Last week we talked about the Olympics and how, unlike the athletes competing, when it comes to money we are not in direct competition with each other.

This week, I want to draw another money lesson from the Olympic Games.

Yesterday, Usain Bolt won his third consecutive gold medal in the 100 meter dash.

Let’s look at the spread among the finalists for this event:

Place Athlete Country Time (seconds)
1 Usain Bolt Jamaica 9.81
2 Justin Gatlin United States 9.89
3 Andre De Grasse Canada 9.91
4 Yohan Blake Jamaica 9.93
5 Akani Simbine South Africa 9.94
6 Ben Youssef Meite Ivory Coast 9.96
7 Jimmy Vicaut France 10.04
8 Trayvon Bromell United States 10.06

That’s a spread of a quarter of a second! To understand what that feels like, open the stopwatch on your phone and try to stop it on exactly 00:00.25 (or at least get pretty close). If you want to experience the difference between winning gold and silver in this event, try to stop your stopwatch at 00:00.08.

It’s not a lot of time at all. And personally, I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge of devoting years of training to an event that is decided by a quarter of a second! Still, I absolutely respect what they’re doing and love to watch them perform.

If you feel similarly, here’s the good news: When it comes to your finances, you don’t have to get it right with the precision of an Olympic athlete competing in the 100m dash!

Instead, by focusing on what you can control, making generally good financial decisions, and especially getting the big things right you can succeed.

And what are those big things? Here are five of them:

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Avoid debt
  3. Have an emergency fund
  4. Save aggressively
  5. Contribute to retirement accounts

I don’t want to imply that it’s easy, but it might be simple. You’re either living within your means and working toward your goals or you’re not. And getting the big things right will go a long way.*

Skipping a few lattes before work won’t make up for not contributing to a 401(k) plan. You don’t have to be Usain Bolt.

Something about this Olympics feels special to me – Usain Bolt, The Final Five, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky. I can’t help but draw parallels to life and money. I feel like I’m getting an extra dose of inspiration to push myself further and achieve more.

You can do this! Keep at it! Be glad your financial success doesn’t come down to hundredths of a second.

Breathe easy and Let Luc.


*For more specific resources on getting the big things right, you can check out The First 50 Posts!, which organizes and links to each of the first 50 posts on this site by topic.

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