FEATURE — At the age of 7, I decided I wanted to play baseball. I was living in beautiful Yorba Linda, California, and in my town, baseball was life. I was a little nervous as I watched games at the local ballfield because I was one of the smallest kids my age. In fact, in thinking back I spent most of my K-12 life trying to avoid being shoved into a school locker. 

My Dad agreed to teach me how to play baseball but said that since I was small and not naturally athletic, I would need to make up for it by working harder than anyone else. He told me he could teach me to be one of the best players on the team, but it would take sacrifice. He would only agree to help if I committed to do anything he asked. With great excitement, I agreed. 

The very next morning, before the sun even came up, the light went on in my bedroom. My Dad, holding a bat and a ball, told me to get dressed. I complained at first, but he reminded me I had made a commitment and I was expected to keep it. For as many years as I played little league baseball, we practiced pitching and hitting every morning under the lights in our backyard.

My dad even gave me a copy of the Little League rule book and told me to learn it. He wanted me to understand the game better than any of my teammates. It wasn’t easy, but the hard work paid off. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my years playing baseball. I was always the starting pitcher and usually had the highest batting average on my team. Even though baseball was very popular I quickly learned that few kids practiced or studied the sport as much as I did, which proved to be a huge advantage for me. That turned out to be a valuable lesson that I found applied to many other areas later in life. I remained the smallest kid on all my teams, but I worked harder than anyone else.

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I couldn’t hit the ball very hard, but I learned how to strategically place a ground ball through the infield, so I got on base a lot. The bigger kids liked to slug the ball, trying for a home run. Such a practice occasionally worked but more often it resulted in a fly-out to the outfield. 

I am continually amazed as a financial advisor who has the money. I have found that it is rarely those who swing for the financial fences. With few exceptions, my wealthiest clients tend to be just average working people who started young and spent their lives hitting singles and getting on base. They didn’t need, or receive, the glory of the occasional homerun.

They were content to save regularly, invest carefully and spend wisely as their financial batting average climbed.

There is a lot of political talk about our nation’s unfunded liabilities. This refers to future financial commitments for items such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for which there is no money set aside. Sadly, government is not the only entity saddled with unfunded liabilities.

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The majority of Americans are unprepared to pay for their future retirement, and based on current trends, probably never will be. I believe roughly 60% of American workers have less than $25,000 in savings, while 75% of current retirees say they have not saved enough to last out their lives.

We complain that our government manages money badly, but we should look at our own balance sheets. Our personal financial situation is far more critical to our family’s survival than our national shortages. Many blame current high inflation or lagging wages as reasons for not saving enough. These are real challenges and may make saving money more difficult, but we still must find a way to do it.

Today’s excuses will not pay tomorrow’s bills when you are too old to work. I began my career working with Depression-era people who managed to save money during the toughest of times. If your family is to survive, it must be done. 

The secret to financial success is no different than what my dad taught the littlest kid on my baseball team about success in baseball. It doesn’t take great strength or unusual talent. Just start early, work harder than anyone else, and keep hitting singles. If you need help staying motivated, get a good coach like my dad who will pull you out of bed every morning.

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