behaviors requires more than listing out resolutions: new habit formation can take approximately 66 days, and also requires rewiring our brains:

Making resolutions work involves changing behaviors—and in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking (or “rewire” your brain)…. Trying to change that default thinking by “not trying to do it,” in effect just strengthens it. Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking.

Here’s to spending all resources wisely in 2016.

2 thoughts on “Spending Non-Financial Resources”

  1. Hello,

    Very much agree with the article posted. I am a great fan of the book The Millionaire Next door. We need to teach our children not to be distracted by devices.

  2. Pingback: Contemplating Change and Sunk Costs - DataPoints

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