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A couple weeks ago I saw a picture of a massive tree that got blown over by the wind. The tree was huge! It probably would’ve taken a few people holding hands to measure all the way around it.
Looking closer at the tree I noticed something interesting. The roots were really thin and only a few feet deep. For a tree that size, the roots were way out of proportion and didn’t have the strength to hold the tree upright during a strong wind storm.
It got me thinking about how deep my roots are. How strong are my values and principles when I face tough and challenging circumstances?
What about you? How deep and strong are your roots? Finances and money can cause a ton of stress and anxiety.
How do respond in the face of that sort of pressure and adversity?
Three Financial Lessons Learned from a Fallen Tree
1. The Deeper Your Roots, the Stronger Your Ability to Stick to Your Budget and Goals in the Face of Adversity.
This poor tree. From the outside it appeared to be a majestic, dominant force in the forest. Its presence could be seen from all around and its strength went unquestioned.
But when it faced a little pressure, it crumbled in the storm. Looking around the area, not many other trees went down, only this one and the shallow roots were the obvious reason. Deeper roots could have saved it from its early demise.
Life throws all kinds of obstacles at us, especially with money. Here are a few things that came our way so far in 2018. Our income took a hit when my wife had to take a leave from her second job due to her pregnancy. Don’t worry, the pregnancy went smoothly, but a restaurant job is hard when you’re 8-10 months pregnant.
We horribly miscalculated our taxes and owed $900ish. Our accountant planned with us last year so we could avoid paying in, or at least get closer to $0, but that obviously didn’t work out.
Working in a school, maternity leave is terrible. After my wife returns from short term disability, her paycheck from May-July is significantly lower to account for the days she didn’t work while on maternity leave. Our school annualizes our salaries, so we still get a paycheck during the summer for the amount of days we work. Since she worked 35 fewer days, the money needed to come out of her contract.
The world around us creates stress and throws a wrench in our finances. How do you respond to it? Can you weather the storm of life?
The Advantages of Growing Deep Financial Roots
Deep roots give you staying power. I think this directly applies to personal finance. Your roots are your goals, values, and principles. If those things are deeply embedded in your heart and mind, they enhance your ability to stay the course and reach your goals, like getting out of credit card debt faster, even when you’re tempted to live outside your budget and means.
Luckily, we’ve created good habits due to our goals and values. We planned ahead for Baby Griffin. We knew Jenna was taking a pay hit, so we saved up a couple thousand dollars to offset her lowered pay. I mean we didn’t realize her pay would be lower all the way through July, but we’ll deal with that too.
We also have an emergency fund to help when we really get into a bind.
When faced with stress and temptations, how do your roots hold up? Well, I think that depends on how strong your goals are. Strong goals tend to give you strong, deep roots.
2. Outside Appearances Can’t Hide What’s Inside. Stop Trying to Keep Up with the Jones’s
This tree looked beautiful from the outside. It was the envy of the forest. I mean the trees didn’t tell me this, but I could tell by looking, haha. But while all these smaller trees had no problem weathering the storm, this giant couldn’t stand up to adversity.
This is a great reminder to stop trying to keep up with the Jones’s. It’s easy to look at the lives of other people and be jealous. Have you ever had these thoughts creep into your mind?
“Their house is so much bigger. If we had a bigger house, it wouldn’t be so cluttered. Everyone could finally have their own space.”
“I have so many problems with my old, beat up car. If I got a new car I wouldn’t have problems, and it would look really great!”
“My friends go on vacation all the time, but we never get to travel.”
The truth is, you have no idea what the Jones’s financial situation is like. A big house, fancy car, and lavish vacations look great from the outside. But for all you know, they’re racking up massive debt in the process and stressed to the max.
There’s an old commercial that displays this perfectly. A husband is showing off his big house, nicely manicured lawn, washing his brand new SUV, when he turns and addresses the viewers.
“And how do I afford it all? I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.”
Outside appearances don’t help your financial situation. Outside appearances won’t help your budget or finances. It’s harder to reach your goals and get out of debt if you’re too worried about what other people think of you. What other people think of you is none of your business.
Yes, your friends and family might think you’re killing it and their own jealousy might flare up. But at what cost? You’re damaging your own future just to look good on the outside.
On the inside, it creates feelings of insecurity and financial stress. I don’t know about you, but that sounds terrible. It’s much more fulfilling to work hard toward goals you actually care about, like becoming debt free or starting a family.
A strong financial foundation is more fruitful than maintaining false outside appearances. Grow deep roots and focus your attention on what truly matters to you.
3. If You Fall, You Have the Choice to Get Back Up Again
I felt bad for this beautiful tree. Once its roots failed, it fell to the ground and was forced to stay there. It obviously couldn’t get back up and try to grow deeper roots. It only got one chance.
But you don’t have to stay down when you falter or experience setbacks. You always have the choice to pick yourself up and try again. You’re not doomed by your failures and shortcomings.
Think of a time you failed at something. Did you let it define you? Or did you get back up and try again? I’m sure you didn’t master riding a bike the first time you tried. You probably fell a bunch. But you got back up and tried again. Even if you wanted to give up, your parents helped you up and encouraged you to try again.
Your finances are the same way. Yes, you might have racked up a bunch of debt, but you won’t have the debt forever unless you choose to. If you make the choice to get out of debt, then do everything you can to make it happen. If you stumble, so what? Regain your balance and keep moving forward.
It’s unrealistic to expect perfection. Give yourself a break and show yourself a little compassion and grace when you experience a setback.
Just because you failed once doesn’t mean it’s over. Get back up and try again. And if you can’t pick yourself up, surround yourself with friends and family who love and care about you. They are your support team and want to see you succeed. Let them help and encourage you.
How Can You Grow Deep Financial Roots?
You grow deep roots one day at a time. There’s no shortcut to a solid financial foundation. It takes time to create good habits, so be patient and keep doing the little things.
Make a list when you go to the grocery store and only buy what’s on the list. Start using cash to help control your spending and only buy what you plan for in the budget. Track your expenses in your budget every week and hold monthly family budget meetings.
These are all small pieces that help create the bigger picture of financial success and freedom. If you do the little things everyday, your roots will grow deep and you’ll be able to weather any storm.
Let Me Know in the Comments
What habits helped you develop deep financial roots? What causes you the greatest stress and temptation in your finances?
Really enjoyed this analogy and it’s spot on. I’ll add on that deeply held morals/values in the right place seems to be the best recipe.
It sounds like you three all getting off on the right foot over there. Glad to know that because you’ve prepared in advance, you were able to weather the storm. It’s unfortunate when that’s not the case.
Nice work, Jamie!
Thanks Mike! You’re absolutely right! Morals and values are a great recipe for weathering the storms of life!
Love the tree analogy. Your last point is the one we all have an ability to do that a fallen tree cant and that is the ability to get back up. I pretty much made every mistake in the book (just finished a series on it in my blog) that put me in a huge financial hole. But even with a late start for my financial transformation I was able to right the ship (or tree in this case).
You’re right, getting up is so important and can really set us apart. And it’s never too late to turn it around. It might be more work but it’s totally doable!
Thanks for stopping by!