A big fear I have of this site

Ramit Sethi

Writing this site is a lot of fun for me. I get to go around, meet interesting people, and make fun of things. I once got a free lunch. But still, I’m not sure it makes a big difference.

A while ago, I ran across an article entitled, Because buying new running shoes is more fun than actually running.

My concern is that there’s a big difference between buying new running shoes and actually hitting the road every morning. Big difference. One is really fun and relaxing while the other requires a lot of hard work, diligence, and sacrifice…

You can buy a successively more costly and high-quality series of claw hammers until you’ve reached the top of the line, but until you learn how to use them skillfully, you’re going to keep making ugly bird houses.

Boy, we love to buy things and read things and watch things. But actual behavioral change? That’s another story.

That’s why I still shake my head when I get emails asking if they should go with Datek because it has trading for $5 cheaper. Or when people ask if they should invest in stock A vs. stock B, rather than taking a holistic view of their investment strategy, or what software to use.

I remember when I was in high school. My group of friends was pretty competitive, which pushed all of us to try to do well in school. So when it came to the SATs, I was so pumped up that I went out and bought about 10 SAT books. Dorky, I know, but it felt good to get each shiny new book. But what did I really accomplish?

At that time, if anyone had told me that college admissions (or whatever) was not just about your score, but a holistic view of your character and accomplishments, I would have laughed and tried to figure out what the “right” SAT score was for getting in. With perspective, though, I realized that buying the books was probably the smallest step to successfully getting into where I wanted to go.

Same thing for finances. It’s so easy to read this site, watch CNBC, buy the Wall Street Journal every day, etc. After a while, you know what you should be doing. But really, the only way to get rich is to start doing it. Whether it’s starting a budget, or buying your first stock, or even just opening the right bank account, that’s the way to do it. Reading and reading and reading with no action won’t accomplish anything.

What will you do today?

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  1. ~Dawn

    Reading, reading and reading does sink into to your subconscience I think. But you are right, learning is nothing without action and action doesn’t happen unless attitudes change.

  2. Colm O Brogain

    Great site. the link to the article is broken, here’s the new one:

  3. cathy

    I like the Nike slogan – just do it!

  4. Penny Olson

    This article really hit home for me. I was a “reader” but it was only an excuse to hesitate because I was afraid. Since I have learned to start by simply putting one foot in front of the other and “just freakin’ do it”, I have done nothing but surprise myself with the incredible things that I am capable of. I am finding that this tactic works in every aspect of life from starting my own business, trading stocks, even relationships. And the more I do things in spite of fear, the happier I am becoming. I believe that you do not have a chance to grow unless you are willing to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Thanks so much for the incredible reinforcement!!!

  5. Leo L. Sluga

    You guys are great. I am quite a bit older than you, almost 47, but I can remember being just like you guys like it was yesterday. The good part: I believe you are on the right track. I am an engineer by degree involved in manufactuirng IT and consulting for manufacturing. I figured out in high school that engineers don’t make any money and that my 9-5 was going to be my secondary source of income. I went the real estate route (and of course 401k’s and IRA’s) and I also realized early that you have to start, but more importantly that you have to start early. That is one of the keys and you must really try to make that point. Emphasize the way those future value equations work and what they really mean. Also, talk about compounding and the profound effect it has on investments again, with respect to time.

    The other really huge point: It’s OK to work and do well at your job. It generates seed money for investments and you need to work to contribute to the world and for personal fulfillment, etc. (Why else did you go to Engineering School?) However, once you gain critical mass with investments, you’ll realize that you can get much better return by managing your investments instead of chasing that next $10,000 raise or bonus.

    You can wait and see or you can do the math now. Again, the most important thing is to start so that you can accumulate that critical mass sooner rather than later. Once it’s achieved, it’s like a snowball rolling down hill – it can’t be stopped!

    Finally, read the Millionaire Next Door. It’s really easy-reading but it makes several great points and it profiles the typical millionaire: It’s guys like you.

    Good luck and keep up the good work. I’ll try to read you guys again and make more comments.


    Leo Sluga

  6. Thea Westra

    Love the posting. So obviously true.
    I went to the article and I also liked this line:
    Don’t fiddle endlessly, just because it’s fun. That’s not running; that’s just playing with your shoes.
    No accident that I named my coaching business ‘Forward Steps’. 🙂


  7. Sowlin Kongbahdi

    i absolutely love this post. keep up the good work for you gained a religious reader!

  8. Pauline

    That’s a great point!

    When getting ready to take the LSAT and now getting ready for law school, I go to the library and borrow all the books I need and take notes. Who needs all those books saying the same thing lying around. Libraries are the best things ever for frugal people who love to read.

  9. Vasu Aiyer

    Hi Ramit,
    I came over here via Yahoo! You have an informative site and my congratulations on providing a wonderful service.
    About this article, one thing comes to my mind is – practice, practice and more practice.
    I have had a variety of roles in the software industry over the years and nowin my latest avatar, I have a spanking new role in training. We try to answer this question and execute on that answer – “How do you get people within the company up-to-date on the latest products and technologies in the most cost effective way?”

    You can just give them the information (a doc site for each product) and have them go alone from there. Or you can train them using objectives phrased in their language that works for their life and give them practice in meeting those objectives and finally test them on competencies related to those objectives.

    Why am I saying all this? It seems to me that the current way to “train” people to be financially responsible is to give them a “doc” site – yahoo finance, msn money, wsj etc and leave them “learn”.

    Now, not having any practice and stated objectives, you will have people reading stuff and trying all manner of extreme antics , or others that are so overwhelmed that they are paralyzed into inaction..

    With well stated objectives for a desired goal, and lots of practice in building competencies to meet those objectives these sites could actually be useful.

    Vasu Aiyer