What’s Possible Now?

In The Financial Diet, Chelsea Fagan offers some otherwise uncommon, but in the financial world almost unheard of advice: Dream medium instead of big.

Where others keep yelling about million-dollar retirement portfolios and how to retire by age 40 thanks to beating yourself up over $3 coffee, Chelsea suggests simpler aspirations: How about paying off one of your credit cards this month? Instead of a cruise, is there a weekend trip you’d celebrate being able to afford? Don’t think about yachts, Ferraris, and retirement all the time! Keep your dreams where you can see them, and you’ll pressure yourself less — financially and otherwise.

The idea is good, but what’s fascinating is its underlying principle: Everything is possible, but not anything is possible at any given time.

If you’re a new, broke college student with zero real-world experience, you can read a hundred books on becoming an investment savant, but without any money to invest, your genius will stay on paper. If you’re a single mom of two, trying to make ends meet while paying off several loans, perhaps it’s okay to try and pay those loans off one by one instead of launching a startup you hope will be worth a billion dollars.

Be it your financial goals or others, don’t get stuck in your best-case scenario. Even the highest wall is built brick by brick. For most people, all it takes to retire well is to save and invest a little each month, and that’s almost always an option. It is when we get lost in overly ambitious and ultimately often expensive detours that we sacrifice the long and safe road to victory tomorrow for the cheap thrill of greater dreams today.

Don’t ask what’s possible. Ask what’s possible now, and you’ll find satisfaction in small daily steps.