Just the tip of the iceberg

Throughout my 20’s I spent every dollar I earned. I’d tell myself things such as “I deserve it” or “it doesn’t cost much”. The problem is these times became too frequent. I was telling myself I deserved something new every single week. I’d hardly been in the workforce for one year, yet here I was convincing myself that I deserved the best of everything. House, food, booze, travel. No expenses spared.

Now I look back and I think about why I thought this way. Each time I come to the same conclusion. My parents made it look easy.

It’s my parents fault!

All I could see was the fact that we were well fed and well housed. I didn’t really consider the fact they had to work for it. I only saw the end results, not the process. It’s a bit like an iceberg, where we only see the tip (results), but not all of the foundation layed under the water.

I never got to see their starter homes. I didn’t see them working multiple jobs. I was too young to see all the sacrifices they made. All I saw were the end results when I was old enough to remember anything.

I only saw how easy it was and I wanted the same thing, thinking that it came easy. I didn’t know about the hard yards. This is why I think I believed I deserved the same. I thought it was a given. I just didn’t realise the financial and mental discipline needed to get there.

We didn’t talk about money at home or at school so it is probably no surprise as to how naive I was.

But we do this all the time. Consider your favourite athlete. We say things like “he’s genetically blessed” or “she got lucky”. They also make it look easy. We are great at diminishing achievements in this small country. What we don’t see is the thousands of hours they have spent perfecting their craft. We conveniently dismiss all the hard work they have done and we narrow down their success to luck or genetically gifted.

It’s not that easy

By getting to my late 20’s and realising I still had no assets to my name I finally realised that wealth doesn’t come easy and I can’t have what my parents have. At least not now anyway.

I had to start from the bottom. So I bought a starter apartment, instead of a house. I made some sacrifices and limited my spending. I put a stronger focus on my work. I read more about personal finance. All these actions are hard to do. It is hard to live in a starter house. It is hard to limit spending. It is hard to impress at work. It is hard to learn about something new.

Despite how hard and time consuming these ‘starter’ or ‘under the iceberg’ actions are, the results will blow you away.

Maybe even to a point where the tip of your iceberg (visible results) is impressive to someone else who is back in the same position as you were 10 years ago.

Hopefully they can realise all the time and work that went in to building your iceberg that is beneath the surface. Otherwise, they too will forever be chasing the tip of the iceberg without building a strong enough base first.

Final Thoughts

There is nothing wrong with wanting the best. The problem is when we think the best is easy to come by. Don’t be fooled by the success of other people. Most of them have got there through countless hours of work, discipline and sacrifice. Just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t make it true.

It all comes down to a discrepancy between our expectations and our reality. In my case, there was an extremely large gap between the two. If we expect too much from our actions, then we won’t act in line with reality. We will instead act in line with our expectations. In other words, our actions won’t deliver the real results we desire because our expectations are several levels higher than our reality.

The gap can be reduced as we learn more. For your finances for example, you could ask questions of people more knowledgeable than you. Ask your parents about the early adulthood years and what challenges they faced. Ask your colleagues what their thoughts are on Kiwisaver. Ask a financial adviser how your finances are looking and what you could be doing better.

You could read business articles. You could listen to podcasts. You can go to the library. The more you learn on any topic, the closer your expectations will be aligned to your reality.

All the hard work is under the water and can’t been seen, but eventually you will get to see the tip, which is the result of years of work. 90% of an iceberg is under water, so don’t be discouraged by lack of visible progress. You are making great progress. Much like compound interest, it will just take time before you can see the results.

Surprisingly, the more we learn the less confident we become. As we learn, we learn there is much more that we didn’t know. This is a good thing. If we can strive for continual learning then we will adjust our actions closer to reality, then we won’t waste so many years trying to achieve the tip of the iceberg without first building the base.

The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here.