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Not Lucky

Alvin came down from his upstairs cubicle to visit yesterday. He used to be a working-class schlub like us, but now he's moved up to a better paying desk job.
While visiting, he noted how clean and organized our work area was. He huffed and shook his head:
"When I was down here, it was never this slow. You got it easy. You're lucky."
The fact was, we'd been busting our arses and worked hard to get our work area clean. What Alvin saw was something magical to him.

For people like Alvin, they take an hour to do a 20 minute job. They work in 1st gear, constantly. They drag their feet and wait for others to initiate complex tasks. Back late from lunch, regularly. Talking continuously. His work quality and quantity was always adequate, and nothing more.
So when Alvin sees progress made, it must be due to external factors. In his zero-sum gain world, either the work load has to decrease, or more people need to work to progress. Individual effort is not a factor. In his mind, Alvin is already giving "his best".

Financial progress is no different. And our society is full of Alvin's. For most folks, the only way to get ahead is for bills to magically shrink, or for some big promotion to plop money in your lap. Otherwise, you're giving your "best effort", right?
You've heard all this before, so I'll keep it short. Your fancy cup of coffee is no different than Alvin running his mouth. Both have costs. Waiting to make tough choices has it's costs. Alvin bought lunch regularly... do you?

Lie to yourself. It's only a $5 cup of coffee. That trip to Mexico is only $4,000. It's just that the world is unfair and conspiring against you. That's why you can't get ahead. And anybody that has cash or assets is just "lucky".

You make your own "luck".

I've never made more than 65k annually, yet our household assets are in the top quintile of United States earners. Not bragging, just a fact.
I will slap anyone in the face that says I am where I am because of "luck".
My grandmother was a Depression-era survivor. When she passed, she left my wife and I enough to put a down payment on a small house. She was not lucky. But she understood how to manage limited resources, like food and money. I learned that from her.
My parents were not that frugal, but still knew how to live within their means. My dad was a mechanic who worked 12 hours a day running a tiny garage in a small town. He invested what he could, but still treated my mom well. When all that asbestos got to him (lucky man), he left us some more money. It sits in a managed stock fund. I rarely touch it. Lucky me, when you do that, it grows. It's there if we need it. But we won't. Because we learned how to live.

Yet, the above-mentioned assets only make up less than half of my net worth. I also got real lucky putting money away in 401k retirement funds since 1990. And NOT touching it. All the while, living within our (meager) means. Not refinancing our house every 2 years to pay off bills. Driving older cars. Our last trip to California, we stayed with relatives. My wife and I slept on the floor, on an air mattress. That was not luck. That's a choice.

Yep. Lucky me. Born with that silver spoon in my mouth. If that's what you wanna think, go out to lunch with Alvin. I'm passing that spoon down to my kids. They can choose to do what they want with it after my wife and I are gone. But they know not to rely on luck.

I honestly don't care if anyone is rich or poor. What I can't stand is folks complaining that those that have assets only have them through some unfair advantage. Life is unfair. Just ask my grandmother who was beaten by an abusive husband. But she never gave up.

Have you given up? Or have you just never really tried?
Just waiting to get lucky.

Comments

Winston,
you should have said,
"Easy? That's just us making it LOOK easy ".

I'm afraid I have to hold my hand up to the bottom line of your blog and it shames me.
All my life, even now, I've been "waiting to get lucky" without knowing how lucky I actually was.
Oh I haven't been a complete waster but I could have should have done a lot better for myself.
 
I have been accused of being lucky my whole life. I am in a similar position as you. I work twice as many hours. Take lots of financial risks, so you would expect someone to understand why I have so much more than they do. It doesn't work that way.

I understand now better than ever why the rich get rich an the poor get poorer. I has more to do with attitude and being able to take advantage of a good break in life and being able to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong.

Most people will never be well off and it is for a reason.
 
You're not wrong PW.
I sometimes wonder what might have been if I'd tried but I didn't and that's all there is to it.
 
When I was forced into early retirement by my company (an electric utility) I was immediately offered a job by one of my suppliers. An entrepreneur, he owned a small electric supply company and he needed a purchasing manager. I filled the bill, having the necessary experience. Was this luck?
Maybe a little, but it mainly shows the advantages of networking and building business relationships (and hard work).
 
The interesting thing about most people waiting to "get lucky" is that they don't realize they already are lucky.

And even if an opportunity bit them in the ass, I don't think they'd take it, because it wasn't good enough. Sometimes an important distinction must be made between "good enough" and "better than what I currently have".

Metaphorically speaking, just because an opportunity will only take you up a step when you'd rather leap up three or four, doesn't automatically mean you simply don't take it.

At the end of the day it's always the people who make their own luck that count. Trying to free-load on other people your whole life and expecting to get very far isn't a good strategy. Success stories like Apple or Microsoft, or managers who come in and turn failing companies around, are far more interesting (and useful) than a leader who's only achievement is that they took control of an already good thing and managed not to fuck anything up, but didn't improve anything either.
 
True luck isn't money, you can earn that, it's good health. Money is unable to buy that for my daughter, who did everything right.
 
Smith;bt11973 said:
The interesting thing about most people waiting to "get lucky" is that they don't realize they already are lucky.

And even if an opportunity bit them in the ass, I don't think they'd take it, because it wasn't good enough. Sometimes an important distinction must be made between "good enough" and "better than what I currently have".

Metaphorically speaking, just because an opportunity will only take you up a step when you'd rather leap up three or four, doesn't automatically mean you simply don't take it.

At the end of the day it's always the people who make their own luck that count. Trying to free-load on other people your whole life and expecting to get very far isn't a good strategy. Success stories like Apple or Microsoft, or managers who come in and turn failing companies around, are far more interesting (and useful) than a leader who's only achievement is that they took control of an already good thing and managed not to fuck anything up, but didn't improve anything either.

It has taken me a lifetime to work that out.
 
the golfer who said the more i practise the luckier i get...it's a fine line between winning an losing an we all need a bit of luck in anything...always seem to be associated around money for the most part luck but it's around all the same..some good some bad..is it just a word we use to describe a set of circumstances that go either way or do other people hold the key to so much of the luck we come across..odd one
 
Luck, good and/or bad.
Success and/or failure.
They are merely attitudes, perceptions, a state of mind.
It IS what you make it.

And y'know?
Going back to what Smith said,
if an opportunity bit me on the ass, even now, I'd probably shy away from it inwardly cursing life, and people of course, for mocking me with such a phony offer.
 
There are societal / political ramifications attached to your view on what, and who is "lucky".

This is not a moral or philosophical issue. Something is, or is not. We parse words, or play with meanings. It does not change the true nature of reality.
If someone has or owns something, it is theirs. As long as they acquired it legally, no one should have any say in what you do with your personal property.
The first domino was a "reasonable" tax. It spread like a disease. Federal, State, Local, Sales, Property, Estate... Then fees for things like roads, parks, school and fire levies...
At a certain point, you don't own what you own. You're "sharing" it with the collective. Through threat of force / violence. Just try NOT to pay your taxes. There are some elderly that will lose their homes because they cannot pay "their" taxes. In reality, you do not own what you own.

This warped mindset is only possible because we see some as "lucky", therefore not deserving of keeping what they have. They can "afford" to pay more.
Rubbish.
The government could run effectively on half of what it takes in. Our tax system is not only for income redistribution, it is a moral tool to punish the "lucky". A recent US President said he would raise taxes on "the wealthy" even if it generated no income, because "...it would be more fair."

When people work hard, "Play by the rules" and have something to show for it, they are too often called "lucky". And this is what we get. Flippin' Animal Farm.
 

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Winston
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