Financial Baby Steps

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by Ryan

With so much talk about becoming a millionaire and becoming financially free it can all seem a bit daunting. After all, only 2% of Americans are millionaires and if you’re a just starting out in life (myself included) it doesn’t exactly seem realistic to come up with a million dollars or become free by next Tuesday. Instead of focusing on these largest goals possible and the end product of years and years of labor, consider chunking it down into baby steps.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “What about Bob” you’ll recall the famous book “Baby Steps.” “Baby Steps” is simply the name of the book, but Bob (played by Bill Murray) takes it literally and does everything in baby steps which allows him to face the challenges of his life that had previously shut him into his apartment.

For finances many people see hedge funds and complex investing in the news and bankers making bonuses bigger than their lifetime earnings, but I would recommend they take a look at the whole process in the form of baby steps. You don’t need to know any complex investing techniques, but you do need to start from where you’re standing now. It was Warren Buffett who said all you really need to know in business is addition and subtraction, so don’t make it more complicated than it is.

Instead of saying “I’ll never become a millionaire” say “I’ll save $5,000 this next year, or even smaller just say I’ll save about $400 a month, or perhaps $10 a day. Saving $10 a day will get you to your million dollar goal, but it sure seems a lot easier than looking at that final figure.

If you’re starting from scratch and dont’ have a clue about personal finance your steps might be something like this:

  • Open your first bank account
  • Open a checking account
  • Set up direct deposit
  • Set up a 401k with your employer
  • Open a Roth IRA
  • Learn how to analyze businesses
  • Pursue your own business

The same goes for real estate. Most real estate developers and investors aren’t born with ability to analyze deals, so start small and learn along the way. Most real estate developers start with a process that looks a bit like this:

  • Purchase a home
  • Purchase smaller residential real estate properties
  • Advance into multi family property
  • Do a 1031 Exchange into a commercial property
  • Use equity and current holdings to finance riskier developments and new construction.

If you started at the end you wouldn’t have the necessary knowledge learned from the steps you took beforehand. The baby steps along the way are necessary to teach you lessons that build off of each other.

So next time you read an article about becoming a millionaire or achieving any large goal, break it into baby steps so that it becomes much more achievable and realistic in your mind. This will make any goal seem possible and if you’re Bob, you’ll be able to even leave your apartment!

What are some of the things you take baby steps on?

Are you motivated more by looking at the big goal or taking small steps of action?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Roman Soluk June 12, 2010 at 12:38 am

For me, small steps are the best way to achieve the big goal, as they form it. Besides, I’ve already experienced it in my life and it worked for me.
.-= Roman Soluk´s last blog ..How to avoid food poisoning =-.

Miss Thrifty June 12, 2010 at 3:06 am

This reminds me of one of my favourite sayings, from an old Chinese proverb:

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago… The second best time is now.”

All too often people look at that end goal and are daunted – so daunted that they put it off. But the sooner they begin, the sooner they’ll get there! For that reason I’m a big fan of the ol’ baby steps.
.-= Miss Thrifty´s last blog ..FREE: New Twilight novella from Stephenie Meyer! =-.

Courtney Carver June 12, 2010 at 3:47 am

I am all about the baby steps, but ready to add some intensity to speed some things up. I am currently comparing all monthly bills to see where we can cut costs. (phone, cable, internet, insurance). Will likely cut cable all together…it’s time!
.-= Courtney Carver´s last blog ..What’s in Your Purse? =-.

myfinancialobjectives June 12, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Great post. I think that breaking things down is an EXCELLENT way to approach daunting tasks. I learned this task a few years back at my first job out of college. At first I had the tendency to become overwhelmed, resulting in a heighted stress level. I could still get the work done, but I’d be much more stressed, and work at a slower pace.

Allowing myself to break stuff down into smaller, manageable “baby steps” (even though I was not consciously thinking that I was doing this) really helped me accomplish my duties much more efficiently and lowered my stress level.

I have been taking baby steps on retirement for a few years now. Upping my contribution to my 401k from 4% to 10% to now 12% (next is 15% once I pay off the rest of my debt), I just opened and IRA, and I am currently working on my debt snowball – knocking off my debts one loan at a time.

Baby steps are essential for all humans I feel. For example, Dave Ramsey acknowledges that his debt snowball is not the mathematically ideal form of paying off debt, but that’s ok. Why? Because it’s the psychology behind paying off one of your debts. Paying off a debt gives you a boost, it motivates you to keep going, keep allocating all extra cash towards debt repayment, which is the only way to greatly shorten the length of your loans. Ok, I’ve said too much 🙂 Good post!

Aury (Thunderdrake) June 13, 2010 at 9:26 am

The first babysteps for this investment whelpling was getting my TSFA (Roth IRA equivalent in Canada) opened up in my name.

my second steps is acquiring five or six companies of dividend companies.

My third step will be to open up a corporate entity to host all of my intellectual property projects into.

Baby steps, Ryan. Or in this dragons case.. Whelp steps! 😛
.-= Aury (Thunderdrake)´s last blog ..The 3 Cornerstones of Investing (The Dragon’s Hoard) =-. June 13, 2010 at 8:27 am

I think baby steps are essential to get anywhere in life if you do not have the ‘all or nothing’ type of personality. For me, type A, over-achieving, OCD, drive my own self nuts type of personality i have to hit the ground running like a lunatic when i set my mind towards something and not look back. I tend to go overboards sometimes.

But hey, one way or another we will all get there to the finish line and while all the calm ‘baby-steps’ people are enjoying their retirements you will find me probably sitting on the porch of a nuthouse rocking quickly back and forth in my rocking chair, but i’ll be happy too, i just won’t know the difference.

Great site and i look forward to browsing around!

Darren June 14, 2010 at 7:06 am

I’m taking baby steps in an attempt to grow my blog. I’m trying to follow the traditional advice (commenting, submitting to carnivals, although I don’t guest post too often) and learn more about the blogging world.

As far as monetization goes, the first step for me is to generate $100 from adsense so I can get a payout. My goal is to do that by the end of this year. Do you think that’s a realistic goal?
.-= Darren´s last blog ..The Rule of 72 – How It Helps, And How It Doesn’t =-.

Kristine June 14, 2010 at 9:49 am

Great post Ryan. As Stephen Covey says it, begin with the end in mind. He describes that all things are created twice, first in the mind, then in the physical creation. For building a house, you don’t just jump in with the construction company and start cutting up some lumbar and nailing it together. You have a blueprint, and follow the steps.

When we take that kind of advice and apply it to our lives, the results can be fantastic. We take the end result and work our way backwards. Set up our own blueprint for whatever goal we want to achieve. Then follow along the path. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. 🙂
.-= Kristine´s last blog ..Save Money by Using Ebay =-.

Monterey Marketing Lab (Neal) June 14, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Hey Ryan,
Good call referencing What About Bob, haha. I’ve seen that movie quite a few times.

I take small steps in music and they add up over time. Having the bigger goals in mind is what motivates the smalls steps, but I also enjoy the process. Seems like you have to, almost.

.-= Monterey Marketing Lab (Neal)´s last blog ..Using Facebook for Business? =-.

Mike Olson June 15, 2010 at 5:01 am

Good post, Ryan.

Setting long term goals and breaking them down into smaller more achievable goals seems like a great idea. It looks like it has worked well for your blog.

Keep up the good work.
.-= Mike Olson´s last blog ..Jun 14, Compound Interest Calculation, Compound Interest Definition =-.

Mike June 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

Dear Ryan,

Great post. My mentor has taught me to think big, to think out of the box, set a goal, set smaller goals, i.e. monthly, quarterly, develop a strategy and then learn walking.


.-= Mike´s last blog ..How Much Is Your Credit Card Really Costing You? =-.

Elle June 21, 2010 at 10:57 am

Having smaller goals helped us pay off the car loan. We focused on it one month and sometimes, just one payment at a time.

Great post and I love the video clip!
.-= Elle´s last blog ..The Flight Back Home =-.

James June 21, 2010 at 12:18 pm

my baby steps have come in ways such as jobs, investing and savings.

get a job out of college, work hard get experience and get a better job, rinse and repeat.

investing buying $500 worth of a stock, then $1000 then $10000…before you know if you have a nice chunk of change in the market and your portfolio is doing well.

savings- $5 a day on not eating out, $1000 a month over the course of a year….

the list goes on, baby steps are the way to go.

Kharim June 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm

This is really great… You have to take small steps before you can walk or even to run.

This is similar to climbing a ladder, you have to start from the bottom.
.-= Kharim´s last blog – eCourse =-.

Money Smarts June 22, 2010 at 11:22 am

I think that focusing on the small steps is a great idea because when you don’t see giant strides towards your giant goal right away it can be frustrating. Breaking it down into baby steps allows you to have mini-celebrations when smaller goals are reached -and keep you motivated towards reaching your ultimate goal. Great post!
.-= Money Smarts´s last blog ..10 Ways To Save Money When You’re On A Tight Budget =-.

Anthony June 23, 2010 at 4:36 am

I truly believe in taking baby steps when the goal is to become a millioaire. This should not apply when it comes to just wanting be a millionaire; baby steps I believe should be applied to every aspect in life. One cannot be successful at most things in life without taking those neccessary baby steps required. Rushing to your goal is pretty destined to bring about failure at what you’re trying to accomplish. Baby steps provide the notion that patience, responsiblity and determination are all required in achieving that goal desired.

Belmont Thornton June 24, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I believe that people who plan for future end up making more fund than people who don’t. So the first step towards financial planning is to set a goal for yourself. It can be something like, setting a time line to pay off your debt.

Ary July 2, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Even though taking baby steps is the best way of succeeding, we should admit that it is one of the hardest ways if you are at the beginning. I’ve just started my blog and I feel like I can’t wait to post more and make my link spread over the entire internet. Still, I’ll be trying to take small baby steps in this journey and maybe the ‘ baby will grow up one day ‘.
.-= Ary´s last blog ..Money- Like a cake =-.

Samantha G. February 26, 2011 at 4:21 am

I loved What About Bob! “….baby steps on the bus….” Good stuff.

I am a list maker, so i bullet out the major things i want to accomplish that day, then usually bullet out a bunch more of the little things that will take me to my end goal. I suppose those are my baby steps. If so, i use it every day.
Samantha G.´s last blog post ..Ivan and Angel

Alex March 16, 2011 at 1:18 am

Yes, small steps will contribute to the big goal achievement. Also, I will add that if the money are invested in secure way to bring in bigger interest than the banks it will make the money grow quicker.

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