Nov 10, 2009

Lessons from the Garden

Published in the Montrose Monitor June, 2008

Most of us have had experience with a garden. Some people have a green thumb and can grow
anything even in our alkaline clay. A green thumb implies luck or good fortune in the garden, this is hardly the case. These green thumbed folks work diligently to create a hospitable place in the soil by adding compost and fertilizer. They create rows in the soil, plant seeds and water them daily. They remove the harsh Western Colorado weeds that would choke the life out of a fledgling plant. As the
weather changes they take measures to protect what they have worked so hard to create. When the time is right they will have a beautiful garden that will bring joy to the table. 

There are folks with a green thumb in regards to finances. These are the kind of people that leave a career and enjoy retirement without constant worries about finances. They are not necessarily luckier than the rest; they have worked hard to manage their finances well. Here are three useful ideas for pre-retirement and for those who want to make the most of what they have grown. 

1) You can’t grow wealth with bad investments, just like you can’t grow a blue ribbon tomato in
salty soil. It is important to keep an eye on the places you have planted your money. Take the time to keep up with what is happening in the industry and with new trends. Make sure the fees associated with your portfolio are reasonable and that you aren’t giving everything you have grown to someone else. Without the proper groundwork your investments will fail to thrive. Sometimes you need to amend the soil and make changes in your investments.

2) Watch out for weeds that will destroy your wealth. Often we plant things in our garden that take over. A sprig of mint in your garden sure smells nice, but if you’re not careful it can spread like wildfire. Debt has the same affect. When we spend money we don’t have, on wants or desires, it can hinder us from reaching goals. It is said that true wealth is more about what you spend than what you make. Get rid of debt where possible, and make sure that you are being effective in paying off loans. You can really make a big impact by focusing on your smallest loan, pay it off, and then roll the entire
payment into the next loan. Before you know it, all of the weeds are gone and your garden is free to flourish. 

3) Just like the weather, the stock market has hot and cold periods. How you handle adversity can drastically affect your wealth. Back in 1998 and 1999, the weather was great. Folks saw their
friends making lots of money in the stock market and decided they should invest as well. As the storm rolled in the investors that got in late, and didn’t protect against the harsh elements, found their investments wilting away. Those who are successful in growing wealth do not get emotional about the markets. They plant seeds early and watch their investments grow. When the weather turns, they rest easy, knowing they have taken proactive measures to protect what they have. Invest wisely and take measures for solid growth. When the markets go down, keep your emotions in check and look for
buying opportunities.  

For some, gardening is a joy. They find pleasure in turning compost, planting seeds, and staying on top of weeding in anticipation of the harvest. For others, it is not the best use of their time. If you don’t have the time or the desire to take care of your finances, or if you get emotional about your investments, find someone who can help. When you reach retirement you won’t have to worry about money so frequently. Who knows, you may even end up with a few extra bushels to pass along to those you love. 
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