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March 08, 2012


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I would say that financial discipline is necessary. I'm not so sure that discipline in all areas of life is necessary, though it can certainly help.

As we like to say in engineering, discipline is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for success. Just like anything else in life, other typical determinants of success include knowledge, skill, luck, and people connections. But in terms of accumulating wealth, I would say there are an unusually large number of items that are primarily discipline driven.

The way I like to think about this is that if something is easy to do one time, but hard to do consistently, then that task primarily involves discipline. Hence, things like exercising, paying bills on time, cooking a meal instead of eating out, etc, mainly involve discipline. So for middle class people, accumulating wealth tends to hinge on discipline. Sure, there are aspects of wealth accumulation that primarily involve knowledge (e.g. minimizing taxes), but most of those aspects are irrelevant if you don't have the financial discipline to save money in the first place.

My wife and I have a net worth of $1 million at age 34 (she's 31), but it didn't come fast or easy. We worked hard at school, sacrificed our careers knowing it would lead to higher salaries in the future, invested in up and down markets, and never made financials decisions based on emotions. We never got into any get rich quick schemes...discipline is key to wealth.

You posted my story, consistent discipline ove a long period of time. Amen!!

Disipline is easier today if you allow it.

Signing up for your 401k will put you on auto pilot for saving for your retirement. Add time and you will have a good chunk of change.

Take it farther by applying more disipline and you will save even more. Currently that is what I am working on.

10 to 15 years away from retirement and I am on a good track to success.

Absolutely agree! "Winners focus, losers spray."

My wife and I have been extremely disciplined our whole life, I might add not just in financial matters. For a start we met in 1950 but didn't marry until 1956, all before the advent of "the pill". Our first child arrived in 1958.

We get much more pleasure from seeing our capital grow than we ever do from buying "Stuff". Real pleasure is when we discover a fabulous bargain and that happens a lot more frequently than you might think.

After a lifetime of being disciplined it gets into your DNA and becomes automatic. It would be very painful for me to splurge on some luxury item which is why I never do. Being a lifelong engineer I also try to fix everything I possibly can before buying a replacement as a last resort.

The discipline I have had has come from being a strong saver and creating a very big gap between income and spending. That and I have had the discipline to keep working at a time when it may have been easier to walk away and quit.


I do not always agree with FMF, but this is an absolutely fantastic blog post. I grew up in a very middle class family where my father bought a very unsuccessful business. Due to his hard work and much, much financial discipline, we are fortunate to be part of the 1%.

The discipline I learned growing up is what caused me to get my degree, work my a** off, buy a very modest house with much equity, and continue to grow the family business.

IMHO there is nothing more important than financial discipline when it comes to a successful financial future. Could not agree with this post more. Should be taught in every school nationwide.

Ever hear of survivorship bias?

I'm a bit weary of self-congratulatory statements about how one became wealthy. IMO, Fooled by Randomness provides a more accurate analysis compared to the Millionaire series of why some succeed and others do not.

None of us chose where, when, or to whom we were born. Nor can we take any credit for the mental aptitude and physical qualities that enable us to earn and amass great quantities of wealth.

Discipline may be a factor, but it's only one small factor. I work hard in a demanding environment (Wall Street) that pays very well. And I don't succumb to many temptations to squander what I earn. It doesn't take discipline, as I'm simply not tempted in the first place. Random good fortune is the biggest contributor to success, mine and anyone else's.

I have a high IQ, I have degrees in Biology, Computer Science and Business Forensics, and I've always worked very hard. Still, random luck plays an incredibly large role it overwhelms almost everything else.

What I find lacking in Dr. Stanley's work is comparative analysis of those with the exact same mindset whose discipline was also high but whose results were not successful.

I have to agree with Catherine. I've always been very disciplined with my money, but I've always had the worst luck and timing in life, coupled with ill health, and never had any 'random fortune'. As a result, I've been living at or near the poverty level for most of my adult life, despite diligently saving. Still doing what I can to turn my situation around, but nothing has come of it yet.

Successful people tend to "make their luck",Randomness is NOT the key ingredient!! ... the Stanley/Danko "Millionaire" books are a great guide to one's self analysis IF they have the attitude to be financially successful. The ratios/tests within are pretty definative. I used them in my financial plannng practice with new clients. It often showed what I considered a good probability of success/failure and was an eye opener for so many folks (spend, more spend, not consistent with money, poor money and personal habits, {intersing that those who can CONSISTENTLY exercise over a long period and maintain thier weight/body fat are generally also more successful with money] and an overall "why me"attitude"they tried to cure with new "stuff"). Never worked!

I think Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich) said it first, but Stanley says it better.

I have a believe that; "if you don't have the habit of savings, then you don't have the seed of greatness in you." Never spend more than you earn, never buy what you did not budgeted for, never do what you did not plan to do, never buy what turns out to a liability, never invest where you will not profit, never quit when you fail instead; change your strategy and move on. MAKE YOURSELF UP BY APPLYING DISCIPLINE IN ALL YOU DO

I read in a financial planning magazine that a study showed that, of all the people who visited a financial planner, only 14% had stuck to that financial plan for an entire year. by year two, that had dropped to 11%. Since these are more likely the more motivated people, I would venture to guess that only about 5% of people are disciplined enough to stick to financial goals on their own. Since that is the same statistic for people sticking to health or weight loss goals.... I'm pretty sure it's accurate.

Changing one's own nature, on our own, is hard. If one is serious about their financial goals they should look to a friend who IS very disciplined... and ask them to be their "money buddy" - reviewing their goals and checking in with them weekly for coaching and encouragement and calling them whenever tempted to spend discretionary income.

There are also programs that can help. I use a software system that comes with unlimited one-on-one coaching. I got on it because their client statistics showed a 95% "retention" rate after 4 years (clients "sticking to" the program), with their average client getting 20% better results than projected. I figured I had a good shot at being successful with that and I have been... paying off all my credit card debt in just a year and a half and being on track to save over $70,000 on my mortgage as well. One of my friends is saving over $400,000 on 3 mortgages and her own debt. Because this is like having a "financial coach" avail 24/7, and because I can see at a glance exactly when I'm going to be debt free (month/year), and exactly how much I'm saving along the way... it really motivates me to stick to it. I couldn't be more excited.

Whatever people do - they should do something DIFFERENT from what they have been doing... take concrete steps to CHANGE their approach. In this area, "good intentions" are not enough, as most of us will simply revert to our prior behavior without an outside stimulus for change. It was Einstein that said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

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