We truly live in a culture that caters to our lack of patience. We get movies and television shows “on demand.” Our packages can arrive mere hours after we place our order. We don’t even need to swipe and sign anymore; simply insert and out the door we go.
Patience is a quickly eroding virtue that almost seems unnecessary in a culture where Amazon Prime and On Demand rule supreme. But wealth can only be built through a combination of patience and a steady diet of good habits intended to produce a clear outcome.
One of the most prolific creators of personal wealth is Warren Buffet. He has more money than most of us can wrap our minds around. I think he can buy literally anything on the planet that he wants. But how did he get there? The simple answer: patience. Buffet once said:
"The stock market is a device for transferring money from the impatient to the patient."
And without a doubt, Buffet has benefited from his own patience, and the impatience of others. But patience has more benefits than growing a portfolio. Patience has the potential to create good habits, avoid bad habits, and help us make wise choices. Whether those choices are intended to create monetary wealth, or a wealth you can’t touch and deposit into an account; patience is critical to being wealthy.
An industry report states that American revolving debt has hit more than $1 trillion dollars for the first time since The Great Recession; most of it is credit card debt. And while the numbers alone are alarming, the underlying reason is often overlooked. The reality is that Americans, perhaps more than most, are impatient. When we decide we want something, even if we don’t have the money, we simply charge it and go on our way. The bad habit we are creating by doing this is harmful both financially, and personally.
But patience is perhaps one of the hardest virtues to cultivate. There’s only one way: allow yourself to be put in situations that require patience. It’s like a muscle, you can’t make it bigger if you don’t exercise it. In the same way, you can’t grow patience without having your patience exercised. And that’s not fun. But cultivating these ancient virtues is rarely fun because it demands that we do hard things, say hard things, and admit hard things. It demands going against the cultural norms and swimming upstream to achieve what others have long given up on.
So, like we often do when something is uncomfortable, irritating, or downright unpleasant, we avoid it. We justify our lack of said virtue and why it’s not all that important. The result is a large number of people that lack personal and financial patience; which results in somewhat artificial crises when the market drops or interest rates rise. The negative effects of our lack of patience impacts our personal and financial lives in ways we often don’t realize, until it’s too late.
Here’s a few specific ways our lack of patience impacts us:
Impatience causes bad market timing decisions: When we’re impatient we make bad decisions, like borrowing from our investment accounts and/or 401(k) rather than waiting for a few months to save the cash. By removing our cash from the market, we lose out on the ability to grow our assets. On the flip side, our patience can allow our investments to grow, which will be a nice reward in the future. The discipline to wait and be patient will help us avoid such bad decisions. This applies to both our investments and everyday purchases.
Impatience causes bad purchases: Rather than doing some comparison shopping, waiting for a sale, perusing yard sale sites, and doing other research that can save a lot of money; impatience causes us to impulse buy. This often results in paying too much. If we are constantly paying more than needed, we will not have money for other things when the time comes. But patience gives us time to slow down, think, consider what is really important, and make better buying choices.
Impatience causes mental health issues: A lack of patience often contributes to our need to compare ourselves to others. This will result in trying to “keep up with the Joneses” as we see what others have and want it, now. The cycle of buying and debt can contribute to a lack of peace and contentment as well as high levels of stress. This can undermine our mental health and lead to dangerous habits, behaviors, and even addictions. But patience keeps us grounded in our values and what we see as most important. This will encourage us to celebrate with others when they achieve success or buy a long-awaited purchase while staying focused on our goals and values.
A lack of patience may be one of the most common factors in an unhealthy personal and financial position. Whether its impulse buying, spending more than we make, carrying high levels of debt, or all of the above. Lacking patience will never help advance our goals and contribute to our personal or financial success.
The question is, what kind of person do you want to be? What kind of family do you want to have? Do you want to be dominated by debt and impulsive decisions? Do you want to constantly be working longer hours (or overtime) just to pay the bills? Do you want to fear the next market downturn or missing one paycheck?
It’s possible to avoid these things. It’s possible to be at peace regardless of what you can and cannot purchase (today). It’s possible to yawn when the market drops and not lose sleep if you miss one paycheck. All it takes is an unusual currency called patience.