I ran into an acquaintance a couple weeks after I retired. When I told her I had just retired, she said “Oh, you’re so lucky”. I almost came uncorked.
My friends know my filters don’t always stay in place–I’m known to speak before I think on occasion. I think my response was something like this “ah, no there was no luck about it, we’ve worked really hard for this”–said really quickly and I can only imagine with what facial expression. She wandered off like a deer in the headlights. I’ve wondered ever since how this was translated to our community’s gossip chain in which she is a strong link.
I’ve always preferred fortunate (bringing some good thing) over lucky (good result by chance) as I think fortunate takes my efforts into account.
But as I thought about this conversation, I realized luck did have something to do with it.
My father says I won the sperm and egg lottery (if he doesn’t say so himself!).
To be born in this country of highly educated people who did their best for me and provided excellent educational opportunities – lucky.
To take advantage of those opportunities and add in life long learning to create a career in which I was well compensated – fortunate.
I met the right man for me at the right time.
To have met my husband on a Monday because three days before I was asked by my office scheduler if I would mind taking another out of town client – lucky
To have recognized that he was the right man for me and to have nurtured our relationship until it became a strong partnership – fortunate
We made money on the sale of each of our homes.
We have owned six homes in the last 28 years and sold four of them; we came close to doubling the value on one. This doubling allowed us to build our dream home for cash. About 15% of my net worth is the result of these gains – lucky
But, we selected or built the homes, improved them using sweat equity and marketed them skillfully – fortunate
I inherited a bit of money–about 15% of my net worth is inherited and my parents have taken care of their finances so they will not need my assistance-ok that’s just 100% lucky.
Most of this is good fortune built on a foundation of good luck. I know people who were at least as lucky as I was but were unable to capitalize on it. What is the difference between me and them? I think it is delayed gratification.
I chose to study rather than party. This led to a high GPA, five job offers and passing the CPA exam on the first try.
I chose to prioritize work over most other things. This led to increasing responsibility and income and colleagues who thought I was indispensable (until I told them I wasn’t).
I chose to budget, track my expenses and prioritize saving over spending and I refused to use debt to live beyond my means. This allowed me to accumulate significant wealth and retire early.
For me, the ability to delay gratification was the secret sauce that turned good luck into good fortune.
How do you flex your delayed gratification muscle? If you google delayed gratification, you’ll find a recurrent theme: know your values and create a plan. This sounds a lot like developing a mission statement and setting your S-M-A-R-T goals to me. Once you’ve done this, delaying gratification becomes much easier.
But make sure you are keeping your life in balance. A life over delayed is a life not lived well. Check in with yourself periodically and ask this question:
If I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy with the choices I’ve made?
My husband and I ask ourselves this question periodically and there have been times when I have said “No”. Then we talk about what it would take to create a more comfortable balance. I can look back now and think of only a few choices I really regret and that seems pretty lucky (or is it fortunate?).